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Canadian Fur Trade

(Original Post: March 30, 2020)


Even though the Grade 4/5 collaboration unit looked different from other years, the students’ learning was just a powerful as when the unit was more traditional in execution.



Dramatic Review of Explorers Knowledge

We divided the two classes into group of five students and each group created a country. The countries made flags and chose rulers or governments. (Each country took a “family photo” which the students thought was hilarious!)


Next, the countries chose explorers to cross the “great ocean” in search of animal pelts. I made a channel across the gym lined on both sides with benches and gym mats. The explorers worked in pairs to ride scooters along the ocean channel. When they reached the other side of the ocean, they searched for stuffed animals (pelts) and brought them back across the ocean to their rulers and/or governments.


​We ended the activity with a class discussion that encouraged students to make connections between their previous knowledge of explorers and the dramatic play we just experienced.


Introducing Main Players

Before we delved into the human side of the fur trade, we spent time learning more about the beaver.


Here are some fabulous video links about beavers and their importance during the fur trade:
















We used fashion to introduce each fur trade player. We examined images of clothing from museum archives and Youtube videos to draw the outfits worn by each character in our fur trade journals (i.e., Metis (men and women), voyageurs, European businessmen, settlers).



I highly recommend watching at least the first Metis woman's story (0:00 - 3:45) of the following video to get a glimpse into the Aboriginal matriarchal side of the fur trade:




Pictionary Time

The classes was divided into two teams and played Pictionary to learn about the item that were traded.


Trading Posts


We began a look at the trading posts by searching for images online and making comparisons between various posts.


The students formed new groups and were tasked with creating a trading post diorama complete with a map and key. This took three classes and a lot of glue gun sticks! The library furniture was cleared so that students could work with their materials on the floor.




Students used their newly acquired "maker" skills from the Plant Adaptations unit to work safely with glue guns that were needed for adhering the wooden materials such as popsicle sticks and branches to the base.


Many students brought supplies from home. This allowed the students to give their dioramas personal touches.


​The dioramas were displayed along the common area hallway during parent-teacher conferences for all the families to admire.




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