Grade Two Thematic Unit Part 3: Importance of Water to Self, Health, Community and Culture

Part Three: Importance of Water to Self, Health, Community and Culture

Social Studies: First Nation Family Chart

Objectives: Students will learn about extended families and the role they play within an Aboriginal community.

Methodology:  Storytelling  Instruction  Discussion


  • First Nations Family Handout
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Large coloured chart paper
  • Photocopied or duplicated family pictures of extended family
  • Crayons or markers

Space Requirements: The classroom

Background Information:

As discussed in previous lessons, family or kinship ties set the limits of an individual's rights and responsibilities within the indigenous community. These ties also provide access to important food gathering areas, create opportunities to share the responsibility for raising and caring for children, and play a critical role in contemporary politics. In First Nations communities more emphasis is placed on large multigenerational families than on nuclear families. How this is manifest in each First Nations community varies greatly. Some First Nations, such as the Tsimshian emphasize the matrilineal line. Others, such as the Mi'kmaqs, reckon descent bilaterally. Still others highlight the importance of the patrilineal line. In every case family networks of sharing and reciprocity continue as a crucial aspect of First Nations society. The following examples highlight some of the complexity of First Nations family organization.

Within western structure there is a term called the nuclear family. The nuclear family usually consists of a mother, father and children (one boy and one girl). We have the blended family which is a mother and her children and a father and his children and then the mother and father’s children (hers, his, ours). There is also the single parent family where children live either with their mother or their father. Within First Nation families we have what is called the extended family; each family member has a role to play in the raising of a child. The father and mother’s brothers, sisters, cousins and parents play a role within the child’s life. The aunts and uncles take an active role in the child’s life and may be involved in disciplinary measures with the children. Sometimes a first born child may be raised by their grandparents; this is something that has gone on for generations. Even the terminology for relatives is different than Euro-Canadian families. For example your mother’s first cousin is either your aunt or your uncle. Your great aunt is your grandmother and your great uncle is your grandfather. Your grandmother’s first cousin is your grandparent. Also your first cousins are considered your brothers and sisters.



  1. Prior to this lesson ask students to get pictures from their extended families. Head shots only. You will inform the parents that they can either send duplicate photos that could be used in the project or they could send photos that would be copied and returned. Photocopy these pictures onto paper. Place the photos in an envelope with the student’s name at the front desk and arrange for their return.
  2. Read through the background information and provide students with the student handout. On the handout, relationships are explained through diagrams. In different languages there are different words for each of the relatives. Optional: Prior to conducting this lesson, find out the First Nation dialect for your area and perhaps call a school and speak to the First Nation Language Instructor. Fax them the handout and have them translate the words to roman orthography. For example Kokum for Grandmother, etc., or you could visit websites that have dictionaries on them.(10 minutes).
  3. Using the First Nation Extended Family Structure as a guide, have the students draw their family chart on a large poster paper. Once students have labeled everyone or used the labels that have been provided, have them glue both pictures and labels to the paper. (40 minutes).
  4. Have the students label their extended family according to the information provided. Have the students divide into dyads and share their diagram with another student. (10 minutes).
    • Optional: Once the child has completed the family chart, ask them to write down one sentence to go with each person on their chart that they have interacted with. For example: Aunt Mary likes to help me read and will let me read to her. Or Uncle Jack took me hunting.

First Nation Extended Family

First Nation Extended Family

The First Nation family is often called extended because they understand their relation and keep these connections. In many First Nation languages, family relations have the same name. For example, often the word for cousin would be sister or brother. Great Aunt and Uncles are instead called grandparents, which recognizes the value of family and the role they play within the community.

Health/Science: Tree Rings

Only when the last tree has died, the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we cannot eat money. - Cree Proverb

Space Requirements: The classroom


  • Students will be able to view water as it relates to them and their community.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the forms in which water is present in the environment, and describe ways in which living things are affected by water.
  • Describe ways in which clean water is vital for meeting the needs of humans and other living things.

Background Information: Water is an important element, without water we could not live. Before teaching this activity it is important to discuss the importance and facts of water with students. Some important facts are:

  • 70% of the earth is made up of water (Environment Canada).
  • 97.5% of the 70% is saltwater, found in the Earth’s oceans and seas (Environment Canada, 2008).
  • 2.5% of the 70% is freshwater (Environment Canada, 2008)
  • 68.0% of the 2.5% freshwater is glaciers and snow cover (Environment Canada, 2008).
  • 30.8 % of the 2.5% freshwater is ground water, which also includes soil moisture, permafrost, and swamp water (Environment Canada, 2008).
  • 0.3% of the 2.5% freshwater is found in the lakes and rivers (Environment Canada).
  • 1.8 million people die annually from diarrhoeal diseases, including cholera (Environment Canada).  90% of the 1.8 million are mainly children below the age of five and from developing countries (Environment Canada).
  • One billion people do not have access to safe drinking water (Environment Canada).
  • 2.4 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation (Environment Canada).
  • 1 single drop of oil can contaminate 25 litres of drinking water, making it undrinkable (Environment Canada).
  • If water supplies are improved, the 1.8 million people dying annually from diarrhoeal diseases would decline by 6% - 25% (Environment Canada, 2008).  If there was improved sanitation, death from diarrhoeal disease would decline by 32% (Environment Canada, 2008).
  • A person can only survive 5 – 7 days without water, but they can survive up to a month without food (Environment Canada, 2008).

Our earth’s water is being polluted at an alarming rate and, as we can see, the world’s freshwater sources are smaller than one believes.

While only 1% of all the water is drinkable, it is continuing to be polluted at an alarming rate.

As students begin this lesson it becomes important for them to do some research first on why water is important within their household and community. It is also important to find out the water or precipitation rate in their community. Prior to this lesson, find out where you can get tree rings from a tree that has been cut in their community within the last few weeks and have enough for each child in your class. While these units are geared towards First Nation perspectives they can also be adapted to fit the needs of your students and your community.



  1. Students will view water as it relates to themselves and their community. Students will be provided with a tree ring from a tree that has been cut in their community within the last few weeks. Students will notice that the rings are thicker and thinner. Explain to the students that the thicker rings represent the time when precipitation was heavier and that when there was less precipitation the tree rings were thinner. Have the students count how many rings are on the tree slice they have been given. (15 minutes).
    • Optional: Using coloured pins or push pins and string and the poster they have developed regarding their family have them identify rings on the tree that represent family events like their birth or their parents’ births. Have them speak to their parents regarding precipitation for the year they were born. Have them ask their parents a couple of questions:
      • Was it a drought year or a year with lots of precipitation?
      • Does this coincide with what they found when looking at the tree ring?
  2. Glue the slice of tree ring to a firm construction paper in the centre and then use the coloured pins and coloured string to label family events, including the student’s birth date and that of their siblings.

Science/Creative Art: The Importance of Water


  • Paper
  • Drawing/colouring utensils Optional


  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Internet & Printer
  • Copies of “Koluscap and the Water Monster”
  • Yellow Quill Case Studies


  1. Demonstrate an awareness of the forms in which water is present in the environment, and describe ways in which living things are affected by water. Students will be asked why water is so important. Provide students with an opportunity to brainstorm and talk about why they think water is important. Write all these things down on chart paper. Ask students to describe all the places they see water.
  2. Write this on the board:           WATER IN NATURAL ENVIRONMENT                                                                                     WATER IN MANMADE STRUCTURES
  3. Have the students brainstorm each of the two categories. (5 minutes).
    • Possible answers for the first category:
      • Rivers, streams, rain, swamps, snow, creeks, lakes, etc.
    • Possible answers for second category:
      • Water tap, baths, swimming pool, hydro dams, etc.
  4. Have students draw a picture of water in a natural environment and water in a man made structure. Draw these two scenes on 8 1/2 X 11 paper that has been folded in half. Have students write each of the categories down. After completion of their drawings have them explain it to a partner. (15 minutes).
    • Optional: Using the same two categories but working in groups of four, have students make a collage of WATER IN NATURAL ENVIRONMENT. They could take pictures from magazines and the Internet. Do the same for WATER IN MANMADE STRUCTURES. Once this is done, students will then present as a group.
    • Optional: Teacher could read “Koluscap and the Water Monster” (Available at the bottom of this lesson) or have the students read it independently.
  5. Investigate the visible effects of water in the environment. Ask students about how they view water and how it affects their lives. Have students reflect on how their lives would be if they did not have water. Students throughout the lesson(s) have been asked to reflect upon water and how it affects the things around us. Divide the students into four groups. Assign a topic to speak about within their small groups. Advise the students that they have between five and ten minutes for their discussion so they must keep on task. Possible topics:
    • What happens when there is no water?
    • What happens when there is too much water?
    • Do animals need water?
    • Do plants need water?
    • Optional: After speaking about these topics and the importance that water has within our lives, students may choose to further explore this topic. Maintain the four groupings and then ask the students to make up a play or a performance piece that would represent the topic they were talking about. Example: We have just entered into a space atmosphere and we have been told that there is no water on the plane; we have decided to talk to mission control about why we need water on this planet right now. Another example: Here we are with the victims of a major flood; tell us how it feels for water to cover your home?
  6. Describe ways in which clean water is vital for meeting the needs of humans and other living things. Ask students;
    • What it would be like if their water was unsafe to drink?
    • What if the water in their homes smelled like sewage?
  7. Talk to the students about why water needs to be clean and drinkable. Ask students;  
    • What they can do to ensure that their water is pure and drinkable?
    • Why water now has to be treated but a long time ago people drank water directly from a lake or stream, what is different?
  8. This discussion could end this lesson. (15 minutes).
    • Optional: Teacher could read through the Grade 7 or 9 or 12 Yellow Quill Case Study in Operation Water Spirit. Students will be asked to reflect upon what it would be like to not have safe drinking water. Students will learn that it is not just third world countries that need to worry about water quality but it is also First Nation communities who live within Canada. Provide students an opportunity to discuss this issue.

Reading/Language Arts: Koluscap and the Water Monster

Origin: MicMac and Maliseet (Nova Scotia)

This story can be found in: Caduto, M. J., Bruchac, J., Ka-Hon-Hes, & Wood, C. (1997). Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children (1st Fulcrum trade paperback ed.). Golden, Colo: Fulcrum Publ.

Koluscap and the Water Monster

Once there was a great drought. The rain stopped falling and the Earth became dry. Finally the streams themselves stopped flowing. There was a village of people who lived by the side of a stream, and life now became very hard for them. They sent someone upstream to see why the stream had stopped. Before long, the man came back.

“There is a dam across the stream,” he said. “It is holding back all the water. There are guards on the dam. They say their chief is keeping all the water for himself.”

“Go and beg him for water,” said the elders of the village. “Tell him we are dying without water to drink.” So the messenger went back again. When he returned, he held a bark cup filled with mud.

“This is all the water their chief will allow us to have,” he said.

Now the people were angry. They decided to fight. They sent a party of warriors to destroy the dam. But as soon as the warriors came to the dam, a great monster rose out of the water. His mouth was big enough to swallow a moose. His belly was huge and yellow. He grabbed the warriors and crushed them in his long fingers which were like the roots of cedar trees. Only one warrior escaped to come back to the people and tell them what happened.

“We cannot fight a monster,” the people said. They were not sure what to do. Then one of the old chiefs spoke. “We must pray to Gitchee Manitou,” he said. “Perhaps he will pity us and send help.” Then they burned tobacco and sent their prayers up to the Creator.

Their prayers were heard. Gitchee Manitou looked down and saw the people were in great trouble. He decided to take pity and help them and he called Koluscap. “Go and help the people,” Gitchee Manitou said.

Koluscap then went down to the Earth. He took the shape of a tall warrior, head and shoulders taller than any of the people. Half of his face was painted black and half was painted white. A great eagle perched on his right shoulder and by his side two wolves walked as his dogs, a black wolf and a white wolf. As soon as the people saw him they welcomed him. They thought surely he was someone sent by the Creator to help them.

“We cannot afford you anything to drink,” they said. “All the water in the world is kept by the monster and his dam.”

“Where is this monster?” Koluscap said, swinging his war club, which was made of the root of a birch tree.

“Up the dry stream bed,” they said.

So Koluscap walked up the dry stream bed. As he walked he saw dried up and dead fish and turtles and other water animals. Soon he came to the dam, which stretched between two hills.

“I have come for water,” he said to the guards on top of the dam.

“GIVE HIM NONE. GIVE HIM NONE!” said a big voice from the other side of the dam. So the guards did not give him water.

Again Koluscap asked and again the big voice answered. Four times he made his request, and on the fourth request Koluscap was thrown a bark cup half-full of filthy water.

Then Koluscap grew angry. He stomped his foot and the dam began to crack. He stomped his foot again and he began to grow taller and taller. Now Koluscap was taller than the dam, taller even than the monster who sat in the deep water. Koluscap’s club was now bigger than a great pine tree. He struck the dam with his club and the dam burst open and the water flowed out. Then he reached down and grabbed the water monster. It tried to fight back, but Koluscap was too powerful. With one giant hand Koluscap squeezed the water monster and its eyes bulged out and its back grew bent. He rubbed it with his other hand and it grew smaller and smaller.

“Now,” Koluscap said, “no longer will you keep others from having water. Now you’ll just be a bullfrog. But I will take pity on you and you can live in this water from now on.” Then Koluscap threw the water monster back into the stream. To this day, even though he hides from everyone because Koluscap frightened him so much, you may still hear the bullfrog saying, “Give Him None, Give Him None.”

The water flowed past the village. Some of the people were so happy to see the water that they jumped into the stream. They dove so deep and stayed in so long that they became fish and water creatures themselves. They still live in that river today, sharing the water which no one person can ever own (Caduto et al., 1997: 81-84).