Using the Medicine Wheel for Project-Based Learning


At the beginning of November, I had the pleasure of visiting Dog Creek School. Dog Creek is similar to many of our remote schools. With twenty students in Kindergarten to Grade 10, the challenges of differentiated instruction are immense as there are often only one or two students in each grade. How does one ensure that the only student in Kindergarten is provided with a play-based literacy-rich environment while also ensuring that the two Grade 10 students are able to take all of the courses needed for the Graduation Program so that they can successfully transition to Lake City Secondary next year and graduate two years later?

One very successful way of providing the education that every student needs and deserves is to use project-based learning.  On the day I visited the school, I had the pleasure of being in the audience as the students in the elementary class were sharing for the first time about group projects they had been working on for the previous weeks.  Each of four groups created a project related to the four spokes of the Medicine Wheel – the emotional, the physical, the spiritual, and the mental (knowledge).

The traditional Medicine Wheel can be represented in many different ways.

The traditional Medicine Wheel can be represented in many different ways.

As opposed to telling you how the projects turned out, it makes far more sense to show you.  Please notice the range in ages of the students in the photos below.  While each student was expected to participate in both the creation and the presentation of the project, students were expected to take part in ways that were appropriate to their grade level, but in all ways, the students were a team, and no one felt like they were any less important to the creation of the project than the student who was working alongside them.

Medicine Wheel - Emotional

Medicine Wheel – Emotional

For representing the emotional spoke of the Medicine Wheel, students and their sponsor Sandra Archie talked about, and acted out, how emotions are an important part of our lives, fundamental to our well-being.  Then students and their sponsor decided to write a song to share what they had learned.  They chose a song because music connects us to our emotions.


Medicine Wheel – Physical

The group representing the physical spoke of the Medicine Wheel thought in terms of what exists in the world that supports us and keeps us alive and well.  The students and their sponsor Lillian Harry looked at the whole year to see how each season makes new foods and materials available to us, how each must come in its own time, and how each is connected to what comes before and after it in the year.  The drum is a tangible form of the physical world.

Medicine Wheel - Spiritual

Medicine Wheel – Spiritual

Students and their sponsor Louise Harry who were studying the spiritual spoke of the Medicine Wheel looked much more closely at the cultural traditions that have given us the sq’ilye (sweat house), and how central it is to our well being, both as individuals and in our community.  Students spoke to a band member who has built a sq’ilye and visited the site.  They learned so much about the importance of each of the elements of the squ’ilye, which they had always taken for granted or hadn’t ever noticed before.

Medicine Wheel - Knowledge

Medicine Wheel – Knowledge

The group researching the knowledge spoke of the Medicine Wheel reflected on how learning and knowledge keep us alive and connect us to our culture.  Principal Jane Hancock was their sponsor and had each student think about 0ne skill they have been taught that helps them to survive (hunt, fish, preserve food, use horses).  The students then made a village model, showing the activity, to see how they are all connected closely to us and where we live.  This group included school as part of that heritage of knowledge.

Meanwhile ... in the classroom across the hall, secondary students were taking their courses through the Rural Secondary program taught by a teacher in Williams Lake.

Meanwhile … in the classroom across the hall, secondary students were taking their courses through the Rural Secondary program taught by a teacher in Williams Lake.

My thanks to Principal Jane Hancock and her staff and students for the wonderful day.  Like many of our small schools, Dog Creek School feels as much like a family as it does a school!


Given cards, gifts, and a whole bunch of hugs, it was a memorable day at Dog Creek School.

I invite feedback and comments to any of my blog entries. As the administrator of the blog, I approve all comments before they hit the public domain. While I do not mind comments that disagree with my point of view, I will not post comments that I deem to be inappropriate, those which are personal attacks, or those which refer to specific personnel. I also will not post comments from anonymous or nicknamed sources. While one of my goals for this blog is to open a dialogue, it needs to be a safe environment for everyone involved. Thanks for considering this before making a comment. – Mark

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Post navigation

3 thoughts on “Using the Medicine Wheel for Project-Based Learning

  1. Jacqui Ferguson LCSS Learning Resource

    This is definitely the way of the future. We need to adapt our programs to fit all our student’s learning in the classroom. We want to see all students being successful no matter which category (gifted, “normal”, grey area or modified students) they may be labelled into. Assessing their learning does not always mean paperwork and tests. Fantastic work Dog Creek and all the rural schools. I worked out west for 15 years and know how hard it is to teach classes of 4 to 6 grades in one room.

  2. It was a great project. The students wrote the song and sang. They definitely stepped out of their fear. They understood the importance of feeling their emotions and how emotions play an important part of every day. It was difficult for me to keep my ideas to myself. The students did an excellent job!

  3. I also love how the wheel connects the four seasons and the four groups of people, when one section is off the whole wheel has to be worked on before it is complete again.
    Thanks for sharing this 🙂
    Ms.Bob / Cataline Elem

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: