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Paddles Across Canada

École Stanley Knowles students are making a connection with one of the tools that helped establish Canada as a country: the canoe paddle.

Students have been staying after school to participate in a program called Paddles Across Canada. The program is based on a network of paddle making workshops across Canada, with partners that include Lee Valley and Sunset Paddles.

“Paddles are a huge part of Canadian history, so the teachers are showcasing that and showing us how to make our own,” said Grade 7 student Lucy Enders.

What started as a Canada 150 activity last year has blossomed into a way to teach students both hands-on skills and to help them envision how Canada was formed through a network of canoe routes.

“A few companies got together and sponsored the making and production of paddles in schools throughout Canada,” said woodworking teacher Shannon Auld. “It’s something different than your usual extracurricular activity…there’s students who are really getting into it that I wouldn’t have expected. They’ve found a niche and it’s something they like doing.”

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Students were given “paddle blanks”—rough-cut pieces of wood that required shaving, sanding, finishing and painting.

“Students are doing the fine carving, so they’re working with hand planes and spokeshaves…tools that they normally wouldn’t have any experience with,” Ms. Auld said. “Students will also be doing their own personal decorating and putting their own brand on the paddles. Once they’re done painting, they’ll put a Varathane coat on the paddles to protect them from the elements, so hopefully they will see some use.”

Students said they had newfound respect for Canada’s pioneers, who had to fashion everything from homes to furniture with hand tools.

“I mean, I can barely make a paddle, so it would be very difficult to make a house with these tools,” said Grade 8 student Sam Balanial.

Students said they enjoyed working on their paddles at the after-school workshops.

“It’s been kind of therapeutic,” Lucy said. “It’s very calming to do this.”

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