Nursery/Preschool/Kindergarten Thematic Unit Day 3: First Nation Medicine Wheel Teachings

Day Three: First Nations Medicine Wheel Teachings

Story Time

Remind the children that they have been working on a unit about water and how it is viewed by First Nations people. Last circle time they were asked to think about how much water they used around their house. Ask the questions:

  • How much water was used?
  • What was it used for?
  • Do you think that we will never run out of water?

Explain to the children that they are sitting in a circle; they are to notice that the circle has no beginning or end. Ask the students to hold hands and as they are sitting have them move their hands up and down as if they are a wave. Ask the students to notice how when their partners moved their hands they were inclined to move theirs as well with the same rhythm.

Place pictures of medicine wheels (see appendix) on the chart or board, explain that there are four sections to the medicine wheel. First Nations of the prairies believe that there are four sacred elements. These elements are Earth, Wind, Water and Fire. Ask the children to repeat what these sacred elements are.

Water is something that is on the Earth and without water there would be no Earth. Today in the talking circle they will be asked to talk about how much water is used in their household and ways that they could possibly use less water. Pass around the “talking rock or feather.”

Creation Story: Koluscap and the Water Monster

Origin: MicMac and Maliseet (Nova Scotia)

Circle Time: Talk to your students about drought. Ask them what things in their house need water to survive. Prompt them with questions like: You could use a soft ball for this exercise and have students answer the question if the ball comes to them. Have five tosses (five different student’s answers) per question, then ask a new question and have the students toss the ball to five more students:

  • Do you have plants in your house?
  • Do plants need water?
  • What happens when plants do not get enough water?
  • Do you have any pets?
  • What kind of pets do you have?
  • Do they need water?
  • How much water do you drink a day?
  • What would you eat for supper if you did not have water?
    • Children may answer with things like potatoes, carrots, cake, etc. Ask them:
  • How do carrots grow? What are cakes made from? Where does flour come from?
    • Tell them flour comes from a plant just like the plants in their houses, and it too needs water to grow.

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).

Ask your students:

  • Were they worried for the people who lived in the village?
  • Why were they worried for the people in the village?
  • Do they think that we could ever run out of water?
  • What can they do to conserve water?

Activities/Learning Stations

1) Messy Table Activity: Painting a Medicine Wheel

Materials

  • Photocopy medicine wheel (also used as back of Turtle) on sturdy Manila paper or thick white paper
  • Four colours of paint: blue, yellow, red, white, sponges or paintbrushes, newspapers.

Directions:

  1. Cover the table with newspaper.
  2. Place the four colours of paint in the middle of the table.
  3. Give each of the children a picture of the medicine wheel; ask them to look at pictures of medicine wheels to see where the colours are located.
  4. Have the children paint each of the sections with one colour per section.
  5. Set aside the picture to dry and later have the children cut out the circles.

2) Cut and Colour Table Activity: Medicine Wheel Collage

Materials:

  • Magazines
  • Photocopied medicine wheel
  • Glue
  • Crayons
  • Scissors

Directions:

  1. Each of the parts of the medicine wheel represents one of the four elements.
  2. Have the children cut out pictures that relate to EARTH (plants, trees), WIND (air, weather), FIRE (cooking, red things) and WATER (water activities, glass of water). Have children glue these pictures into the medicine wheel.
  3. Then have children colour the section of the medicine wheel that is not covered with pictures.
  4. After they have finished their artwork, have them explain why they picked the things they did to put in their collage.

Variations:

  • Provide the students with fabric and yarn and other textures to place on their medicine wheel.
  • Or after the craft is completed laminate it (without fabric/yarn) and then place four blank medicine wheels behind to make a medicine wheel book.
  • The children could have the teacher write sentences to go with each medicine wheel.

3) Creative Art Activity: Rock Medicine Wheel

Materials:

  • Sandpaper square
  • Glue
  • Small rocks (optional: these rocks can be painted beforehand to blue, yellow, red and white, spray paint by teacher would be the best).

Directions:

  1. Have students view the medicine wheel and place their rocks accordingly.
  2. Glue the rocks to the sandpaper.
  3. Talk to the children how the original medicine wheels were sometimes as large as a football field.
  4. Tell students how medicine wheels are now used by a variety of First Nations on Turtle Island (North America) to teach about First Nations.

Beneficial Resource for this activity:

Royal Alberta Museum. (2005). Archaeology: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from http://www.royalalbertamuseum.ca/research/culturalStudies/archaeology/faq.cfm

4) Physical Play Activity: Medicine Wheel (Variation on Four Corners)

Materials:

  • Fairly large physical area
  • Imagination
  • Four flags (Red, Blue, Yellow and White)
  • Blindfold
  • A chair

Directions:

  1. Select a child to be at the centre or middle of the wheel.
  2. Blindfold that child.
  3. The child will be responsible for yelling out the colours of red, blue, yellow and white.
  4. The first round each of the children go to a different flag colour.
  5. The blindfolded person says a colour and the children try to get to that corner, only the first four people can stay at the colour. The other participants must go to a different coloured flag. The person in the middle is given three guesses as to who is in the corner, if they guess right that person goes to the middle and the game continues. If they guess wrong the whole class says “not there!”
  6. This should continue for a few rounds.

5) Physical Activity: Making Rain

This Activity is from: 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.

Directions:

  1. Arrange your students so they are all facing you. Ask if anyone has ever made a rainstorm before. Then say that they are going to work together to make a storm.
  2. Tell them to imitate what you are doing whenever you walk in front of them, and have them keep doing it until you come by again doing something else.
  3. Each time you begin to making a different sound you will start on one side of the group, walk across the front to the other side and then return to the starting point to start the next sound.
  4. Tell the children that they will first hear the wind, then drizzle, hard rain, thunder and then the storm as it gradually blows away.
  5. Your sequence of sound-making activities should go like this:
    • Rub your hands gently
    • Snap your fingers
    • Slap your hands on your thighs
    • Keep slapping your hands on thighs plus stamp your feet
    • Return to just slapping hands on thighs
    • Snap fingers
    • Rub hands
    • Stop all movement

6) Imagination Activity: From Dust to Raindrop

This Activity is from: 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.

Directions:

  1. Have the children lay face-up on their backs, close their eyes, take a few deep breaths and slowly exhale and clear their minds of all thoughts.
  2. Read the following story about the birth of a raindrop and have them imagine that they are becoming the raindrop.
  3. After the story has been read, discuss how a raindrop forms. Then ask a few children how they would end the story.

Birth of a Raindrop

You are a tiny speck of dust sitting on top of a dried-up weed in the middle of a big field. It is early October and a cold, strong wind blows. This fall, when the children were going back to school, you landed on the weed while it was still alive and green. Now you are wondering, “Will I ever become unstuck from this dried-up old weed?”

The cold wind blows longer and harder, causing your weed stalk to wave back and forth. Suddenly you are thrown off the weed and blown right toward a grove of trees. The bare branches of the trees look closer as the wind carries you toward them. At the last instant before you crash, you are lifted up over the treetops and into the open sky.

As you rise higher and higher you feel light as a feather. Down below, the field that you came from looks like a dot on the Earth. The wind carries you into a dark gray cloud. You hear a loud cry and almost bump into a large, black bird with a white head. Here in the cloud there are millions and billions of dust particles rushing around and bumping into one another. “Hey, watch it!” you shout as a careless piece of dust bumps into you. “Ouch! It’s too crowded here!”

It’s also very wet in the cloud, and some water vapour begins to cover you, turning you into a tiny droplet of water. Soon you become too heavy and start to fall back to Earth. All around you other raindrops are falling. Lower and lower you sink. In every direction you look there are raindrops. The whole world seems to be wet.

You can’t tell where you are going. You begin asking yourself, “Where and when will I ever land?” (Caduto et al., 1997: 86-87)

7) Oral Language Activity: Four Elements Medicine Wheel Poem

The following poem is a shortened and slightly altered version of the Four Elements Medicine Wheel Prayer. It has been adapted so children gain a strong understanding of what is being said and what it means. There is a copy of the full version of the prayer below, as well it can be found in: Metzner, R. (1999) Green Psychology. Park Street Press.

Four Elements Medicine Wheel Poem

O Great Spirit of the East,

radiance of the rising Sun,

spirit of new beginnings

O Grandfather Fire,

great nuclear fire of the Sun.

O Great Spirit of the South,

protector of the fruitful land,

and of all green and growing things,

the noble trees and grasses.

Grandmother Earth, Soul of Nature.

O Great Spirit of the West,

spirit of the great waters,

of rain and rivers, lakes and springs;

O Grandmother Ocean,

the power to taste and to feel,

to cleanse and to heal.

O Great Spirit of the North,

invisible spirits of the air,

and of the fresh, cool winds;

O vast and boundless Grandfather Sky,

your living breath animates all life.

Through us and within us.

Directions:

  1. After this poem has been read to the children several times, ask them to think about the parts of the poem.
    • What colour do they think would represent the east? (Fire=Red)
    • What colour do they think would represent the south? (Black=Earth)
    • What colour do they think would represent the west? (Pure water=White)
    • What colour do they think would represent the north? (Wind=Yellow)
  2. Point out the directions in the classroom and if at all possible go outside to see the four directions.

Variations:

  • Have the students write a class poem about the four directions and the four sacred elements. Fire from the East, Earth from the South, Water from the West and Wind/Air from the North.
  • Once they have given their ideas write the poem on chart paper and review it at the next circle time.

8) Extra Activity: Four Elements Medicine Wheel Prayer Full Version

medicine wheel prayer

Snack Time Ideas

1) Snack: Medicine Wheel Sugar Cookies

This Recipe can be found at: Sugar Cookies. Retrieved from: http://www.dltk-kids.com/recipesdb/view.asp?rid=105

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine
  • softened 1/3 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Food colouring, if desired (blue, red, yellow)
  • Premade icing

Directions:

  1. Beat butter and shortening thoroughly with an electric mixer or pastry cutter.
  2. Add sugar, baking powder and a pinch of salt and mix until well combined.
  3. Beat in egg and vanilla then as much flour as you can with the electric mixer.
  4. Stir in the remaining flour.
  5. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour; Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  6. Roll out the cookie dough.
  7. Use a round cup or cookie cutter to cut out cookies.
  8. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for about 7 to 8 minutes, until edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned (do not overcook).
  9. Divide pre-made icing into four small bowls; add food-dye until desired colour is achieved.
  10. You should have one blue, one red and one yellow, the other should remain white.
  11. Have students, using clean Popsicle sticks, paint with the icing the four colours on the medicine wheel cookies. Ask the students to use the other medicine wheels as a guide.

2) Snack: Feast Food Snacks

Ingredients:

  • Can of salmon
  • Can of kernel corn
  • Wheat crackers
  • Saskatoon Jam

Directions:

  1. In a bowl pour in the pre-drained salmon and drained can of corn, mix thoroughly.
  2. Spread mixture on the wheat crackers.
  3. Spread Saskatoon Jam on crackers.
  4. Enjoy these two different taste sensations.