Teaching Cleveland
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Elementary School Edition: K-5

Lesson 5

The Ohio Canal


Students will understand what the Ohio canal was and how it affected growth of Cleveland.



canal, lock, toll


  1. Why was a canal system developed?
  2. What items were shipped on the Canal?
  3. What affect did the canal have on Cleveland?


  1. Ask students to name different ways we can travel or ship goods today. Which means of transportation were around in the 1840s? Does anyone know what a canal is? Define and discuss, showing students transparencies of canal boats and locks.
  2. Display the map of the Ohio Canal and identify Cleveland and the path of the Ohio Canal.
  3. Distribute copies of the Canal Officer's Report and begin analysis. Ask students what goods are shipped on the canal. What goods are shipped to Cleveland? What goods clear through Cleveland for other destinations? What goods are foods? What goods could be used for manufacturing?
  4. Distribute copies of Handout #1 - Canal and Cargo. Have students color the canal boat and items at the bottom of the page. Have them cut out and glue the items into the hull of the canal boat.
  5. Display pictures from the canal era and ask students to analyze them, discussing the scenery, people, activities, etc. On the journey of the canal, what would you see? Then distribute Handout #2 and have students create their own canal boats.

Extended Activity:
If there is room, you may want the students to measure out the size of a canal boat. This can be done in the gym or outside, and can be incorporated into a math lesson.

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