Dancing With Canoes and Kayaks

Who knew 3 weeks could flash across one’s face in an instant, but leave an leave an imprint to last a life time.

Hi, my name is John Howes and I am a graduate teacher candidate from the specialized Queen's Outdoor and Experiential Education (OEE) program. I had the privilege to spend three weeks of my alternative practicum at the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough.

The 2014-2015 Queen's teacher candidate cohort marked the last year candidates of Ontario were  required to have only three specific practicum experiences. These practicums have provided the means for future teachers to work, learn, and apply what they have done in university with real students. When initially enrolling in the OEE program, I knew exactly how I wanted my three different practicum experiences to be structured. I wanted my 1st to be in the traditional classroom, my 2nd in an outdoor education centre, and my 3rd in an experiential learning environment. I wanted to have a holistic approach to the realm of education before I graduated and embarked on my future as a teacher.    

However, discovering the right experiential learning environment was more difficult than I thought.  I had done my undergrad in Peterborough at Trent University in Archaeology, so museum education was a natural fit, but I still wasn't 100% sure of a commitment until my OEE professor professed with absolute certainty the Canadian Canoe Museum would be the ideal opportunity for my practicum. 

Arriving at the Museum, I first had to get over the shock of a fully-operational stream stretching from the second level of the museum to the entrance. There I met Karen Taylor, Education Manager, and Jen Burnard, Lead Animator. These two women are two of the most passionate and dedicated educators I could have had the privilege to work with. 

While working alongside Karen and Jen, I was given two main responsibilities. The first was becoming an “animator”, or facilitator for all school group programs between K-12. Programs included kayak building, paddle carving, soap stone carving, Inuit games, traditional fire building, re-enactment games, and many more. As a teacher candidate who specifically specialized in 'experiential education' I had never experienced the level of dedication in creating experiential learning opportunities.     

The second responsibility was program development. Since my division of education was high school, I focus on developing an outline of a grade 9-12 curriculum-based geography program, which will eventually be completed and implemented by Museum staff. This experience really revealed the time and effort that is put into the museum's programs, to provide teachers with the necessary curriculum expectations and students with meaningful learning opportunities.

A strong sense of community also shaped my practicum at the Canadian Canoe Museum. The dedicated staff and volunteers who keep this non-profit organization running are truly the heart and soul of the museum. Additionally, the relationship and reputation the museum has with the community of Peterborough is truly inspiring, and something all organizations should strive for.

My experience at The Canadian Canoe Museum was unfortunately short lived. I would have doubled my time on this practicum if I could. However, if I could provide a few words of advice any future candidates, teachers, students, or the general public interested in visiting the Canadian Canoe Museum... prepare yourself. Prepare yourself to not be a simply become an observer of Canadian or Aboriginal History, but to become an active participant. 

-John Howes