Takeaway: While it is true that beavers sometimes do a little harm, they nonetheless provide many benefits.
- Look at a map showing the distribution of the North American beaver in 2003 (see page 11) at the USDA Forest Service.
- Read about “The Fur Traders’ Land,” a chapter from Growth of the British Empire by M.B. Synge.
- View a picture of a beaver felt hat.
- Read about the history of the beaver fur hat and the process of making one at the White Oak Society.
- Learn about the legal status of the beaver today (scroll down to “Legal Status”) at the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management.
- Read about some of the benefits beaver ponds provide at North Carolina State University.
- Read about some of the damage beavers can cause.
- Create a chart showing the pros and cons you read about above. Older students can use this chart to prepare a pro/con essay.
- Explore some of the ways we manage beaver damage today at the USDA Wildlife site.
- Narrate the history of the beaver fur trade.
- Something to do #1: Assuming you are unable to locate a copy of the May 1, 1926 edition of the Saturday Evening Post, you can still read about the fur trade in Alaska at AKHistoryCourse.org. The article “Trading and Trapping” should also be useful.
- Something to do #2: We have been unable to locate in which of Francis Parkman’s many volumes a reference is made to the effect of the beaver fur trade on the settlement and history of the United States. Have you located it? Let us know!
- Something to do #3: Older students can make a written narration of their beaver tale.
- Something to do #4: Read In Beaver World by Enos Abijah Mills.
- Something to do #5: You’ll find notebooking pages below for wrapping up.
- Copy and memorize Ecclesiastes 9:10.
- More about beavers from the Book of Knowledge:
During the first quarter of the 1800’s, a chain of American-owned trading posts sprang up along the Missouri, Platte and Arkansas rivers. Until almost mid-century, great fur companies dominated the western commerce. St. Louis, formerly a French village on the Mississippi, grew large and wealthy as the hub of the fur industry.
The trading posts to which trappers and Indians brought soft, silky beaver pelts and other skins were centers of early frontier life. Frequently the head of a post was a partner in the fur company that owned the post. His word was absolute law in the little community….
Trappers were either hired or free. A hired trapper usually received his traps, weapons and horse from the fur company, which paid him a small salary. The free trappers, the rugged and colorful mountain men of the Old West, accepted employment from no one and lived by trading the furs that they trapped. Fearless and restless men, they preferred to spend their lives roaming alone and at will through the wilderness ranges.
“The Old West,” The Book of Knowledge
Fascinating close-up view of beavers rebuilding their lodge.
(You may want to install an ad blocker before viewing.)
Brief History of the Fur Trade and Voyageurs
In simple question and answer format at WildernessClassroom.com.
Time Line: A Brief History of the Fur Trade
Time line showing the history and countries involved in the fur trade in North America at the White Oak Society.
History of the Fur Trade
A brief history of the major role the fur industry had on the development of the United States and Canada at MontanaTrappers.org.
The Economic History of the Fur Trade: 1670-1870
Interesting but academic article for older students at the Economic History Association covering the Hudson Bay Company and the demand for beaver pelts.
Felting Beaver Hats
The process of making a beaver hat.
Building a Beaver Pond
Animated look at the ecological benefits of a beaver pond at PBSLearningMedia.org.
For wrapping up or just for fun at Fohn.net.
Watched by Wild Animals by Enos A. Mills
Book by the same author mentioned in Something to do #4 above, contains two chapters on the habits of beavers: Chapter IV: The Persistent Beaver and Chapter X: Rebuilding a Beaver Colony.
The Adventures of Paddy the Beaver by Thornton Burgess
We love these Thornton Burgess titles and have collected them all. In this title, Paddy the Beaver decides to build a dam…and change the community! Lessons for all included. In the public domain and available as a free download.
The Tale of Brownie Beaver by Arthur Scott Bailey
Some prefer these “Sleepy-Time Tales” by Bailey to those animal stories of Thornton Burgess, although our personal favorites are the latter.
The Young Fur Traders by R. M. Ballantyne
Popular series of books now in the public domain.
Away in the Wilderness by R. M. Ballantyne
Another in the series that touches on the beaver fur trade.
Unit Studies & Lesson Plans
Fur Trade: Changing Times in the NWT
26-page download at the Government of the Northwest Territories site with writing assignments, coloring pages, and other activities.
Printables & Notebooking Pages
Simple notebooking pages for the Something to do activity #5 above.
Animal Report Form
Record the fast facts on this free form at Highland Heritage.
Working Like Beavers Notebooking Pages
Simple pages that go with the lesson for copywork, narrations, and wrapping up.