Museum Classroom: Cargo on the Welland Canal

Lesson: Cargo on the Welland Canal
Topic: The Welland Canals
Cargo on the ships of the Welland Canal
Grade: 1-3

Activity: Cargo Game

Materials Required:

  • Small ball
  • 2-3 chairs or small furniture items
  • 6 small objects to represent cargo (i.e. tennis ball, mason jar, bean bag, etc.)

Materials Provided:

  • Welland Canal Cargo Cards

Pre-Lesson: Hot Potato Activity
With a friend or family members, play a round or two of “Hot Potato” using a small ball as a warm up exercise. Arrange yourselves into a circle and toss a small, round object (i.e. tennis ball) to each other while music plays. The player who is holding the hot potato when the music stops is out. The game continues until one player is left as the winner. Players will understand the concept of the passing of an object from one point to another. By gaining this basic understanding of transporting, the activity will predispose players to the concept of transporting cargo on ships through the flowing water of the Welland Canal. Ask players to reflect on the process. How did the ball travel from one person to another?

As a group or individually, brainstorm how goods are transported throughout the world. How do we get food from the grocery store? How does the store get its food? How does the food go from the farm to the store? Discuss other types of goods that are transported (cargo). Review the Welland Canal cargo cards and read on your own or discuss the information with family members. What do these materials look like, where do they come from, what are they, and what are they used for? These are just some of the different types of cargo that can be found on ships when traversing through the Welland Canal.

For this activity, you will need a large open space (i.e., living room, bedroom, basement, etc.) Set up imaginary boundaries of the playing area used for the Cargo Game. One side of the playing area should be identified as Lake Ontario. The opposite side should be identified as Lake Erie. Use a large object such as a few chairs or bench to represent the barrier of Niagara Falls and the Niagara Escarpment and place the object somewhere across the middle of the playing area. Present players with the challenge of transporting the cargo items from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. Each player represents “water” and must be connected to a lake at all times. If a player is touching another player (with their arms, hands, or knees), lake water will “flow” through to the next person. Once a player holds a cargo jar, they cannot move. Players should recall how they transported the small ball around while playing “Hot Potato”. Ideally, players will line up knee to knee (sitting down) starting at “Lake Ontario”, and pass the cargo jars to the person next to them, towards “Lake Erie”. Players must problem solve a way to overcome the obstacle of the “Niagara Escarpment” (the barrier object, such as a few chairs or bench). Players are allowed to sit on the chairs/bench that represents the Niagara Escarpment in order to transport the cargo. Once players successfully transport the cargo items from one lake to another, challenge players with more obstacles and/or situations such as a new port, specific cargo demands, or transporting cargo in opposite directions.

Wrap-up Discussion
Discuss the problems players faced in their task, and how they overcame the challenges. Would they do anything different? Discuss how cargo is transported through the Welland Canal. Did the game relate to the Welland Canal and if so, how? How did the cargo get over the Niagara Escarpment obstacle? Review the types of cargo are transported through the Welland Canal. What are some of the challenges in transporting the cargo? Why is cargo important to transport? Why is the Welland Canal important for cargo transportation?

Continue to add terms to your Welland Canal Word Wall that can be discovered throughout Museum Classroom’s Welland Canal activities.

Welland Canal: a ship canal in Ontario, Canada connection Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.

Cargo: goods carried on a ship or aircraft.

Transport: to take or carry good/people from one place to another by means of vehicle, aircraft, or ship.

Lake Ontario: One of the five large freshwater lakes in Canada.

Lake Erie: One of the five large freshwater lakes in Canada.

Niagara Falls: The name of a city in the Niagara region and a giant waterfall.

Niagara Escarpment: A long steep slope in the Niagara region that separates areas of land at different levels.

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