PAINTING MY WONDERINGS – Medicine Wheel, Thoughts

Students create a mixed media artwork using watercolour paints, watercolour pencils, crayons, and fine black markers. They reflect on the mental, thinking aspect of the Medicine Wheel, and the life experiences that inspire learning, questioning, and wondering.

Required Time

120 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 3 to Grade 8

Subject

Language Arts
Science
Visual Arts
First Nations, Metis, Inuit

Vocabulary

balance contrast cool colours emphasis form shape texture variety warm colours

Materials

Crayola Marker & Watercolour Paper – 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm cm (9” X 12”) Small Plastic water containers - 1 per student Paper Towels Paint Brushes Watercolour Paints Watercolour Pencils Construction Paper Crayons Fine Line Markers

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Steps

PAINTING MY WONDERINGS – Medicine Wheel, Thoughts - Step One

Step One

Begin with a circle and divide it into 4 equal sections. Label each of the quadrants. In the east is spiritual energy (our spirit); in the south is emotional energy (our hearts, our feelings); in the west is physical energy (our bodies, our actions); and in the north is mental energy (our thoughts, our thinking). Focus on the mental aspect of human beings. Reflect on how you learn, close your eyes and focus on the different learning experiences in your life. What images come to your mind? What questions do you wonder about? Write words and draw images about your mind, your thinking, in the northern quandrant of the medicine wheel. Include life experiences that help you learn and inspire your curiosity.

PAINTING MY WONDERINGS – Medicine Wheel, Thoughts - Step Two

Step Two

Brainstorm words and images connected to the mental aspect of your life. Use a variety of shapes to express the thinking area of your life. Reflect on how you learn, and the questions you wonder about. What life experiences have inspired your learning and wondering? Reflect on each of the 4 elements (fire, air, earth, and water). Discuss what each element represents. Brainstorm questions, wonderings about each of the elements. Draw an image to represent each question, each wondering.

PAINTING MY WONDERINGS – Medicine Wheel, Thoughts - Step Three

Step Three

Use watercolour paints to paint a background for your artwork. Begin by dividing the watercolour paper into 4 sections. Choose colours to represent each of the 4 elements. Cover your blank paper with water, then begin to add colours to each section, for examples, Fire – yellow, orange, red, Air – purple, blue, Earth – brown, green, yellow, Water – blue, green. Add salt to an area to change the way the colours bleed together. Make sure you use a lot of water with your artwork.

PAINTING MY WONDERINGS – Medicine Wheel, Thoughts - Step Four

Step Four

Use watercolour pencils to draw an image to represent each of the 4 questions, wonderings you had when reflecting on the 4 elements. Create your drawings using a variety of colours that contrast against the background painting. Make sure the 4 images are balanced on the whole paper.

PAINTING MY WONDERINGS – Medicine Wheel, Thoughts - Step Five

Step Five

Use a paintbrush to paint clear water into each image you drew.

PAINTING MY WONDERINGS – Medicine Wheel, Thoughts - Step Six

Step Six

Use crayons to clarify your images. Add form to your shapes, and emphasize different areas of each image.

PAINTING MY WONDERINGS – Medicine Wheel, Thoughts - Step Seven

Step Seven

Use a fine black marker to identify each element (earth, fire, air, water), and write a question, a wondering you are curious about for each of the elements.

PAINTING MY WONDERINGS – Medicine Wheel, Thoughts - Step Eight

Step Eight

Make sure you have written your wonderings in a way that connects each of the four sections in your artwork. Create balance with both your images and words.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  1. Use watercolours and 4 different combinations of colours to define 4 sections on their artworks;
  2. Communicate their personal understanding of the mental (thinking) aspect represented in the medicine wheel;
  3. Communicate wonderings, questions, through writing, about each of the 4 elements (air, water, earth, fire);
  4. Draw/paint images that represent each of the 4 elements; and
  5. Balance and integrate images, words and background using watercolour paints, crayons, and fine black markers.

Extensions

  1. Have students further explore and research one of their questions, wonderings.
  2. Take students on a nature walk, observing the natural changes, and reflecting on the 4 elements (air, water, earth, fire). Ask them to reflect on what they saw, heard, smelled, and touched during the walk and write a descriptive piece about the walk in their journal.
  3. Invite students to keep a nature journal where they write weekly about their observations and wonderings of the natural world.

Prepare

  1. Prior to the lesson download background information about the medicine wheel. The following is a list of helpful links for developing a deeper understanding of the teachings represented by the medicine wheel:
    - Ojibwe/Powawatomi (Anishinabe) Teaching, by Elder: Lillian Pitawanakwat, 2006 (All rights reserved 4D Interactive Inc.) 
    Ojibwe     
  2. Teaching by the Medicine Wheel: An Anishinaabe Framework for Indigenous Education, by: Nicole Bell, 2014 
    Medicine Wheel 
  3. Anishinaabemdaa: Medicine Wheel, by: Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, 2014  
    Anishinaabemowin
  4. Teachings of the Medicine Wheel is a curriculum unit developed by the Ontario Native Literacy Coalition. On the Main Resources page you can download a student and teacher manual.  
    Teachings
  5. If available read The Sacred Tree, by Phil Lane, Jr. et. al., 1989. If not, there is an informative preview of the book at the following link.                       
    Sacred Tree
  6. The following link gives a short biography of the Cree artist, Jane Ash Poitras. She has created many mixed media artworks. Jane Ash Poitras' artworks tell stories, they help the viewer understand the history of this land we call Canada. Her artworks teach, and inspire us to  think, question, wonder. Download images from the internet, or find images in art catalogues such as: Who discovered the Americas: Recent Work By Jane Ash Poitras, Thunder Bay Art Gallery, 1992. The following artworks are examples of mixed media artworks that tell a story through layers, the canvas is divided into sections (each giving a different voice to the story, the history): Living in the Storm Too Long, 1992; 2 C Mother = E, 1993; Transparent Parents Singing Hearts, 1998.
    Jane Ash Poitras
    Living in the Storm
    2 C Mother
    Transparent Parents
  7. Download images from the Internet, or find images in books or magazines of the 4 elements: Fire (sun), Earth (animals, plants, land), Water (oceans, lakes, fish), and Air (birds, clouds).
    Fire
    Sun
    Earth
    Black Bear
    Trees
    Heron
    Trout
    Clouds

Introduction

  1. Introduce the students to the Cree artist, Jane Ash Poitras.
  2. Share Jane Ash Poitras' paintings: Living in the Storm Too Long, 1992; 2 C Mother = E, 1993. Discuss the different sections of each painting, and the meaning communicated by the words, colours, and images. Ask questions,
    What do you wonder when you view each painting?
    - Whose story is being told?
  3. Review the different teachings represented by the medicine wheel. Introduce the students to the 4 different aspects (physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional) that are part of each person, and represented by the medicine wheel.
  4. Reflect on each area (physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional) inviting students to share their personal understanding and meaning of each human aspect. The medicine wheel is a symbol teaching us to keep each area healthy and balanced.
  5. Focus on the mental (thinking) aspect. Ask students to reflect on how they learn.
    What life experiences inspire you to wonder? 
  6. Discuss the 4 elements (earth, water, fire, air) represented by the medicine wheel.
    What images come to your mind when you close your eyes and think about each element, picturing it in your mind's eye?

Activities

The Challenge

  1. Communicate your personal understanding of the mental (thinking) aspect represented by the medicine wheel.
  2. Create a background using watercolour paints. Make 4 different, but integrated sections.
  3. Draw and paint images in each of the 4 sections that communicate your questions, wonderings, about the 4 elements (fire, air, earth, water) represented by the medicine wheel.
  4. Balance the images in your artwork, contrasting them with the background.
  5. Integrate and balance 4 written questions, wonderings, (one for each element) with the images and background of your artwork.

The Process

  1. After reflecting on the 4 aspects of human beings (physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental) represented by the medicine wheel, ask students to use their sketchbooks to draw a circle and divide it into 4 equal sections.
  2. Label each of the quadrants. In the east is spiritual energy (our spirit); in the south is emotional energy (our hearts, our feelings); in the west is physical energy (our bodies, our actions); and in the north is mental energy (our thoughts, our thinking).
  3. Read the preview of, The Sacred Tree, Bopp, Bopp, Brown & Lane Jr., 1995.
  4. Explain to students that First Nations communities are diverse and may have different teachings connected to each direction.
  5. Ask students to begin in the northern quadrant of the medicine wheel with the mental (thinking) aspect of human beings. Ask them to draw images and include words that express how they learn, what they wonder, question, and what life experiences inspire them to learn.
  6. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  7. Observe students as they work.
  8. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.

Sharing

  1. Once all the artworks are complete ask students to bring their mixed media artworks into a large circle.
  2. Invite each student to share one of their wonderings, questions connected to an element (earth, water, fire, air).
  3. Ask students to share a life experience that inspired them to learn.
  4. During the circle discussion include references to colour (warm and cool), and the meaning connected to the colours.
  5. Ask students to share how they have created balance and used contrast in their artworks.

Assessment

  1. Observe students as they work - exploring, experimenting, adding detail, thoughtful focus.
  2. Listen to and observe students as they discuss the artworks - attentive listening, insightful contributions.
  3. Use a checklist to track progress (Download - WONDERINGS_tracking.pdf)
  4. Have students reflect on their own artworks in their sketchbooks. Ask students: 
    - What worked well in your artwork? Why?                                                                                                                                                                                
    - What would you change or do differently next time?                                                                                                                                                           
    - Explain how you prefer to learn, and what life experiences inspire you to wonder.