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Aboriginal Youth Identity Series: Health and WellnessSeniors Health and Wellness
Health and Wellness
Health and Wellness

Instructional Plans:  Plants Used for Medicinal and Social Purposes

Lesson 5: Sharing Stories Creates Wellness

Students should be introduced to the concept that health and wellness in a community can be created in a number of different ways. One of the ways this is accomplished in an Aboriginal community is through Elders and storytelling. Storytelling is a way of passing down oral histories and traditions. Wellness refers to being healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually and Elders played an essential role in helping community members achieve body, mind, and spiritual health. The stories that Elder’s told and still tell today vary in length, style, and meaning from one Aboriginal community to the next. Therefore, sharing a number of different stories with the students will allow them to understand how Aboriginal communities have many differences as well as similarities.

Note: There are many stories that can be shared within the classroom, while still understanding that there are stories that will remain with the Elder until they deem it is time for them to be shared. Some stories that you may choose to share in your classroom are:

Blades, Ann, A Boy of Tache, CDS.

Byron Through the Seasons by La Loche Children and Friends, Fifth House Publishers.

Coatsworth, Emerson, and Coatsworth, David, The Adventures of Nanabush: Ojibway Indian Stories by Emerson Coatsworth, and David Coatsworth, Doubleday.

Plain, Ferguson, Eagle Feather: An Honour, Pemmican Publications

Pelletier, Darrell W., Alfred Reading Series, Gabriel Dumont Institute.

Plain, Ferguson, Little White Cabin, Pemmican Publications.

Tremback, Vera, Bannock and Tea, Saskatoon District Tribal Council.


Students will:

  • Understand that health and wellness includes mental and spiritual health along with physical
  • Respect Aboriginal culture
  • Recognize the importance of telling stories in Aboriginal communities
  • Appreciate the role of Elder’s in Aboriginal communities
  • Analyze a variety of Aboriginal stories to determine their meaning and message

Main Lesson

Arrange students to sit in a circle (not in their desks). This is important because the circle is an central symbol in Aboriginal culture as it represents interconnectedness, equality, and continuity. Circles are non-hierarchal and inclusive, and are one of the main tenants of Aboriginal worldview and belief systems. Circles are found throughout nature. For instance, the sun and seasons start in the east and move clockwise to the south, west and north.

Read aloud one of the stories you have selected to the students. Or as an alternative, have students take turns reading the story aloud. For older students you may break students into groups, allow them to choose from a selection of stories, read the stories in their group and then report on their story to the rest of the class, similar to the jigsaw method of instruction.

Once you have shared the story with the students. Have students analyze the story. What does it mean? What message is the Elder or storyteller trying to convey? What message of wellness or health is included in the story? Why is it important that we feel healthy mentally and spiritually as well as physically?

It is suggested that you write the students responses on a white board or similar instructional aid. This will enable you to refer back to their responses and review.
Repeat this process with another story or two to develop compare and contrast scenarios.

Other questions you may ask after reading the stories are: what do we notice about how this story is told? Is it different or the same as to how we tell stories in our own family? What do you like/dislike about the story?

Concluding Activity

Using the Photograph Gallery and Native Plant Chart, both found in the Student Zone, have students create an “Aboriginal Plant Medicine Guide.” It is up to your discretion how many pictures the Guide should have. Students should be encouraged to create this based on the premise that each family in their neighbourhood is going to receive the Guide in the mail so they can try some of the “home remedies” for themselves. Younger students may be expected to just copy and print plant photos they like, paste them into a scrapbook, and add their own creative touches used paint, crayons, sparkles or whatever materials are on hand in the classroom. Older students should also label their photographs, describe what the plant, root, or berry can do, develop an introduction, table of contents and so on.

You may also wish to conclude this series of lesson plans by having your class write a story based on what they have learned about oral history, elders, and how plants, roots, and berries can be used to create wellness. Each student could be responsible for illustrating one page of the storybook.

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