Children sit inside a boat, participating in a learning activity. A woman demonstrates something with water, pouring liquid from one container into another, while the children observe with interest. Various science equipment and materials are arranged on trays in front of them.
 A group of children and adults are gathered outdoors, sitting on the grassy ground. Some children are holding water bottles. There are buildings and trees in the background, along with a river and a bridge. A man is standing and talking to the group.

In-Class Ideas

  • Canal Activity Book
  • Write or re-enact a play about what life was like along the Canal System.
  • Build a replica of a Canal barge.
  • Build a replica of a lock.
  • Have students write a fictitious journal about a week-long journey along the Canal System. It can be in the past or the present. If the present, the students can research local attractions and places to see and visit along their trip. They can contact tourism offices for additional information.
  • Create an art exhibit of drawings or paintings which feature the Canal.
  • Learn songs about the Canal System and hold a concert for parents and friends.
  • Research and find out what kinds of boats were used on the Canal for hauling goods. Calculate distance and loads based upon their cargo and destinations.
  • Use the Internet and find out about current rental boat companies. Calculate how much a day and/or weeklong trip would cost a student and/or their family. Where would they go and what would they see and do?
Several people are kayaking on a river. A girl in a blue life jacket and cap is smiling while paddling. Behind her, there are other individuals in kayaks, including a boy in a red life jacket and a person in a purple cap. The sky is overcast, and trees line the riverbanks. A wooden platform is visible in the foreground with a yellow paddle resting on it.

The Erie Canal Song & Poem

The Erie Canal Song

Low Bridge

written in 1905 by Thomas S. Allen

I've got a mule, her name is Sal,
Fifteen years on the Erie Canal.
She's a good ol' worker and a good ol' pal,
Fifteen years on the Erie Canal.
We've hauled some barges in our day,
Filled with lumber, coal, and hay,
And we know ev'ry inch of the way,
From Albany to Buffalo.

Low bridge, ev'rybody down!
Low bridge, for we're comin' to a town!
And you'll always know your neighbor,
You'll always know your pal,
if you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal.

We better get on our way, old pal,
Fifteen years on the Erie Canal.
'Cause you bet your life I'd never part with Sal,
Fifteen years on the Erie Canal.
Get up there mule, here comes a lock,
We'll make Rome 'bout six o'clock,
One more trip and back we'll go,
Right back home to Buffalo.

*Some versions substitute "fifteen miles" for "fifteen years".

The Erie Canal Poem

Building the Erie Canal

written by Gabrielle Toborg

The Erie Canal
DeWitt Clinton made us start diggin'
We'll build the Erie Canal.
Some immigrants from Ireland came over to help us.
We'll build the Erie Canal.
We invented the wheelbarrow and the stump-puller.
We'll build the Erie Canal.
Mosquitos have bitten us and we've gotten sick,
But we'll build the Erie Canal.
Someday the boats-packets, freighters, and barges-
Will travel the Erie Canal.
They will pass through our locks and our aqueducts,
When we've finished the Erie Canal.
The hoggees will drive the mules that will pull
When we finish the Erie Canal.
And when ships get mudlocked, we'll have us a laugh
Then settle back to enjoy
Our hard handy-work: the Erie Canal
Cause now that we've started,
Surely, we'll finish
Building the Erie Canal.

Image Gallery

A group of children and adults are standing on a sidewalk by a river. They are posing for a photo in front of a small boat-like vehicle. The weather seems sunny with some clouds in the sky. The surroundings include buildings, a bridge, and trees.
Several people, including adults and children, are gathered around a miniature model of a canal boat. They are holding up circular signs with "Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor" and "Empire State Trail" logos on them. Some are smiling and posing for the photo, while others are looking at the camera. The scene appears to be outdoors at a public event or fair, with tents and people in the background.
A group of teenagers and adults are gathered outdoors near a pond or lake. They are standing in a circle and seem to be engaged in an activity or discussion, with many of them looking down towards the center. The weather appears to be sunny, with greenery and water visible in the background. One woman in the group is smiling and appears to be laughing.
In an indoor setting, several people, including adults and children, are gathered around a booth featuring displays about the Erie Canal. A woman, wearing a cap with the Erie Canal logo, is pointing towards something while explaining. There are informational banners and posters about the canal on the walls. In the center of the booth, there is a model of a canal with water and miniature boats.
People are exploring an exhibit in a museum or science center. The exhibit focuses on electricity and energy generation. There are informational displays and interactive stations along the walls. Visitors are interacting with the exhibits, reading the information, and engaging with hands-on activities. The environment appears to be well-lit and spacious, with wooden beams overhead.
A group of adults and children are gathered in a pavilion or outdoor shelter. They are sitting on benches and listening to a person giving a presentation or talk. There is a display board with pictures and information set up in front of the group. The surroundings include trees and grassy fields, indicating an outdoor setting.

Additional Resources

  • Visit “A Guide to Canal Records" in the New York State Archives. The site describes 360 series of records documenting New York’s Canals from the earliest Erie Canal surveys to the completion and operation of the Barge Canal.
  • As we enter the Canals Bicentennial, read about its Centennial by Roy Finch. civil engineer and New York politician, to get Erie Canal history from an insider.