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When I was a kid, the local museum sponsored day programs where we’d gather to build kites from sticks and paper, paint them garish colors, then fly them. Kids in Grand Rapids, MI, do something a little more practical: they learn to build snowshoes and birch bark canoes with simple hand tools thanks to two local men, Kevin Finney and Patrick Cronan.

Finney and Cronan came together last year to lead a group of of fifth-graders through building canoes, and this year they’re tackling the art of building Ojibway (Native American)-style snowshoes. They’re opening the opportunity to others, too. The Grand Rapids Press reports:

“Anybody can do this,” Finney said about the process of shaping raw wood from an ash tree into finished shoes. Before you shake your head in disbelief, keep in mind Finney and Cronan are willing to guide you along. The men are teaching a three-day snowshoe-making workshop […] at Blandford Nature Center, during which participants will build a pair of shoes by hand. A variety of skills will be covered, including selecting and bending wood and making simple and effective Native American-style bindings.

This strikes me as truly awesome. As the ‘Post points out, hand-crafted practical items like this offer a personal connection to the past. And workshops of this type teach tool-based self-reliance, encouraging folks to put down the remote control and take on home and auto repair tasks on their own. The Post piece ends with a quote from Kinney that I know will reach into the hearts of Toolmongers:

“It’s important, because it’s out roots of who we are as people,” Kinney said. “Our humanity is tied to what we do with our hands.”

Well said!

(Photo: Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood, The Grand Rapids Press)

Outdoorsmen To Lead Snowshoe-Making Classes [Mlive.com]


6 Responses to I Built Kites; Grand Rapids Kids Build Snowshoes

  1. Michael says:

    A rather silly thing to do with all this global warming.

  2. rg says:

    @ Michael
    Excuse me while I go shovel some more of that “global warming” off my driveway.

  3. Brau says:

    Good on them, but I bet most kids would rather build a kick-ass snowmobile than steam wood and weave cat-gut! 🙂

  4. Nick says:

    i live here and visited the blandford nature center frequently as a child. .
    plenty of show here to try them out.

  5. Anthony says:

    Chuck, are you in GR? I am.
    The only “problem” is they cost $300…. it is a cool idea though.

  6. DoItRite says:

    I love sonwshoeing and go out at least a couple of time a week. But then, I walk out my back door and I’m only a hundred yards from National Forest land!
    We have grandkids up and usually get them involved for a while, but playing Gameboy usually wins out in the end.
    The old wood-type snowshoes are light, quiet and mystical. Winter in the woods is a very special time.

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