Lesson Plan: Unpacking Identity Through Etuaptmumk
By: Sarah Diamond
My 9 years of elementary school teaching have been shaped by a deep and long-held curiosity about other cultures and their relationship to the natural world. I have a keen interest in Indigenous ways of knowing and being in community, heavily inspired by learning and teaching time in Bhutan, Haida Gwaii, BC, Resolute Bay, NU, and Eabametoong First Nation, ON. My wonderings now include finding the intersection of Indigenous approaches to learning with the Reggio Emilia teaching pedagogy. I currently teach Grade 5 in Toronto and spend much of my days running through the ravine systems, reading in the grass, and getting to know different plants!
Adaptable across K-12 / Sec V
This discussion is designed for students to ground themselves in thinking critically about their own identity and how aspects of their identity are in relationship with one another and woven into the greater whole. Students will be encouraged to think deeply about their place in the world and about the reciprocal relationship between themselves and their greater community. This lesson is designed as a framework for discussion and at each stage of the process, questions are welcomed and encouraged to be documented by the facilitator. This would set the stage for deeper conversations around identity and the impacts of colonization.
- How can we tell a story about who we are?
- What does it mean to think about identity as interconnected in a spiritual, emotional, mental, physical sense? How can we embody this in our class community?
- How is one’s identity in relationship with place and the greater community as a whole and what is the reciprocal relationship between the two?
A Note on Incorporating Etuaptmumk (Two-Eyed Seeing)
Two-Eyed Seeing or Etuaptmumk involves holding space for both an Indigenous perspective and a Western perspective in approaches to learning and our ways of being in the world. Children will recognize how their pieces of identity are woven together using the foundation of a medicine wheel (Two-Eyed Seeing) rather than as separate components of a greater whole (Western View). This lesson will apply Etuaptmumk in our exploration of identity in four areas, informed by the medicine wheel: mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional.
Students are encouraged to think critically about discussion circles as ways of being together in community and how that can foster a safe and brave space in tackling these conversations.
Ways of Showing What We Know
At each stage of the learning process, a child’s own knowledge is honoured and they are encouraged to share their ongoing learning in whatever language of self-expression makes the most sense to them. They are encouraged to make note of what they see, think, and wonder about, gathering their own research and evidence along the way. The teacher will discuss with students the ways in which different forms of expression work and the diverse ways in which they create impact and meaning.
Some examples of self-expression include:
Mark Making – Utilizing ink and paper to visually represent their understanding through unrecognizable marks
Embodiment – Using bodies to represent their knowledge kinesthetically
Visualizing – Drawing, sketching, mind-maps, charts, diagrams
Sculpture – Building with natural or recycled materials, weaving
Verbally – Telling the story orally
Inquiry Lesson Outline
Step 1: Beginning Discussion
Group Discussion: Unpacking The Word Identity
As a group, discuss these questions together:
What words can make up someone’s identity?
What is valuable in recognizing your own identity? This question can act as a throughline for this learning experience.
What is a journey one might take in learning about their own identity?
Is there an individual vs. collective value in unpacking concepts of identity?
How important are relationships, and how do people around us inform our identity?
Independently: Visualizing Identity
Ask students to independently imagine and represent their identities with these prompts:
Visualize your identity using shapes and/or drawings.
What do you notice when you take a look at others’?
Add words: what comes to your own mind about who you are? Explore if there are connections between these words.
Are there connections between the words and the shapes or drawings? Are there components of your identity that appear to be in relationship with one another?
Step 2: Relationship to Self
Provocation: Medicine Wheel Teachings (Video)
The medicine wheel is a circular symbol that is made up of four different areas, each one representing different teachings and values of Indigenous ways of knowing and being in the world. It is important to note that different communities have different teachings and therefore not every wheel looks identical and that the medicine wheel comes in many different forms. Children are encouraged to explore different medicine wheels, noting observations.
Watch the video together as a class.
Which medicine wheel was used in the video?
What do you see, think, and wonder about what you have read and seen so far?
What is the value of the circle as the foundation of the wheel?
What is the value of circles and cycles, and where do we find these in everyday life?
How does this circle relate to your initial representation of your identity pieces?
What words come to mind as we look at each component of the wheel?
Let’s focus on the representation of the wheel in terms of self-awareness.
Let’s add to our initial identity brainstorming by reflecting on each component of the medicine wheel, filling in what we know about ourselves, and giving ourselves permission to also have questions about our own circles.
Students may wish to visualize their own new circles or build off of their initial brainstorming. We will prime student responses by asking how they define “mental,” “spiritual,” “physical,” and “emotional” selves, so they have an understanding of how these connect to different aspects of their being.
Which of your initial pieces of identity connect to your mental health and well-being?
Which of your initial pieces of your identity connect with your spiritual self?
Which of your initial pieces of your identity connect with your physical self?
Which of your initial pieces connect with your emotional self?
The beauty of the medicine wheel is that it can represent how different components of our identity are in relation and balance with one another and that each of the four parts are in continuous flow with interdependence between all aspects.
Are there pieces of your identity that fit into more than one area? What’s the beauty in this?
Are there aspects of your identity that carry more significance or meaning compared to other parts of your identity?
Are there gaps in your understanding of your own identity?
Step 3: Relationship to Place and Community
Ideally facilitated in an outdoor setting, if possible and accessible.
Provocation: “Our connection to the land and to our Mother Earth can directly affect our spiritual well being, which will then affect our physical health, our emotional health, and our mental health as well. All attributes of the medicine wheel are connected and we, as people are all equal.” – Medicine Wheel Teachings
How much of our identity is tied to the natural environment? How much is tied to the impacts of colonization and urbanization? What parts of our identity exist when either of these are removed?
What might influence someone to have more connection to the land around them?
What influence does society at large play on your identity and your way of being in the world?
How does your individual identity affect your being in community?
Step 4: Consolidation
Either as a large group, in small groups, or independently, depending on your class dynamic, have students reflect on:
What needs to happen in order for balance to be maintained within our own identities?
How do we want to represent our own story of identity?
What is a commitment you can make in honouring someone else’s identity?
How can society honour the identities of others?
Step 5: Going Forward (Optional Next Steps)
This lesson is a natural transition in beginning conversations around colonization and the impact of identity loss in Indigenous communities. As discussions in the classroom move forward, students can begin to think about imbalance when pieces of one’s identities are removed and the impact this can have on the overall individual and community.
This discussion can also lend itself to discussing concepts of power, privilege, intersectionality, and positionality with the support of a safe and brave space created within the classroom.
A possible provocation going forward: Engage with the book Stranger at Home by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton.
Resources: Further Learning
Intersectionality – Black Indigenous Identity- Yellowhead Institute – an essay that could be unpacked with students around intersectionality