- Elementary School
You may have used it in your class, seen the poster hanging on our walls, or have never even heard of it before (but you will today), the Medicine Wheel and its teachings guide learning at the school, giving direction to self-regulation, mindfulness, and mental well-being.
Ms. Stephanie Morris and Mrs. Charlene Smoke were inspired to create a Medicine Wheel poster for the Meadowridge community to use after reading All Creation Represented: A Child’s Guide to the Medicine Wheel, written by Joyce Perreault, and illustrated by Terra Mar.
With special permission from the author and illustrator to use the book’s graphic of the Medicine Wheel, Ms. Morris and Mrs. Smoke incorporated reflective questions and explanations of the four directions and elements of the Medicine Wheel.
As they both explain, the teachings of the Medicine Wheel and the First Peoples Principles of Learning are ways to dive into understanding Indigenous Ways of Knowing. Part of reconciliation and decolonization is through education, honouring the wisdom of Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and reflecting on ways to walk alongside Indigenous Peoples as an ally.
What is the Medicine Wheel?
While the Medicine Wheel is complex, one of the main teachings we focus on is looking at the world around us as circular, not linear. The circle is sacred in many Indigenous cultures, and the teachings of the Medicine Wheel emphasize that all things are connected, and everything has a purpose or a destiny.
The Medicine Wheel illustrates the sacredness of the number four and how this number is revealed through the different elements of our natural and spiritual world: four directions, four stages of life, four sacred plants, four seasons, and the four elements. The Medicine Wheel is a teacher and a reminder that being balanced and true understanding involves all four elements: the mind, the body, the spirit, and the heart.
How is the Medicine Wheel used at Meadowridge and alongside the IB Learner Profile?
In Grade 3, we started using the Medicine Wheel by focusing on how we can balance these four elements of the mind, the body, the spirit, and the heart. We explored ways to be mindful and how to regulate ourselves so that we could move towards the goal of being balanced individuals.
We created key questions that correspond to the four quadrants of the wheel, giving students opportunities to reflect on the ways they are maintaining balance in their lives and setting goals for the future. We also use the Medicine Wheel as part of our Curriculum Night with parents in Grade 3. In Grade 5, the Medicine Wheel is being used to set personal goals, to connect to leadership attributes, to support mental well-being, and for reflective journal writing.
For students, the teaching of the Medicine Wheel helps to show that taking from Mother Earth and gaining knowledge from Elders is sacred and special and should be treated with respect.
Why is it important for students to learn about the Medicine Wheel?
The First Peoples Principles of Learning was introduced to BC educators in 2007, and created by Indigenous Elders, scholars, and Knowledge Keepers. We have linked the First Peoples of Learning with the teachings of the Medicine Wheel as part of the decolonization of education. The teachings of the Medicine Wheel are grounded in the sacredness of Mother Earth. Learning about the Medicine Wheel and the First Peoples Principles of Learning help us to see the world from an Indigenous perspective and it promotes connecting to the land and fosters land-based learning.
What is the most interesting aspect of the Medicine Wheel for you as a teacher and for your students?
An interesting aspect of the Medicine Wheel teachings is understanding that time is not linear, and learning is an ongoing or never-ending process.
We learn that the world works in cycles, making the circle sacred and a metaphor for all aspects of life. The students find the sacred plants – cedar, sage, sweetgrass, and tobacco – associated with each section of the Medicine Wheel interesting and the use of tobacco as an offering and as a symbol of “thanks” used in Indigenous cultures fascinating. For students, the teaching of the Medicine Wheel helps to show that taking from Mother Earth and gaining knowledge from Elders is sacred and special and should be treated with respect.
How can we incorporate the Medicine Wheel outside of the classroom and into our daily lives at home?
The teachings of the Medicine Wheel can be incorporated into our daily lives by acknowledging that Mother Earth has many gifts, and they should be treated with respect. We talk a lot about reciprocity in our interactions with the forest and nature.
Reciprocity is the mindset that we, like nature, have gifts that we can give and exchange that culminate in a shared benefit for all. This extends to a way of being in this world where we leave it a bit better than when we arrived.