Paddle-Wheel Steamboat


Transportation was transformed with the invention of the steamboat. Imaginations head up (or down) the Mississippi with this creative replica.


1. Research advancements in U.S. river transportation in the 1800s and 1900s. Explore how the invention of the steamboat affected the economy and population in towns and states along the Mississippi and other rivers. What precipitated the invention of the steamboat? Find out about different kinds of steamboats. Record this information with Crayola® Washable Markers in reports and on display boards.

2. Build model steamboats, using pictures as a guide for construction. Gather an assortment of building materials, such as recycled boxes, cardboard tubes, craft sticks, rubber bands, and cotton balls.

3. One way to make the paddle-wheel base is to use Crayola Scissors to cut a square from the bottom of a small recycled milk carton. Cut two sides from the square piece to make it smaller. Attach a rubber band down the center of the square piece with a stapler so the ends of the rubber band are free. Staple the ends of the rubber band to the cardboard base so the square piece is centered in the hole from which it was cut. Or invent your own design for a working paddle wheel.

4. Now be creative! Use the materials you gathered to build the rest of the steamboat. Connect pieces with Crayola School Glue. Design a boat with several stories, decks, steam pipes with cotton smoke, a captain, and flags blowing in the wind. Dry.

5. Cover your work area with newspaper. Add color and a name for your boat with Crayola Washable Tempera Paints and Paint Brushes. Dry.

Safety Guidelines

Adult supervision is required for any arts & crafts project. Observe children closely and intervene as necessary to prevent potential safety problems and ensure appropriate use of arts and crafts materials. Some craft items, particularly beads and buttons, are potential choking hazards for young children. Avoid use of such small parts with children younger than 3 years. Craft items such as scissors, push pins and chenille sticks may have sharp points or edges. Avoid use of materials with sharp points by children younger than 4 years. Read all manufacturers' safety warnings before using arts and craft supplies.

Crayola Washable Paints—Not for use as body/face paint.

Scissors—ATTENTION: The cutting edges of scissors are sharp and care should be taken whenever cutting or handling. Blunt-tip scissors should be used only by children 4 years and older. Pointed-tip scissors should be used only by children 6 years and older.

Wood—By its nature, wood is rough and may contain splinters or sharp points


  • Display boats and research items in a river of information. Arrange desks and tables in a long, meandering row. Cover with blue paper. Place steamboats, reports, and display boards along the river. Invite family members and other classes to ride your river to learn more about steamboats.
  • Investigate the circumstances surrounding the invention of the first paddle wheel steamboat. Who invented it, when, and why? Research modern paddle-wheel steamboats. Create a brochure about the paddle-wheel steamboat, including places to see them today.
  • The first stern paddle-wheel steamboat, the Washington, left Louisville, Kentucky, to navigate the Mississippi River on March 3, 1816. The steamboat made a round trip to New Orleans. Imagine that you are in the crowd, or on the boat when it leaves the dock. What do you see and hear? What is on the boat? How long does the journey take?

Related Lesson Plans

Lesson Plans

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crayola supplies
  • Paint Brushes
  • Markers
  • Artista II® Washable Tempera Paint
  • No-Run School Glue
  • Pointed Tip Scissors
  • Construction Paper
household supplies
  • recycled newspaper
  • aluminum foil
  • white paper
  • recycled boxes
  • paper towels
  • container(s) of water
  • decorative craft items
  • dowel stick
  • rubber bands



  • Grades 1 to 3
  • Grades 4 to 6


  • Social Studies
  • Visual Arts


  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Multiple Sessions


  • Students analyze the impact of the invention of the steamboat on river transportation in the United States.

  • Students prepare reports and display boards in which information about steamboats and their uses is organized and clearly presented.

  • Students use problem-solving skills and their imaginations while constructing a model steamboat.


Research Canada Standards
Research UK Standards
Research U.S. Standards