Something had to be done.For a long while, we’ve been offering this kind of paddle-carving program:

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And this kind of paddle-carving program:

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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.

Both programs are fantastic, and fantastically popular. But – you can probably see where I’m going with this –  there’s a BIG gap between those two options, a gap into which high school students and youth groups have been falling for too long. These are teens who are interested in paddle-carving but want to make something they’ll use, something meaningful (getting them psyched about a 2-foot decorative paddle is tough) but who don’t have a full weekend or the resources to dedicate to the cherry paddle workshop.

Well, folks, I’m thrilled to say we’re closing the gap!  We consulted with our curatorial and workshop staff, our volunteer artisans, our education department’s program leaders and our paddle supplier, Grey Owl Paddles, to develop a hardwood paddle blank in Ash that is possible to complete to the pre-varnish stage in 6 hours while still requiring a substantial and meaningful work effort at each stage of the carving process. We assembled sandpaper, clamps and other tools so that we can offer the program to 25 students at a time (thanks to Kawartha Hardware in Lakefield and Home Hardware on Chemong for the discounts!)  Our curator, Jeremy Ward, somehow found time to build us new dedicated carving tables, AND stopped off in Guelph on the way back from a curatorial mission of his own to pick up our paddle blanks for our first run of the program (thank you Jeremy!) Finally, we test-drove the program last week with a bunch of us from the education department doing a run-through on the new blanks, checking for timing and trouble spots — discovering, among other things, the need to add rubber feet to our lovely new tables so they wouldn’t slide across the room with every draw of the spokeshave.

And, at last, we were ready for action!

On Monday and Tuesday (yes, today!) we’ve welcomed two groups of grade 11/12 Outdoor Ed and High Skills Majors students from Brock High School to pilot our full-size, one-day paddle-carving program.   “I really wanted them to experience that things don’t always come easily or instantly,” said teacher Kristine St. Louis. “This is just awesome.”

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At the end of the program, we asked the students what character traits they’d discovered, or feelings they’d noticed, during the day’s experience. “Patience.” “Frustration.” “Focus.” “Impatience.” “Perseverance.” “Determination.” “Satisfaction.”

They had some time before getting back on the school bus to look around the Museum. As they headed out into the Galleries, I noticed that while everyone left lunch bags and hoodies in the room, each and every student kept his or her newly-created paddle in hand.

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To join us for full-size paddle-carving, or one of our many other hands-on, minds-on education programs, please contact Education Coordinator, Karen Taylor at x203, 705.748.9153, or [email protected] For adult artisan programs, please contact Beth Stanley at x206, or [email protected]. Or visit our website: