lake practice canoeing course for kids

I work at an environmental education center and would like to establish a paddling course on our small lake. My students typically are 6-7th graders who have a maximum of two hours of boating time. Although at times I’m working with just 12 kids l also have groups as large as (30-50) with some kids in row boats.

Does anyone out there have any ideas?

Break up that group to start
ACA has a course ratio of six students to one instructor. You can have an assistant for the instructor but even at six boats to an instructor boat you can see you need lots of help or break that large group up.

Otherwise its just not possible to be safe.

Here is an Smart Start intro of one hour duration. Its easily expanded to two

You can also find instructors to help you at

With that big gang of kids,

– Last Updated: Sep-27-10 12:16 PM EST –

You need a bunch of qualified adult help, and even with the small amount you should have a few others to help out.
Make sure every singly one of those kids is a qualified swimmer, (can swim and tread water) before they go in water that is over their heads.
I have sixteen grand children, and it has been a delight teaching each one of them to paddle canoes and kayaks, but if you don't know the proper technique or paddle strokes, don't teach them bad habits that they will later have to break.

There is a ton more to be said, but first are you an experienced paddler?

Jack L

lake practice course
A path with buoys is the kind of help I’m looking for. Maybe some thing that would require sharp turns, some less aggressive steering, and possibly some reverse work.

right here
The English Gate

But it takes time for people to learn and it can be very frustrating.

I reserve it for skilled paddlers wanting to tune up.

Otherwise a line with floats about 125 feet long and a clorox bottle buoy at the end of each can do a lot.

Straight line travel and backing up and onside and offside turns.

Maybe too ambitious
If you are saying that you have a maximum of two hours of instruction time with the kids, then with that age group you will be doing well if they can competently get into and out of the boat safely and paddle it forward in something approximating a straight line. If you are using tandem boats, each kid should spend half the time in the bow and half in the stern, which means they will have only an hour practice time at each station.

If you are talking about repeated 2 hour sessions with the same group, then you can do quite a lot with 2 simple bleach bottle buoys. These can be set up as in the English gate article. You can have the kids paddle figure of eight patterns around the pair, or you can have kids paddle circles around a single buoy. You can set up a little offset flat water slalom course with more buoys or set up a single line of buoys and have the kids side slip to opposite sides of the line.

what kayamedic said plus…
…make it fun. Maybe once the kids get comfortable handling a kayak (or even before!) they could practice capsizing and getting back into the boat.

Also maybe some kayak polo when you have a chance.

Would try to incorporate a little
adventure/games between/among the classes so kids can get to try their new skills as they grow. R

I teach a fair number of kids each year
The rule is five minutes max of instructor blabbing. More and they will tune you out or go do what they want anyway…

Your group is likely mixed. Some of them will respond as adult learners and others as kids. At any rate… show and let them follow.

Dont mix up the games and fun with the “hard” part. The “hard” part comes first. The reward is the fun part…yes it will consume far more time than the hard core stuff.

You can do team races around buoys for a start…leave the capsize for last. Yes it should be done. They are quite capable of self and assisted rescue. However once they start going in and playing surfboard learning is over for the day. Its impossible to regather their minds to concentrate on the "hard " stuff again.