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Learning and the Relationship with the Land



First Nations elders are respected for their wisdom and understanding of the natural world.  This lesson plan recognizes that the cultural identity of Aboriginal people is based upon learning about traditions and customs from older generations.  As students read and discuss indigenous children’s literature they participate in a series of experiential activities where they will:

  • Define and describe traditional ecological knowledge.
  • Document local natural landmarks.
  • Explore sensory imagery.
  • Examine how residential schools impacted indigenous communities.
  • Create artwork including a “memory bag” that represents their own family.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Research
  • Literature analysis
  • Describing components of culture


  • Creative hands-on activities
  • Includes assessment strategies
  • Includes a student vocabulary list for each lesson


  • Literature analysis activities do not contain differentiation strategies for various reading levels

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This resource supports English Language Arts reading and writing outcomes. Students also develop an understanding of Social Studies concepts like cultural connections and traditional ecological knowledge. 


Listening to our elders is the central theme of the lessons and could form the basis of an innovative action project where students collect stories from local senior citizens to create a living, oral history of their community.  The project could include a gathering that recognizes the important contributions First Nations people have made to the cultural configuration of Canada.


The “memory bag” activity could also become the basis of a school wide awareness initiative where students engage their peers in a talking circle where the objects are used to facilitate discussions about diversity and acceptance.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

Themes Addressed

  • Indigenous Knowledge (2)

    • Rituals, Spirituality and Worldviews
    • TEK -- Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good

Using traditional literature in combination with authentic activities immerses students in a cultural experience that facilitates understanding.  

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

This lesson plan examines indigenous culture from the perspective of human relationships and the environment.  Students are also able to examine how cultural misunderstanding can encourage racial discrimination.  The Canadian residential school system destroyed the lives of many children as they were removed from their families to receive a formal education with no consideration for their belief system.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

Students will develop an awareness of how cultural identity results from a variety of factors including beliefs, traditions and informal learning.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

Students create artwork that illustrates natural landmarks in their community.  This art could become the basis of a unique project where students petition municipal and non- profit organizations to protect these sites of ecological significance.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Satisfactory
Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Good

By deepening their understanding of First Nations culture students strengthen their respect for others.


Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Good

The underlying theme of this unit is the close connections between indigenous peoples and nature.  Students have an opportunity to actively engage with the content by describing their own connections to the land through outdoor exploration.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

The class explores local natural landmarks and engage in close observation of flora and fauna in their community.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Good

All of the activities are well developed in terms of examining the past in relation to present day.  Students will also connect how acknowledging past mistakes help build a better future.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

There are many opportunities for students to question and create new knowledge.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good

English Language Arts reading and comprehension skills are used in the analysis of traditional stories.  Visual Arts are an important component of the "memory bag" activity while science and social studies learning related to culture, sustainability and environmental conservation are integrated into all of the learning outcomes.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Poor/Not considered
Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

The hands-on activities will appeal to kinesthetic learners.  The literature tasks are appropriate for students who are at grade level but could be difficult for struggling readers.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Good

Although this unit contains a significant amount of reading and writing there is excellent balance between hands-on learning and direct instruction.  All of the reading and writing actively supports the experiential nature of the lessons.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Poor/Not considered

Not considered

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Good

The resource contains two activities which can be used as formative or summative assessment tools.  One task involves researching literature to answer questions about First Nations education.  The second activity involves creating a personal “memory bag” and presenting the information to the class.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Poor/Not considered

Not considered

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Good

The role of the Canadian government in tearing apart First Nations communities with the residential school system is an important learning topic for Canadian students.  This lesson uses a balanced approach to developing an understanding of why this system failed in a culture where education is based on traditional knowledge and respect for the land.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Poor/Not considered

Not Considered

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.