Project Based Learning and the Medicine Wheel
By Keith Fulford and Kale Bonham
We were imagining and planning for learning that centers the person in an experience that is mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. While discussing our approach to the broad learning goal of “building place”, colleague Kale Bonham exclaimed – that is the medicine wheel! Our project-based learning design began to take shape. We approached the teachings from the medicine wheel as geographic physical place, and as a guide to a life of balance. The emphasis on balance assisted the learners in developing their analytical and decision making skills while working to complete our project centered on ‘building place.’
Assembled here is an overview of the half school year project that grew in complexity as we progressed. It will provide teachers with a cross curricular approach to design that supports active learning, individual meaning making and collective action.
Table of Contents
· An overview of the context of the school and classroom.
· 4 content areas of knowledge.
· A list of touch stone events that guided project completion
· A timeline
· Cross curricular connections
Overview of the Context of the Class and School:
The course was a multi-age, multi-course design. Students apply the outcomes from Art, Geography, History, Global Issues, English, grade 11 Current topics, or grade 12 multidisciplinary science to complete the credit. They spend 2 hours a day in the afternoon working individually and collaboratively on their projects. Two co-teachers divide responsibility for the course content
Argyle Alternative High School is part of the Winnipeg One School Division and is located in Winnipeg’s city centre. It serves grade 10- 12 students and works to connect school culture to the 7 teachings of the Annishabe and practices restorative conflict resolution.
Four Content Areas of Knowledge
Touch Stone Events That Guided Project Completion
The entire project took half the school year. The learning was anchored to 3 events. Park(ing) day, A walking bridge redesign and the final Yards exhibit
Students experienced learning as part of cycle, DO -REVIEW-REVISE.
1. We started students in class team building and getting students to see people as the focus of the world we design and participate within.
2. The students participated in https://parkingday.org/about-parking-day/
3. Afterward the students reviewed and labeled the experience of designing and producing the Park(ing) day experience.
4. The students learned to integrate a design process https://www.ideo.com/post/design-thinking-for-educators into their previous experience and help organize the planning for future project work.
5. Place making model provided by https://www.pps.org/category/placemaking
6. Student then started to research and plan for a new project. To rebuild a walking bridge beside our school in a way that reflected the historical experience of the neighbourhood and balanced sustainability goals.
7. Students then held a public exhibition in the school that detailed their plans for the walking bridge, using their knowledge of place-making, local history and sustainable development.
8. Students were then tasked with the vision of removing the rail tracks that physically represent many divisions that exist in our city. Our task, guided by medicine wheel, how can we design a community that is using place making, responds to historical development and implants the goals of sustainable development? This brings us back to the start, as we consider the needs of people in the design of place.
9. Student were introduced to medicine wheel teachings by visiting an elementary school teacher, who shares cultural teaching at Niji Mahkwa.
10. We used a 3 part youtube video to continue our learning about medicine wheel teachings, this video series was produced from the perspective of Lakota teachings by Don Warne https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=6&v=fIGrFHy463g
11. Students had to design contributions to the new community using the 4 areas of knowledge, these contribution fit into 3 areas of organizing community, livability, opportunity and wellness.
12. Student created a labeled model that they put on exhibit at Winnipeg city hall.
This table illustrates the organization and delivery of content areas.
Introducing Place Making and Design Process
Working with the Medicine Wheel
The Process – Building Design
Project Display at City Hall
The use of the medicine wheel reminded students to consider balance in their lives and community. When thinking about the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of life, students envisioned how a community may support a whole person. The medicine wheel in this project linked our course curriculum across disciplines and also helped illustrate the use of 7 teachings within the school as a whole. Our students seemed to be more confident and inspired to work toward a community described using the medicine wheel as a guide.