Travois Challenge

Build a Native American Travois and use it to transport a load, such as a tyre or a light person around the field. Travois will be evaluated on sturdiness, knot tying, staying in one piece during the journey.


  1. Science – Forces and Movement – Be able to talk about the forces involving in pulling a heavy object and how the travois reduces friction. Improve lashing and tying techniques making a travois. Building teamwork achieving the outcomes.

Per team – 2 x 2.5mtr poles and 8 x 1mtr poles. Sisal twine (2 – 3ply) cut into 1.2mtr lengths. Travois diagrams. Tyres or similar for non-person load.

Demonstration and practice of lashing with string.

Make travois and test them in a ‘travois walk’, carrying the lighter person or alternative load.

  1. a) Divide into groups. Give out laminated pictures of travois. Discuss how they were used as a means of transport before the use of wheels. Consider how they are straightforward to make and to take apart and store. Issue ‘travois kits’, consisting of poles and string to make a 1:2 scale travois.
  2. b) Each group makes a travois, using the guidance diagrams. Support is given to develop knot-tying skills.
  3. c) The travois are trialed without load and then with the lightest person or alternative load. They can be moved at a fast walking pace if sufficiently robust, the ground suitable, and the children of an appropriate age.
  4. d) Tidy up. Children strip down travois, rescuing all twine. Return all materials to how they were found.
  5. e) Is the wheel the most important invention ever? If not, what is?

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