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No, this isn’t an early Hallowe’en post.

THIS is The Beast:

karen kain paddling-1

Okay, so it’s a friendly Beast, aka our Voyageur Canoe, a 33-foot, 450+lb, fiberglass-and-wood canoe designed and painted to look like the birch-bark canoes used during the fur trade.  It earns its nickname not only for its weight but for the fact that any time we want to use it, we have to herd up a bunch of staff and volunteers to dismantle it into two (still beastly heavy) sections, load it onto two trailers, arrange for people with hitches to bring their cars, schlep the trailers and our staff/volunteers to the put-in, and then haul it off the trailers and reconstruct it in situ, which is always reminds why IKEA doesn’t make 500lb bookshelves.  You just have to laugh, really, at how unbirchbark-ish our Voyageur Canoe actually is.

But, don’t get me wrong: I love the beast, and I’m forever grateful that its builder, Jim Holman, generously donated his craft to us after its illustrious reenactment career with the Red House Brigade. Because THIS is also the beast, in action:

2.1.1.2.12 VOYAGEUR CANOE 2

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Paddles straight up in N.Canoe group shot

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Fun even on the grass

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A gazillion times a day, this is how it goes:

“Education Coordinator, Karen Taylor speaking…”

“Yes, hello, I’m just wondering if I could bring my students (scouts, guides, youth group) for a tour.”

“No.”

Okay, I don’t really just say NO.  I do have some people skills.  But that is my answer in a nutshell, because I know that when we get your 28 grade 2s – or your 11 Guides or your 17 at-risk youth – into the Museum,  the worst move is to herd ’em up and lead the pack through our exhibits, even though there’s fascinating stuff to talk about and just about any one of us here could go on for hours about it all, passionately, adding the behind-the-scenes stories and more historical context to the wealth of information already in our displays.

Instead, when you call, I’m going to nudge you to toss that idea of a How-to-Visit-a-Museum out the window, and sign your kids up for an experience, for learning-by-doing, for one of our many education programs that aim to take kids to that the edge of their comfort zone where learning happens, and where learning lasts. “Experiential education” can take a lot of forms around here: role plays, a new hands-on skill, artistic expression, games,  but this is what it has looked like in the past couple of weeks. Doesn’t it look fun?! Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s free-associate about March Break: palm trees, beaches, coral reefs, rolling waves, Mojitos…

Wait, let me rephrase that:

Let’s free-associate about March Break at The Canadian Canoe Museum: paddle-carving, wanigans, scavenger hunts, soapstone carving, music, hammers, spoke shaves, shave horses…

Now, THAT’S more like it. And no need to slog through airport security.

After last year’s heavily wait-listed March Break program, we’re dramatically expanding our workshop options for kids and youth at the Museum this year, all with our renowned commitment to engaging, creative, hands-on experiences for kids.

And registration starts today, right here.

Our schedule’s on our website, but here’s the full scoop:

 

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It’s a snow day. Personally, that means my daughter made her first snow angel of the year on our walk to school, and that I finally made an appointment to get my winter tires on.  Here in the Education Department that means early morning surveillance of the school bus website, cell phone communications with today’s visiting teachers, and wake up calls to program staff to say, stay in bed — or go play in the snow — Albert College has to postpone their trip. And now the Galleries seem strangely empty and quiet with mere adults (!) exploring our exhibits: oh, I know they’re into it, but they don’t tend forget to use their “walking feet” and “indoor voices” quite as often as kids who are engaged in the scavenger hunts, discovery activities and games included in our school programs here.

Compare:

Yesterday’s kids from Queen Elizabeth PS, really into it:

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P.A. Days… or some call ’em P.D Days… aka to kids as a DAY OFF SCHOOL!  And what did a bunch of our Summer Paddling Campers choose to do with their DAY OFF SCHOOL this month? Read the rest of this entry »

You may not remember this, but on Thursday, September 12, in the middle of the afternoon, it was raining.  A lot. You could even call it torrential. I don’t have an impressive photo of the downpour, but let’s just say it was not the kind of weather to make even this life-long, hard-core canoeist think: golly, let’s head out for a picnic and paddle this evening.

So, a hundred cheers for the two dozen intrepid new Canadians who did just that, coming out on a chilly, still damp – but surprisingly precipitation-free! – evening to meet new friends and experience a Voyageur canoe ride along the Otonabee River.

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I have to admit it: it seems just the teensiest bit as if summer is… okay, I’ll just say it… over.  It’s not the back-to-school stuff in the stores (which has been up since July anyway) or the recent crisp nights, it’s that for me summer is all about the Museum’s Paddling Camps — and we’ve just said goodbye to our last campers for the year.

Our five weeks of camp saw over 50 paddlers learning new paddling skills and earning ORCKA certifications, with 23 new paddlers earning Level 1 badges, and our returning campers achieving 12 level 2s, five level 3s and seven Tripping 1A certifications. Plus five intrepid and very dedicated campers took us up on our new camp offering this year — the Level 4 ORCKA option, achieving their solo canoe certifications in just one week — no small achievement (can YOU paddle a canoe on your own in a straight line backwards?).  But badge stats aside, that’s a whole lot of kids with water safety and paddling skills they can use to enjoy the Canadian wilderness, or just a local river, their whole lives through. Read the rest of this entry »

Something had to be done.

For a long while, we’ve been offering this kind of paddle-carving program:

DSC02324 2012 Feb 15 St.Catherine PC boy

And this kind of paddle-carving program:

adult PC workshop

The first picture is from an awesome, satisfying and skill-developing program for kids aged 10 and up, in which the students take a 24-inch softwood (poplar) prepped blank to a completed mini-paddle in 3 hours.  We’ve shared this hands-on education program with thousands of grade 4+ students, Scouts, Guides and our summer paddling camp participants; we also offer a paddle-carving birthday party option.

The second photo is from one of our acclaimed weekend-long artisan-led paddle-carving workshops for adults. No softwoods in this program; this is the real deal.  Taking that hardwood cherry blank – which is only minimally prepped – to a finished paddle takes two full days of focused woodworking with specialized tools, facilitated with a 1:5 instructor to participant ratio.  And what a gorgeous paddle you end up with – a paddle that will be treasured and used for a lifetime. Read the rest of this entry »

I may be a bit late to this party, but someone recently sent me a link to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talks about education and creativity. As is all too common for my internet rambling, I finally got around to watching them at 2am last Saturday, when I was here at the Museum to be the Awake-All-Night-in-Case-of-Emergency person during the 8thAjax Pathfinders’ visit for an overnight program.  (It’s hard to fit that job title on a name tag, let me tell you.)

By the way, here’s the awesome group of Pathfinders (plus two Girl Guides), looking intrepid and chipper the morning after their sleepover here:

IMG_4693 2013 Apr 13 8th Ajax Pathfinders group shot wigwam WR

But back to me and Sir Ken in the middle of the night.  His talks on creativity and education are full of irreverent wit and sharp insights into the fundamental weakness of how we teach children. “If you’re not prepared to be wrong,” he says, “you’ll never come up with anything original… but our education systems… are set up so that the worst thing you can be is wrong… we’re educating people out of their creative capacities.”   I’ve seen it myself: my daughter used to draw trees as wild, multi-hued scraggles filling her skies. Now she dutifully creates tree trunks that are exclusively brown, with puffy green-cloud tops. Maybe a token apple, red, floating in the monolithic green.

“Creativity must have the same status as literacy,” Robinson says. Right now, our education system “progressively teaches us from the waist up, and is a protracted training for university entrance, favouring academic intelligence. ” The result “is that many brilliant, highly talented, creative people think they’re not,” a tragedy for each of those individual lives, in my opinion. But Robinson’s thinking about the bigger picture:  we can’t afford to squander different kinds of intelligence, he suggests. The kids entering kindergarten today will retire around 2075 – a world we can’t imagine from here, and will require new thinking to navigate.

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Last month I began my VIP tour of our Education Programs with an up-close-and-personal account of The Perfect Machine, a grade K-3 science and social studies program that focuses on the First Nations canoe design, flotation, buoyancy & surface tension. Moving into Part Deux of this series, we’ll take a virtual run-through today of our Paddle Carving program for grades four+,  bearing in mind that this program gives kids an experience that is actually just about as far as it gets from virtual — an arguably much-needed balance to all that screen time!

DSC02326 2012 Feb 15 St. Catherine

Yes, that’s a rather small paddle.  I made one for my daughter when she was three (which, to be honest, didn’t see a lot of in-water action), but beyond that age, this size definitely serves as a souvenir or decorative paddle, or, in our household, as the official pinata-whacker and reacher-of-things-under-couches. Frankly, to make a full-size hardwood paddle from scratch takes adult focus and determination and a very full weekend (see our workshop info here); we also run a full-size, full-day paddle carving program for teens 15+ using prepped blanks (please contact me at education@canoemuseum.ca for info):

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