Canoe Float Trip Lesson

High School students at Kill Creek Park

Friends of the Kaw canoe floats are exciting and challenging. We recognize the importance of providing a safe environment where participants are at ease with themselves, and  are able to learn group and leadership skills. 

The program offers a unique opportunity for students to work together toward a common goal, and achieve a sense of accomplishment as a group, in a relatively short time. Most students are unfamiliar with this experience so canoeing is a great arena for creating bonds and friendships in a noncompetitive environment and experiencing the local river environment.

More information on safetymaps to boat ramps, information on weather and water levels, and river hazards can be found on the Friends of the Kaw main website. Friends of the Kaw float policy and calendar can also be found on the main website.


  • Demonstrate the interdependence of eco-systems within systems.
  • To challenge students to work together and learn the importance of communication, respect, & community.
  • To give students the responsibility for their immediate impact on the environment.
  • To help propel students towards a sustainable environmental ethic.
  • To build bridges between what is learned in the classroom and what goes on in the natural world.

Suggested Activities  

  • Journals
  • Interpretative Hikes
  • Initiative tasks
  • Micro Environment Discovery
  • Survival Skills
  • Music
  • Canoeing
  • Story Telling
  • Food chain dynamics
  • Wild Edibles
  • Group Building Games
  • Conduct experiments
  • water & soil tests
  • animal tracks & scat


When well planned and connected with the curriculum, student field trips provide a rich source of learning opportunities for students. The Friends of the Kaw provides this administrative procedure to set out all the issues that should be considered by trip leaders before any field trips are taken.

  • Competent adult leadership and supervision appropriate to the number and age of students and the nature of the trip must be assured in advance.
  • One of the adult supervisors on the field trip shall be designated as the trip leader.
  • At least five school days before the event, parents shall be informed of the nature, purpose, anticipated costs and extent of a field trip, and signed permission forms shall be obtained on behalf of students under eighteen years of age (an example is given below in the attachment section).
  • A student of the age of majority shall be required to sign a permission form before going on a school trip.
  • All permission forms shall include the following statement:  Trip leaders should be aware of special health conditions which might affect the progress or welfare of the students while on this activity.
  • First aid kits shall be available on all field trips.
  • All administrative procedures and codes of conduct on student deportment shall apply for the entire period of any field trip.
  • For all local field trips, the ratio of adult supervisors to students shall be at least 1:7 for Intermediate and Senior students.


  • Definition of a Canoe Trip and Canoe Activity
  • A canoe trip is defined as a trip which uses canoes as a principle means of transportation.
  • A canoe trip leader is a capable canoeist and who is experienced in canoe trip planning and control of school-aged students while on water.
  • The canoe trip leader should hold or be familiar with current Standard First Aid Certificate and current National Life Guard Certification swimming award or equivalent.
  • The canoe trip leader is the person in authority during pre-trip planning and while on the trip.
  • Field Supervisors shall be at least 18 years of age. They shall be selected by the canoe trip leader must have prior canoeing experience, must possess water safety skills, and should have some experience with the age group of the students going on the trip.
  • Field Supervisors under the direction of the trip leader shall assist in all aspects of the trip to ensure the health and safety of all participants.

The required equipment is as follows   

Personal protection equipment:

  • One Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device or life jacket of appropriate size for each person on board;
  • One buoyant heaving line of not less than 15 m in length.
  • Each canoe group shall carry spare paddles.
  • Canoes shall stay in a section with supervisors positioned where they can most effectively assist any participants in distress.
  • Personal flotation devices or life jackets shall be worn at all times in the canoes.
  • When water and/or weather conditions become unsafe, the trip leader shall order the group to go to the shore and stay there until the conditions improve.
  • Safety signals, both oral and visual, must be worked out in advance and all participants must be fully briefed on these signals.

Sample Format – School Float trips

If bussing is arranged:

  • Assign canoe partners before leaving –Trip Leader will approve canoe partners or make changes if necessary before the trip begins.
  • Field Superviosrs will be assigned by Trip Leader prior to the float.
  • Two paddlers to a canoe plus one passenger if needed. If there are experienced paddlers assign them to the inexperienced paddlers.
  • Arrange to meet at boat ramp.
  • Unload canoes from boat trailers.
  • Distribute life jackets and paddles.
  • Trip Leader covers canoe/river safety and rules of conduct and basic canoeing skills.
  • First canoe launches and wait to side while everyone else is launched into the water (first canoe should be an experienced field supervisor who then is prepared to assist as other canoes are launched).
  • Student canoes stay in between the lead and last canoes.
  • Stop on a sandbar for lunch and Trip Leader gives environment/water talk.
  • Launch canoes from sandbar, continuing to stay between the lead and last (sweep) canoes.
  • Take out at the designated Boat Ramp.
  • Help load canoes onto the trailers and return life jackets and paddles to trailer.
Dr. Cynthia Annett,
Apr 8, 2010, 11:44 AM