This art project explores the numerous attributes of birch bark and why Indigenous people used this natural material for constructing watertight baskets.

How did the Nēhiyaw (Cree) people first gather berries and roots from the land without containers, bags or boxes? Birch bark baskets of course! The Nehiyaw used the natural resources in their environment to create what they needed to gather food. Students learn about the many different varieties of birch trees that grow in the boreal forests of Northern Alberta. They examine actual birch bark baskets and pieces of birch bark in order to re-create the same rich colours and textures of birch bark using oil pastels on man-made materials. Using large darning needles, students learn to sew a traditional basket pattern into a 3D basket using imitation sinew. Respectfully gathered willow branch rings will be provided to finish off the openings of these unique and functional pieces of basketry.

Learning outcomes:

Students will:

  • Learn about MEAM (Métis Ecological Arts Message) and why it is so important to respectfully gather natural materials from the land so as not to destroy nature’s balance and bring about the potential extinction of a species (wherever possible students use recycled or reused materials to create their art piece and fine motor skills will be honed through traditional sewing techniques)

Curriculum Links:

First Nations, Métis and Inuit: Indigenous identities, connections, expressions, preservation, protocol, Elder and Knowledge Keeper oral histories and land-based learning.

Art: Develop realistic treatments and refine forms.

Social: Alberta’s geography, history and culture, Canada’s geography

Science: Plant parts and their function, wetland ecosystems, forests and trees

Math: Pattern, repetition, and symmetry

Suggested field trips to pair with:

First Nations, Métis and Inuit at the Musée Héritage Museum

In-School Field Trip:

Due to the amount of supplies required for our Indigenous Visual Art programs, we require you to book two or three classes of the same program on the same day.

Kindly email or call 780 459 1163 for more information regarding booking an in-school field trip.

Preparation for In-School Field Trip:

We require a large room with paper-covered tables and access to a sink for the whole day if offering more than one in-school field trip in a day.  Your instructor will arrive 30 minutes early to set up the room and prepare for the field trip start time indicated on your confirmation letter.  Parent volunteers are required to assist instructors with handing out supplies and clean up.

In-School Fees:

  • $9 per student (minimum class fee based on 16 students)
  • Added travel fee of $65 for St. Albert and $95 for Edmonton (Please request a quote for all outlying areas)

Studio Fees:

  • $9 per student (minimum class fee based on 16 students)

Virtual Fees:

  • $9 per student (minimum class fee based on 16 students)
  • Includes Art Kit with free pickup at Art Gallery of St. Albert or added fee of $60.00 for delivery in St. Albert and $90 for delivery in Edmonton (Please request a quote for all outlying areas)


We’ll send an invoice to your school within one month—please don’t bring your payment to the workshop.

Please make cheques payable to Arts and Heritage St. Albert. Include invoice numbers and mail to:
Arts and Heritage St. Albert, Suite #200
20 Perron Street
St. Albert, AB  T8N 1E4

For account inquiries, contact us at 780-459-1163 or

Information and Policies


Total Time

1.5 hours


Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6, Grade 7, Grade 8, Grade 9, Grade 10, Grade 11, Grade 12

Curriculum Link

Art, Creative Expression, Cultural, First Nations, Métis, Inuit, math, Science, Social Studies, Virtual field trip


In-school field trip, Virtual field trip, Visual Arts Studios, St. Albert Place