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Stem to Stern – Planting the Seeds of Forest Stewardship

The curriculum and companion activities on this page have been designed by LCMM’s professional educators, working with regional experts. Our affordable classroom visits can set you up to lead your own activities or can extend your use of the materials into greater depth. Let us help embed this important story into your students’ lives.

Contact LCMM Education Director Elizabeth Lee to get started: (802) 475-2022, x102,

Tugboat C.L. Chuchill (left) tows
canal schooner Lois McClure (right).

Woodlands to Waterways

Human history is inseparable from the land, even for maritime communities. The 2017 Schooner Lois McClure voyage recognizes and celebrates White Oak and White Pine, the principal tree species that have served as boatbuilding timber in the Northeast for hundreds of years. LCMM has launched an ambitious program that highlights forests, wood, boats and water, and how these entities interact in contemporary life as well as through regional history. Our goals are to increase understanding of the relationship between forests and waterways, increase stewardship values and model community stewardship action. We have designed lesson plans for communities where local heritage is closely tied to the timber industry and/or shipbuilding.



White Oak and White Pine are keystone or legacy species in the northern forest. Both can grow to hundreds of years old and have evolved in partnership with myriad species of native animals, providing both food and habitat. As common trees in ancestral forests, White Oak and White Pine had large roles in cleaning water, improving soils, and providing food and shelter to a wide variety of species. These trees are native to the Champlain Basin and essential to a healthy forest.

Lois McClure under construction in Burlington, VT.


White Oak and White Pine have for centuries been the principal boatbuilding wood used in the Northeastern United States. Native Americans used White Pine for dugout canoes, and Europeans began using both species for shipbuilding soon after their arrival in the New World. White Oak is strong, durable and rot resistant, so is selected for boat frames and high-impact exterior surfaces. White Pine is lightweight and has the tensile strength needed in planking and spars. Schooner Lois McClure is made of both.

Canal boat loaded with lumber.

Economic Growth

White oak and white pine were the targets of early deforestation, because of their value to many industries in addition to ship construction. Access to waterways as corridors for transporting natural resources and agricultural products led to enormous growth in commerce throughout Lake Champlain’s post-colonization history. Boats created thousands of jobs on land and on the water. Virtually anything that had to go from one place to another in the early 1800s went at least part way on a boat.

Environmental Impact

Along with the economic benefits came environmental impact and damage on a massive scale. People who lived in or near the forests started to recognize the changes in water quality, soil structure and wildlife presence. George Perkins Marsh in Man & Nature (1864), and Charles Sprague Sargent in Reports on the Forests of North America (1884) both commented on degradation to eastern forests and encouraged responsible land use


In September 2017 Syracuse, NY will host the World Canal Conference. The theme is “Our Vital Waterways: Agents of Transformation.” The conference provides a unique opportunity to share how canal systems shaped the economy, demographics and environment of our region and the nation. Students in the Champlain Valley are invited to submit artistic or academic work that expresses the theme of waterways as agents of transformation.

Oak leaves.


In telling maritime history, LCMM honors the trees from which our boats are built. To celebrate the trees that we continue to value for their beauty and their history, we will plant White Oak and White Pine seedlings with students throughout the Champlain Basin.

Download Detailed Background Research (PDF)



For Students Grades 3-5 (75-90 minutes)

By taking the roles of settlers, trees, tradesmen and other workers, students will reenact the 19th century trade network to understand where lumber came from, where it went, and how it got there. They will learn about the complex set of relationships between forests, cities, and waterways in Vermont and New York. Their hands-on historical narrative will foster an appreciation both of peoples' ingenuity and their great impacts on the environment.

For Students Grades 6-12 (45-60 minutes)

Will your students recognize the simple but essential technologies that allowed people to connect Lake Champlain to New York City and the Great Lakes? In this activity, use observations and inferences of "snapshot" objects and documents to try to understand a wider historical narrative. Use your own objects, or borrow historic artifacts from Lake Champlain Maritime Museum to support this lesson. Why were canals built? What made them so useful and important? What changes did canals bring to the landscape and the nation? Scholars will tell this story with a concluding DBQ writing prompt.

Additional Lesson Plans

Grades K-6

Grades 6-12


Let us help you make the most of these materials!

Call us for pricing and availability

Elizabeth Lee, Education Director
802-475-2022, x102



This Stem to Stern curriculum was developed by LCMM Educator and AmeriCorp Service Member Matt Harrison, under the direction of LCMM Education Director Elizabeth Lee.

We are grateful for research and consultation from: Dr. Hugh O. Canham; Peter J. Smallidge; Dr. David R. Foster; Dr. Conrad Vispo; Steve Young, Chief Botanist NYNHP; Gregory J. Edinger, Chief Ecologist NYNHP; Nick Conrad, NYNHP Information Resource Coordinator; Rachel Riemann, Research Forester/Geographer, U.S. Forest Service; Vermont Family Forests; Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park; The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry; New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Trees for Tribs Program; Miller Hill Farm Nursery & Gardens.

Bibliography (PDF)

Funding support was generously provided by:



Development of this curriculum was funded by an agreement (P12AC30965) awarded by the United States National Park Service (NPS) to the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC), in partnership with the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership (CVNHP). Initial school visits were funded by an agreement awarded by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, in partnership with the Lake Champlain Basin Program. NEIWPCC manages CVNHP and LCBP’s personnel, contract, grant and budget tasks and provides input on the program’s activities through a partnership with the LCBP Steering Committee.