Paddle-to-the-Sea: A Science Lesson

As we are reading our story of Paddle, we will explore what the natural world looked like and explore the physical world of what kinds of trees, rocks, lakes, and rivers Paddle will travel. We will learn about animals, bugs, fish, and berries. We will discuss the wind and weather conditions of traveling, i.e. winter vs. summer. Our children will understand and know the four directions. We will raise the question and examine how the Ojibwe peoples used the stars/constellations as a guide on their journeys. We will label these words in Ojibwe language and also read the story of Beaver, a prominent animal in the Ojibwe culture.Paddle to the Sea was first published in 1941. This book has varied reviews by Native Scholars and culturalists. The teacher of this lesson used some of the dated language and content to teach about racism of the past and changes in our cultural respect. Please be sure to always check with local elder and community members in your region, to ensure the use of appropriate Native materials for your classroom curriculum.

Materials Needed


Art Materials


Activity Process


Ask students "What is/are your favorite animal(s), bug(s), berries, fish, tree(s), rock(s)?" "What is your favorite body of water?" "What is your favorite season?" "Have you ever looked up at the sky at night and have seen the stars/constellations?"


As a class collect different types of leaves, branches, flowers, and rocks and try to identify them. Check for accuracy in resource books. How many did you get correct?Show different pictures of bodies of water, animals, bugs, fish and seasons and have students identify them. Show the more well-known constellations and see if students can identify them. Talk about the importance of the land, rocks, and sky in navigation for Paddle. What are some of the ways Paddle would know where he is by looking at the land around him? How would be know what time of day it is, without a watch? How do we know what season it is by looking at the plants and sky?


Using the collected items, create a diorama for each season using the plants, rocks, weather/sky as indicators, and Paddle's journey for ideas on arranging realistic landscapes. If the class began Paddle's journey with scaling the map- then at this time, label the lakes, rivers, and sea on our map. Label the different rocks, trees, animals, bugs, and fish found on Paddles journey at places they would be on the map. (For map project see Paddle to the Sea: Unit Overview) Play a matching game and match the English/Ojibwe words for each natural item to each other.


What will it look like for Paddle's journey the next time we read about him?


Match-word test, oral, and visual observation.

Vocabulary Words


See the additional Paddle to the Sea lesson plans that partner well with this lesson plan.

You could also do an example of a watershed activity which explains how lakes, rivers flow into the sea, as an extension.

Grade Level

Primary Content Area

American Indian Learner Outcomes

Content Standards


Social Studies