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Mississippi 4-H Canoe and Kayak Club Curriculum

Filed Under:
Publication Number: P3960
The front cover of the Mississippi 4-H Canoe and Kayak Club Curriculum has two smiling children wearing life jackets in a canoe on the water.
Contact your local Extension county office to request a copy of the Mississippi 4-H Canoe and Kayak Club Curriculum (P3960)!


In 2019, Winston County Extension staff successfully piloted a county-level kayak club. This water sport was chosen because of increasing interest in canoeing and kayaking throughout the United States, including Mississippi and the southeastern United States at large. Canoe and kayak sales have steadily increased as the sport has quickly become a more popular family activity. Mississippi 4-H can positively impact youth and their families by providing expert-based instruction in this sport to enhance water safety as well as environmental stewardship.

Program Goal

The goal for the Mississippi 4-H Canoe and Kayak Club program is to outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship.

Program Objectives

The objectives of this curriculum are to

  • promote safe and proficient use of kayaks and canoes in freshwater systems under normal conditions.
  • give youth and their adult guardians guided experience in using kayaks and canoes in normal freshwater systems in the southeastern United States.
  • increase knowledge of outdoor recreational practices that protect river, stream, and lake systems.

Lesson Sections

Each lesson includes the following sections:

  • Purpose
  • Learning Objectives
  • Safety
  • Background
  • Activity
  • Tips, Hints, and Resources

Based on pilot program data, instructors should allocate three hours per lesson, including teaching and skill practice time.

Age Appropriateness

Canoeing and kayaking require some upper body strength and coordination. Although younger children will enjoy riding in canoes and kayaks with adult assistance, this youth development program is designed for those who can follow instructions, manage a 4- to 6-foot paddle weighing several pounds, and maintain their balance in an unstable vessel. Although there are exceptions, this program is most appropriate for youth ages 9 and older.

Suggested Instructors

Instructors should include Extension agents, and registered 4-H volunteers with a basic understanding of and proper experience needed for leading paddling sports.

Canoeing and Kayaking Trips

Although the mighty Mississippi River and the waters surrounding the islands of the Mississippi Gulf Coast provide diverse opportunities for kayaking and canoeing, there are other settings for getting on the water, including the Chunky River, Black Creek, Bear Creek, Leaf River, Okatoma Creek, and Pascagoula River. Public lakes managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP), and U.S. Forest Service offer still-water boating and can be good alternatives to private waters. Websites such as,,, and are reputable places to start your search for kayaking and canoeing opportunities.

Current water conditions, especially in flowing water situations like rivers and streams, which are subject to high-water or flooding conditions, should be checked before any field excursion. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains a system of river and lake gages that report current water conditions. Consult their real-time reporting system immediately before any planned kayaking trip.

Parental Involvement

This curriculum requires at least one parent or adult guardian to be present during field-based lessons to maintain discipline and safety. As part of the learning experience, the 4-H’er and parent/guardian may be given GPS coordinates to the lesson destinations to promote family learning. Encourage parents/guardians to participate in the canoeing or kayaking experience with their child. Please note that teaching is reserved strictly for registered 4-H volunteers and trained instructors.

Conservation Effort

4-H Canoe and Kayak Clubs should end each trip on the water with the mindset of “Leave no trace” and “Leave the place better than you found it.” Since this is an integral part of the environmental stewardship dimension of the program, be sure to allow time to pick up litter from around each body of water where lessons take place. Also, schedule a visit from the local MDWFP law enforcement officer during the training to ensure participants and parents/guardians are up to date on current boating laws including those related to kayaking and canoeing.

Contact your local Extension county office to request a copy of the Mississippi 4-H Canoe and Kayak Club Curriculum (P3960)!

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