Exploring animal totems to develop a greater understanding of ourselves and others.
A series of lessons taught in a grade 2/3 class.
By Leah Dixon and Clare McGivern at University Highlands
In the fall our teaching trio (student teacher – Rachel VanGassen, myself – Leah Dixon and my teaching partner – Clare McGivern) began working with our class to help them understand their own personal traits, specifically their strengths and weaknesses. We have been exploring the new draft curriculum and personal and cultural awareness is one of the core competencies. We began our series of lessons by reading two wonderful books:
Using the stories as a springboard, we discussed the characteristics of the various animal spirits and how a totem tells a story about you or your family. Then we worked in partners to discuss our own personal strengths. We shared these personal strengths with the class and emphasized our need to use these strengths in our daily lives. Finally, we thought about the animal spirits we were introduced to and chose the totem that we most closely connected to. In other lessons we created pieces of writing connecting the characteristics of our chosen totems to our own lives.
Finally, we reread the book Sharing our World and we focussed on the artwork. We discussed the shapes and colors used. Each child was then asked to choose 3 colors to use in an art project depicting the animal spirit they had previously chosen. The students then used tracers for the body shapes and freehand cut shapes to embellish their animals. The results were stunning.
To follow up we are planning to look at the medicine wheel, using the Strong Nation reader Greeting the Four Seasons, and do some goal setting for the new year, keeping our strengths and weaknesses in mind as we do so.