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                 MEDICINE WHEEL LEARNING ACTIVITIES

Wheel

Stephen Augustine

Nation

Mi’maq

Lesson Plan Grade Level

Senior (Grades 10-12)

Time Required

2 - 3  hours

Key Concepts

  • Mi’kmaq Creation Story

Student Summary

The origin of life has perplexed man for centuries.  “Where did we come from?” is a question that continues to be debated by scientists and theologists alike.  Scientific views of creation support the view of gradual evolution of life forms originating from the first organism over a long period of time whereas theologists contend that life began with the first act of life creation by God whereas many non-Christians believe that a supernatural being, or creator, is responsible for creation of earth and human life. 

The transfer of energy to create life from a scientific view refers to cellular processes and metabolic changes.  Of all the organisms in the natural world, green plants are the only ones that manufacture their own food. This process is called photosynthesis and begins when light strikes the plant's leaves.  Cells in the plant's leaves contain a green pigment which interacts with sunlight to split the water in the plant into its basic components. Carbon dioxide enters the leaf through holes and combines with the stored energy in the cells through a chemical reaction to produce a simple sugar. The sugar is then transported through tubes in the leaf to the roots, stems and fruits of the plants. Some of the sugar is used immediately by the plant for energy; some is stored as starch; and some is built into a more complex substance, like plant tissue or cellulose.   Fortunately for us, plants often produce more food than they need, which they store in stems, roots, seeds or fruit. We can obtain this energy directly by eating the plant itself or its products, like carrots, rice or potatoes.  Photosynthesis is the first step in the food chain which connects all living things. Every creature on earth depends to some degree on green plants.  The oxygen that is released by the process of photosynthesis is an essential exchange for all living things which is why forests, for instance, have been called the "lungs of the earth" because animals inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide in the process of breathing, and plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen in the process of photosynthesis (KTCA Twin Cities Public Television).  This give and take is what creates a symbiotic relationship between plants and animals and/or humans.

Cellular respiration is an almost universal process by which organisms utilize the sugars in their food to produce enough energy to perform all the necessary actions of living creatures.  Cellular respiration is carried out by every cell in both plants and animals and is essential for daily living.  It does not occur at any set time, and, at the same point in time.  Neighboring cells may be involved in different stages of cellular respiration.

Creationism or creation theology is a different view on the origin of life.  Creationism is the belief that humans, life, the Earth, and the universe were created by a supreme being or deity's supernatural intervention. (Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia).  Advocates of creationism argue for the existence of a “designer” and most believe the “Intelligent Design” of life on earth to be attributable to God.  Many believe in the creation of earth and Man as told in the Book of Genesis in the bible - a process of creation that took six days.  This view is widely recognized as a Christian view of creation. 

Non-Christian creation theologies exist in various cultures worldwide as well, including Aboriginal cultures such as the Mi’kmaq.  The Mi’kmaq Creation Story includes seven levels of Creation originated by the Creator.  This story describes how life began for humans, animals and plants as a process of seven stages, or levels, of creation.  The sky represents the Giver of Life which created the earth (Level 1).  The Spirit of Essence represented by the Sun, together with the Earth, created life in the second level as the Giver of Shadows.  The shadows reflected the identities, characteristics and spirits of  ancestors.  The Shadows were the joining of earth, matter and the blood of human life (Level 2).  Level 2 connected the spirit world to the physical world as human life became the centre.  Level 3 of creation was seen in the surface of the area of what they call Mother Earth.  The beat of a drum is the heartbeat of Mother Earth.  In Level 4 the first man was created, Glooskap, from a bolt of lightning that hit the earth with him lying in the direction of the rising sun with his feet facing the setting sun and arms outstretched  to the north and south.  With the bolt of lighting, the life force met with the leaves and plants and feathers, bones, stones and wood so that when lightning hit a second time Glooskap developed fingers and toes, and seven sacred parts to his head (eyes, ears, nose and mouth).  At the third bolt of lightning Glooskap was freed to walk and move about, giving thanks to Mother Earth and Grandfather Sun and the South, the West, the North and the East for his creation. Once returning to the east where he was created, Glooskap was visited by an eagle that told him that he would soon be joined by his family to help him understand his place in this world.  The eagle dropped a feather which Glooskap caught, giving him strength and serving as a symbol of the link between his people and the Giver of Life, Grandfather Sun and Mother Earth. In Level 5 Glooskap met his Grandmother who sat on a rock and taught him to respect her wisdom and knowledge about the stars, the wind, the seasons and the tides, the characteristics and the behaviour of the plants and animals and how to make food and clothing and shelter.  For their sustenance, Glooskap took the life of a marten, asking permission of the animal first, and giving thanks to the Giver of Life, Grandfather Sun and Mother Earth afterwards.  Then using the seven sparks from the bolts of lightning that created Glooskap and seven pieces of dry wood, cousin Whirwind was invited to create the Great Spirit Fire.  Grandmother and Glooskap feasted to celebrate Grandmother’s arrival into the world.  In Level 6 Glooskap met a young man who said he was Glooskap’s sister’s son, a creation of Whirlwind who passed through the ocean in the direction of the rising sun, causing foam to form and blow ashore.  This foam rolled in sand and picked up rocks and wood and feathers, eventually resting on sweet grass. With the help of the Giver of Life, Grandfather Sun and Mother Earth the nephew was created. The nephew offered vision to the future and came as a gift of the ancestors and a responsibility to Glooskap to guide, as the young turn to the old for direction in life.  And just as Glooskap took the life of the marten for survival, the nephew called upon the fish to give up their lives. Glooskap gave thanks, apologizing for taking the shadow of the fish and for taking elements of Mother Earth for their own survival. Again they feasted and continued to learn from Grandmother.  In the final level, 7, Glooskap’s mother appeared, coming first as a leaf on a tree that fell to the ground and collected dew.  The Giver of Life, Grandfather Sun and Mother Earth made Glooskap’s mother from this dew to bring gifts to her children:  the colours of the world, understanding and love, so that her children would know how to share and care for one another.  Glooskap had his nephew gather food for a feast to celebrate the creation of Glooskap’s mother.  Glooskap was leader, respecting the teachings of the elders, the vision and strength of the young people and the gifts of the ancestors, and the teachings on how to rely on each other and to respect and care for one another.  In this way, they lived a good life.

Learner Objectives

Knowledge/Understanding:

  • To understand the origin of energy flow through living systems on planet earth through photosynthesis and cellular respiration
  • To demonstrate how structures and functions of cells, tissues, organs, and body systems relate to each other
  • To gain insight as to the food chain starting with plants, followed by animals, as made possible through photosynthesis
  • To understand creation from a traditional Mi’kmaq perspective

Inquiry/Values:

  • To reflect on the relationship between human needs and the physical environment.
  • To recognize the opportunities and limitations presented by geographical contexts
  • To appreciate the environmental processes on which humans rely for their continued existence
  • To identify the roles that oxygen and carbon dioxide play in sustaining our ecosystem
  • To develop insight as to the symbiotic relationship between natural elements, plants and humans

Skills/Applications :

  • To apply basic science process skills (observing, classifying, measuring, communicating, predicting, and inferring)
  • To formulate operational definitions of the vocabulary terms 
  • To develop proficiency in listening, speaking, writing, questioning and negotiating

Subject Strand Links

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Earth and Space Science
  • Philosophy

Strategy

    1.  Have students stand with their backs to a wall.  Ask them to lean against the wall as they slowly slide down the wall until their legs are 45 degree angles at the knees.  See how long they can hold this position.  Who lasted the longest?  What did this it feel like to hold oneself in this position? 
    2. Discuss what happens to the muscles in the legs when they are strained like they were.  The cells cannot produce the oxygen they need so chemical processes take place in the body’s metabolism which we feel as pain.  This scientific exercise demonstrates cellular respiration, which is how the cells in the body breathe and rejuvenate.  Energy is transferred to the cells through oxygen which explains why we need oxygen for our survival.
    3. Now compare cellular respiration to photosynthesis.  Discover what happens if you change the patterns of a plant's light source.  Pick a shrub, tree or houseplant that you can use for an experiment. Using the cardboard or aluminum foil, cut out some geometrical shapes like a circle, square or triangle. Make sure your shapes are big enough to make a patch that will cover nearly half of the plant leaf.
    4. Paperclip each shape on a different leaf. If you use a house plant, place it near a south, west or east window where it will get plenty of sunlight. Make notes about the weather each day and add them to your observations.
    5. After four days, remove the shapes from the leaves and observe each of the leaves that had a shape covering it.  Compare the areas on the leaf that were covered with the shape to other parts of the leaf.  What has happened to the leaves? Describe the effects that the lack of sunshine has on leaves. What has or hasn't happened in the different parts of the leaf?  What is the best environment for a house plant? Why?  Where have you seen effects like these in nature?  Where would you expect to find fewer plants outside because of a lack of sunlight? 
    6. Discuss the transfer of energy in cellular respiration compared to that of photosynthesis. What are the active agents to precipitate these processes?  What happens to cells when they lack oxygen?  What happens to plants denied light?  This explains why we need sunlight for our survival.
    7. Now having scientifically demonstrated the transfer of energy through respiration and light to sustain life, introduce broad theological perspectives on the creation of life itself as explained by a traditional Mi’kmaq elder, Stephen Augustine.
    8. View www.fourdirectionsteachings.com together as a class to: a) View elder video clip, b) Listen to elder biography, c) Read “Mi’kmaq Creation Story” (PDF) and d) Listen to Stephen’s teaching, “The First Level of Creation,” “The Second Level of Creation, “The Third Level of Creation,” “The Fourth Level of Creation,” “The Fifth Level of Creation,” “The Sixth Level of Creation,” and “The Seventh Level of Creation.”
    9. In groups review the seven levels of creation as told by Stephen Augustine.  Discuss the process by which energy is transferred to Glooskap, charging him with life.  How do the bolts of lightning compare to photosynthesis?  How does the wind generated by Whirlwind relate to the concept of cellular respiration?  What conclusions might you draw about traditional Mi’kmaq views of the creation of life based on these comparisons?
    10. In groups relate the reaction of elements in cellular respiration as understood by scientists to the moment of creation when lightning struck Glooskap.  Identify the chemical processes by which energy was transferred in this story.  How does this coming to life relate to cellular respiration?
    11. Wrap up with a reading of the Student Summary above and a selection of discussion topics and/or optional exercises below.

Discussion Topics:

  • Explain the relevance of the Mi’kmaq creation story to the Mi’kmaq people in terms of understanding our ecosystem.  How is their understanding of our ecosystem impacted by the knowledge gained from this story?  To what extent is the relationship between Glooskap and the sea, sweet grass, and the wind a symbiotic one (mutually advantageous)?
  • Understanding global interdependence begins with an understanding of global dependence.  Discuss the modification of Earth’s surface to meet human needs and how when successful, the relationship between people and the physical environment is adaptive whereas when the modifications are excessive the relationship is maladaptive.
  • Identify the themes in the Mi’kmaq Creation Story.  What is the “moral” of the story? 
  • How is this traditional teaching not incompatible with the scientific perspective of energy?

Optional Exercises:

  • Research creation stories from other cultures and religions.  Present findings through visuals such as photographs, drawings, maps and diagrams.  Identify those elements similar between the stories.  What conclusions do you have about man’s understanding of creation?
  • Research the meaning of the terms in the vocabulary
  • Reflect in a journal how everyone is like Glooskap.  Identify the commonalities in terms of relationships, needs and wants.  Compare these to our responsibilities.  How do you reconcile your responsibilities with your needs and wants?
  • Present the circle of life theme from the Mi’kmaq Creation Story non-verbally.  Incorporate movement, song, dance, artistry, sculpture, video, photography, etc. to convey the creation of life and the interconnectivity of all living beings.

Vocabulary

  • Organism
  • Evolution
  • Theology
  • Cellular
  • Respiration
  • Metabolic
  • Photosynthesis
  • Creationism
  • Intelligent Design
  • Symbiosis

Materials Required

  • Cardboard
  • Aluminum foil
  • Paperclips

Evaluation

    1. Give an oral presentation
    2. Take a written short-answer form of test

Additional Resources

http://www.magictails.com/creationlinks.html Links to creation myths from a variety of cultures around the world (Norse, Mayan, Chinese, Russian, etc.)

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/educators/teachstuds/svideos.html Online videos for students on evolution, Charles Darwin, and the controversy over creation beliefs among religious and the scientific communities

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/hall/index.html?node=31  An education site on many school subject areas with lesson plans for each and for different student age levels.  Links to interactive exercise to see how humans affect the environments and vice versa.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/methuselah/photosynthesis.html  An interactive demonstration of photosynthesis with rhyme for kids

http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/lesson/lesson024.shtml Lesson plans and links to resources on photosynthesis

http://www.native-languages.org/mikmaq.htm Extensive list of links to Mi’kmaq language resources, literature, history, and music recordings

 

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