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
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)
Earth/Space: Indigenous People’s Traditions around Sky, Land and Seasons (K-7)
  • dixie cup
  • counters (4 or 5 per student)
  • gravel (1/4 dixie cup per student)
  • yogurt tub, or similar (to catch counters and gravel)
  • wooden frames to fit on tub (made from narrow popsicle sticks - better than the wide ones in some images)
  • white glue and mini binder clips to make frames
  • pipe cleaners (6 per student), cut in half for younger students
  • wide shallow tray (per pair of students) to contain mess
  • images of clam baskets (see weblink below)

Before the lesson:
Make frames, one per student. Use white glue to make a square from narrow popsicle sticks. Binder clip at each corner over night for a strong frame.

Indigenous people from BC make many kinds of baskets, often in the winter when there is more time.
An important basket is for collecting clams. It is called an open basket as it has holes in it. Clams are thrown in it with 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. (Kindergarteners may just need to lay across.)
Use pipe cleaners on a frame. Pour the '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.
Note: clam baskets woven by the Coast Salish are more often made by twining, another weaving technique, rather than plaiting.
See the Twining activity for how to twine and a short beginner of twining around uprights (which is how clam baskets are often made).

Look at pictures of a clam basket.
Search for clam basket in the Museum of Anthropology at UBC:
Or try these weblinks: then search AA 1817 (for a picture of a beautiful clam basket, including close up images).… 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) are also used for catching fish and hulling (sifting the grains from chaff).

Excellent video for post lesson: Ed Carriere (Suquamish) making a clam basket - shows gathering the cedar branches and roots, splitting them and weaving them (15 minutes long) and article on the same process:

More information on basket weaving:
From this article: "Weaving is done with only the fingers. Plaiting is done with one horizontal weft yarn passing in front and behind the vertical warp yarns. Twining is done with two horizontal weft yarns one passing in front while the other passes behind the warp. This technique can be used to create a tighter weave and allows for elaborate geometric patterns to be created."

Grades taught
Gr K
Gr 3
Gr 4
Gr 5
Gr 6