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Clam basket weaving model

Weave with pipe cleaners to make a plaited mesh that can separate counters (clams) from sand. Look at (images of) real clam baskets.
Science content (2016 curriculum): 
Biology: Indigenous People's sustainable use of Living Things (K, 2, 3)
Chemistry: Indigenous People’s Materials/Separation methods (1, 6)
Chemistry: Physical Changes, Solutions, Mixtures and Separating (2, 4, 5, 6)
Lessons activity is in: 
  • dixie cup
  • counters (5 per student)
  • gravel (1/2 dixie cup per student)
  • tub (to catch counters and gravel)
  • wooden frames to fit on tub (e.g. made from wide popsicle sticks)
  • pipe cleaners (4 per student)
  • wide shallow tray (per pair of students) to contain mess
  • images of clam baskets (see weblink below)

Indigenous people from BC made many kinds of baskets. An important one was for collecting clams. It is called an open basket as it has holes in it. How would it work? [Clams are thrown in it, and have sand stuck to them. The basket is dipped in water to rinse off the sand, which is small enough to fall through the holes, while the basket catches the clams.]

Make your own weaving to separate glass counters (representing clams) and gravel (the sand that clams are separated from).
Try a kind of weaving called plaiting - alternately under and over.
Use pipe cleaners on this frame. You will pour your clams and sand over the weaving, to try and catch the clams on the weaving, just as a clam basket catches clams.
To reset after each test, pour the clams and sand from the tub they fell into, back into the dixie cup.

Look at pictures of a clam basket. Try these weblinks: found by searching "clam basket" in the Burke Museum Ethnology Collections Database:
Note that these clam baskets are not made by plaiting, but by twining around the uprights.

If students have already done twining, point out the twining that holds the basket uprights together.

Open (sieve baskets) were also use by First Nations for catching fish and hulling (sifting the grains from chaff).

Optional video for post lesson: Making a clam basket - shows gathering the cedar branches and roots, splitting them and weaving them (15 minutes long)

More information on basket weaving:

Grades taught: 
Gr 4
Gr 5
Gr 6
Carla Mountali
Melissa Marshall
Teaching site: 
Brock Elementary
Activity originally developed and delivered: 

Brock Elementary with the Scientist in Residence Program