Hands-On Canadian History: St. Lawrence Seaway

The St. Lawrence River is the section of water that comes into Canada from the Atlantic Ocean, all the way to the Great Lakes. In 1959, Queen Elizabeth II, President Eisenhouser, and Prime Minister Diefenbaker officially opened the St. Lawrence Seaway, the series of locks and canals that allow ships to travel the length of the river that they otherwise couldn’t.

Hands-On Canadian History: St. Lawrence Seaway

Make a Model Lock

It isn’t hard to make a model of how the St. Lawrence Seaway works.

First, it is a good idea to explain how a canal and lock system work for rivers, helping boats to travel through different sections of the river that are at different heights, by raising and lowering them. My 10 year old very wisely summed up our lesson by calling a lock a boat elevator. We watched two videos to show how they work and see it in action.

Materials Needed

  • 3 Containers. 2 need to be the same height and 1 shorter.  Fill with water.
    1 Container for collecting extra water.
  • Pitcher of water
  • Straw
  • Toy Boat

Place the 3 water-filled containers in a row, with the order like this: tall / tall / short.

For the first trip, make the boat go from the high water to the shorter container. That means you will need to lower the water level first. Stick the straw in the side of your middle container. Make sure that the end outside the container is lower than the water level, get your child to briefly suck on the straw to get the water flow going. (Apparently, my kids learned this very important life skill from the Curious George TV show…..) As the water syphons out, collect it in your extra container. The water in the middle container will slowly lower. When it is equal to the shorter water level, stop and move your boat. Congratulations! You successfully lowered your lock!

To make a boat travel up the lock to the higher level, simply add water from your pitcher (or extra container) slowly until it is full again.

There is a great website: The Great Lakes – St. Lawerence Seaway System, which explains more about the seaway with some great tools like the interactive tour, some maps, and a history timeline along with other resources. A perfect place to know more.

See all 31 Days of  Hands-on Canadian History.

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