Lockport, Man., first stop for new paddle-making program

Eight students at Lockport School in Manitoba are the first to take part in a new program created by the Canadian Canoe Museum and the International Sustainability Education Foundation that will bring paddle-making classes to indigenous students across Canada.

8 students at Lockport School to learn to make their own paddles, thanks to Canadian Canoe Museum

Lockport, Man., first stop for new paddle-making program 2:18

Eight students at Lockport School in Manitoba are the first to take part in a new program created by the Canadian Canoe Museum and the International Sustainability Education Foundation that will bring paddle-making classes to indigenous students across Canada.

The week-long program started Monday and as of Wednesday, students are about half finished their paddles, said Carolyn Hyslop, director of operations at the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ont.
A total of eight students are taking a paddle-making workshop taught by retired teacher Mark Blieske. (Jonathon Reynolds)

The eight Lockport, Man., students range in age from about 12 to 15 years old, said Hyslop, and self-identify as either First Nations or Métis. Lockport is just north of Winnipeg.

"The students were picked because they're kids that really needed a special program that's focused on empowerment and building self-confidence," she said.
A student at Lockport School in Manitoba works on her paddle this week at a workshop organized in part by the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ont. (Jonathon Reynolds)

"It's just fantastic," said workshop instructor Mark Blieske. He's a retired teacher and professional paddle-maker.

"They are just so enamoured with the idea that they're making a paddle."

Blieske uses power tools to prepare the wood for students to carve.

"I rough out a paddle for them to the point that the rest of the work that has to be done is hand work," he said.
The Lockport School students are also learning about photography from Mark Blieske, who is a former media teacher. (Jonathon Reynolds)

Students then use planes, files, rasps and sanders to finish their own full-sized paddle.  

"They get to keep the paddle in the end, which is really cool," he said.

So far the co-ed group has bonded despite their diverse range of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, Blieske said.

"They would never have probably talked to each other in school, but they are here," he said.
Lockport School students will keep the paddles they make and use them on a canoe trip in the spring organized by the Canadian Canoe Museum. (Jonathon Reynolds)

The workshop also includes photography lessons from Blieske, who, along with being a paddle-maker, is a former media teacher. Cameras from Sony Canada are loaned to the students.

The Canadian Canoe Museum hopes to roll out similar workshops from coast to coast to coast, said Hyslop.

"There's going to be so many more of them, engaging First Nations and Métis youth in paddle-making," she said.

The Lockport School students' finished paddles and their photographs will be on display at a dinner hosted by the Canadian Canoe Museum during the Festival du Voyageur on Feb. 19.

Photographs taken by students and their paddles will be on display at a dinner hosted by the Canadian Canoe Museum at Festival du Voyageur on Feb. 19. (Jonathon Reynolds)