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Are Circles Really That Important Anymore? Taking Care of My Whole Self

The day after the announcement came that schools were cancelling all classes indefinitely, I sat in my empty classroom pondering what my next moves would be. Although it was strange not being met by my students that day, I couldn't help but appreciate the solidarity. Loud and busy students were replaced with a quietness that served as my unexpected confidant as I trailed off into deep thought. Despite other staff in my building, there were few conversations apart from a short meeting, for every teacher stayed in their own rooms, trying to process the news of what would be our new normal.  As my thoughts wandered, I couldn't help but wonder if students were feeling the seriousness of the situation or enjoying a 'no school high' that likely follows a 'no more school for the rest of the year' announcement. Surely students will be hit with the new realities of not seeing their friend, teachers or school community for a while eventually? Waiting on news of what learning would look like moving forward, I began running different scenarios in my head while trying to balance what my students might need to ease the transition into the new normal. So what is it students and teachers could need at this time in their online learning journey? Pondering this question, something magical happened-the answer for how to start off the online learning  journey was right in front of me on my green bulletin board. There positioned on the board was the circle that would spark a magical online learning opportunity for my students.

 But do circles matter? 

As educators in 2020, many of us are ethically required to integrate First Nation, Metis and Indigenous (FNMI) education into our teaching practices. During a worldwide pandemic, I realized that this could be a time where students could benefit the most from exploring other cultures and some of the practices specifically from First Nation, Metis and Indigenous education surrounding self-care. Furthermore, I wondered what this work could bring in helping students embrace and pursue their own curiosities. Having developed some knowledge  in integrating FNMI education during my undergraduate degree and my work currently in an First Nation, Metis and Indigenous action research learning community, I wanted to begin with introducing students to the Medicine Wheel. Put simply, the medicine wheel is a circle typically divided into four parts that plays a crucial role in health and well-being in Indigenous communities across North America.  But how do I get my students to embrace the medicine wheel and see how it could intersect with their own life?

The Medicine Wheel: A Tool for Well-being
To introduce students to the medicine wheel I had asked students to watch a clip from the Ted Talk entitled, 'Living a Circular Life' by Dallas Arcand .  In this powerful Ted Talk, Dallas explains the medicine wheel using hula hoops to visually show the different aspects and meanings of the medicine wheel. After watching the clip, students then read a short reading on the medicine wheel and responded to the questions: In what ways did the medicine wheel resonate with you? To my surprise, many students made thoughtful connection expressing curiosity in what learning about the medicine wheel might mean to them while facing the disruption in their lives caused by the 2020 COVID crisis.

The next step in the  learning was to get students to create their own medicine wheel and determine ways they take care of their whole self. First, students colored their medicine wheel labeling each section with body, mind, heart and spirit. Next, students were asked to reflect on their week by exploring  how they have taken care of each part of themselves in their everyday life. After initially creating their individual medicine wheel, students would share out on Google Classroom how they were taking care of themselves and were asked to continue adding to their medicine wheel every week. Overtime, the medicine wheel became a thoughtful way for students to reflect on those own well-being and regulate their emotions.

Online Formats? 
To make this medicine wheel activity come to life in an online format, I used Google Classroom to post all the materials. I also made instructional videos for my students to follow along with how to create their medicine wheel. In the video, I also modeled how to think through what to place on the medicine wheel and where.  Although high quality videos can be a challenge with only a document camera and a laptop, students still enjoyed the video despite its quality and appreciated that their teacher also was creating a medicine wheel and continuing with the task along side them.

For all the activities, lesson plans and resources please click here.


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