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FNSS Curriculum Integration Project Click here to download this lesson.
Teresa Downs (MS-Word format.)

Grade: 4
Lesson 1: Storm Boy - Composing a story using Haida mythology and cosmology
Time: 90 minutes (and several follow-up classes for students to continue their work)

Topic: An examination of a Haida story (Storm Boy) and the role of mythology and animal cosmology in Haida stories.

Rationale: Stories are an important part of Haida life. They help parents and grandparents to teach children the history of their people. Some stories told about important people and events. Other stories explained how and why things happen. Each story helped the children understand the world around them. Stories were not only listened to, they were also learned by heart. As the children grew up, they were told the same stories to their children. In this way, the Haida people made sure that their history and their wisdom were not lost. This lesson attempts to demonstrate to students a pattern common to Haida stories and the role of animal cosmology in these stories.

Materials and Resources

  • Storm Boy, Paul Owen Lewis, 1995 Whitecap Books (print)
  • Description of Haida mythology and animal cosmology (included in material)
  • Other books depicting Haida storytelling format. (Some include: Frog Girl, Davy’s Dream and Grasper all by Paul Owen Lewis)

Main Concept

  • To create an understanding and appreciation of Haida stories.

Intended Learning Outcomes
Social Studies:

  • Identify and compare physical environments and cultures of various BC Aboriginal groups
  • Demonstrate awareness and appreciation of various Aboriginal cultures in Canada

Language Arts:

  • Gather information for specific purposes and identify sources
  • Create and present a variety of personal and informational communications

Vocabulary/Definitions (Included in Material)

  • Mythologies
  • Separation
  • Initiation
  • Return
  • Cosmology


  • Self-evaluation: Students will keep a Student Work Journal to document their daily work habits (included in materials).
  • Rubric to assess students writing (included in materials)

Planned Learning Activities

  1. Read Storm Boy. Discuss with students their impressions of the story: what surprised them, what did they like, what did they dislike, what questions they have and so on.
  2. Discuss the components and the pattern of the story, as reflecting the ‘Adventure of the Hero’ pattern of mythologies.
  3. Discuss what other stories reflect this ‘Adventure of the Hero’ pattern.
  4. Discuss the Haida belief that animals possess spirits or souls identical to human beings (in material).
  5. Explain to students that they are going to be writing a story based on the ‘Adventure of the Hero’ pattern of storytelling and using Haida cosmology.
  6. Discuss with students how the assignment will be marked, both self-evaluation and a rubric for composition.
  7. Students will think, pair and share to brainstorm as many story ideas as possible.
  8. Students will begin to write their stories (Students will be provided with several classes to work on their stories).


  • See lesson #2
  • After completing their story students can ‘celebrate’ their writing by reading the story to the class, acting out the story for the class, or any other means they feel best represents their story.

Integrated Opportunities

  • Art – students could turn their story into a book by visually represent their story by drawing pictures for each page of text.
  • Physical Education – students could play the rain game (included in materials).

Resources Used and Supplementary Materials Available

  1. Storm Boy, Paul Owen Lewis, 1995 Whitecap Books (print)
  2. Frog Girl, Paul Owen Lewis, 2001 Whitecap Books (print)
  3. The Haida of the Queen Charlotte Islands, Peggy Lasser, 1991 Vancouver School Board (print)

Checking Up – Student Self Assessment

1. + I listened carefully to all directions. I was not distracted.
· I did not listen as carefully as I could have, so I missed some directions.
I was distracted, so I missed some of the directions.
2. + I began working immediately.
· I began working almost immediately.
It took me a while before I began working.
3. + I worked for the whole class.
· I worked most of the class without being reminded.
I had to be reminded to work quite a few times.
4. + I worked as neatly as I could.
· Most of my work was done as neatly as I could.
I forgot to do my work neatly, but I’ll remember next time.
5. + I remembered to proofread my work for spelling, punctuation and other errors.
· I remembered to proofread part of my work.
I forgot to proofread my work.
6. + When I talked to others, it was about this project.
· Sometimes it was about this project.
Most of the time, I was talking about things other than the project.
7. + I did not disturb others.
· I kept others from doing their work once or twice.
I kept others from doing their work quite a few times.
8. + I asked for help when I needed it.
· I forgot to ask for help once or twice.
I did not ask for help and then could not do my work because I did not know what to do. Next time I’ll ask for help sooner.
9. + I remembered to bring all of my books, papers, and equipment to class.
· I forgot to bring one thing that I needed.
I forgot to bring more than one thing that I needed.
10. + I have done my homework and also some extra work after school, at lunch, or at home since last class.
· I have done my homework but I did not do any extra work.
I did not do my homework.

If you have scored mainly:
+ Good
· Fair
Need Improvement

Student Work Journal

This page will help you to organize your time and assess your daily work habits. You will be required to complete it at the end of everyday.
Date Checking Up Work Habits
12345678910 Student Teacher

From: The Haida of the Queen Charlotte Islands, Peggy Lasser, 1991 Vancouver School Board (print)

Rubric for Student Composition

Grade Requirements
  • student has incorporated the ‘Adventure of the Hero’ structure of mythology into their story
  • student has incorporated the Haida animal cosmology into their story
  • story has a clear beginning, middle and end
  • students writing is excellent and goes far above expectations for this grade level
  • less than 2 errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling
  • student has incorporated the ‘Adventure of the Hero’ structure of mythology into their story
  • student has incorporated the Haida animal cosmology into their story
  • story has a clear beginning, middle and end
  • student’s writing is good and is above expectations for this grade level
  • less that 5 errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling.
  • student has tried to incorporate the ‘Adventure of the Hero’ structure of mythology into their story but has not succeeded
  • student has tried to incorporate the Haida animal cosmology into their story but has not succeeded
  • story shows signs of a beginning, middle and end.
  • student's writing is average for this grade level
  • student has more than 5 errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling
  • student has not incorporated the ‘Adventure of the Hero’ structure of mythology into their story
  • student has not incorporated the Haida animal cosmology into their story
  • story lacks a beginning, middle and end
  • student’s writing is far below expectations for this grade level
  • student has more than 10 errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling

Supplemental Information for Teacher
From: Author’s Note in Storm Boy, Paul Owen Lewis, 1995 Whitecap Books (print)
Common to all the world’s mythologies is the Adventure of the Hero, whose pattern of experience renowned scholar Joseph Campbell described in three rites of passage: separation, initiation, and return. A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man. In no place is this universal theme more powerfully represented than in the rich oral traditions and bold graphic art of the Haida, Tlingit, and other Native peoples of the Northwest Coast of North America.

This cosmology held that animals possessed spirits or souls identical to human beings and were therefore referred to as people. There were wolf people, eagle people and killer whale people, just as there were human people. Animals had their own territories, villages, houses, canoes, and chiefs, and many were capable of changing into human form at will, blurring the distinction between animals and humans even more. In their own houses they used human form, and when they wished to appear in their animals form they put on cloaks and masks and spoke their animal language. The myths frequently tell of heroes being escorted by spirit beings through cosmic doorways beyond which lie villages of people who at some stage betray the fact that they are really bear people or salmon people. Storm Boy is just such an adventure, reflecting three rites of passage with event-motifs unique to Northwest Coast lore.

In an effort to present a degree of authenticity in the telling, a picture-book format has been deliberately chosen in which the text or verbal content is spare and the bulk of the culturally significant detail is communicated by the art. Therefore, for those readers interested or unfamiliar with Northwest Coast culture or art, I offer the following outline and elaboration:

Northwest Coast motifs of SEPARATION

  • Wandering too far form the village invites supernatural encounters.
    The boy is out of sight of his village and in bad weather. His identity is indicated by the style of the canoe, which is Haida; by the text, “A chief’s son”; and by his clothing – his woven cedar-bark skirt is fur-lines, a sign of wealth. Heroes were most often of high caste or rank. He is a Haida prince.
  • Mysterious entrance to the Spirit World.
    In the presence of killer whales, the boy is thrown from his canoe into the sea, passes through it, and enters into another realm below.

Northwest Coast motifs of INITIATION

  • Animals encountered in human form.
    The grand scale of the village and the displays of killer whale crest art indicate killer whale people. The frontal pole carving indicates that it is the house of a supernatural killer whale chief - more than one dorsal fin (here there are two) indicates high rank, and the holes through the fins indicate that it is of the supernatural realm. The people are dressed in ceremonial attire, hinting that a high occasion is imminent. The boy claims his rank as a prince and is formally welcomed by the killer whale chief.
  • Exchange of gifts and culture – “potlaching.”
    Inside the house the boy notices natural killer whale forms. These are the “cloaks” that the killer whale people don to appear in the natural world. After receiving gifts of food and a blanket with a killer whale crest, the boy is taught the killer whale’s dance - the most valuable of gifts and one befitting his high status. One could even argue that these are signs of his adoption by the killer whales. Dancing around the rising sparks of the cedar-wood fire, the chief punctuates this event by spreading white eagle down from the crown of sea lion whiskers atop his headdress, an extravagant gesture of welcome. The boy, in return, gives the killer whale people a gift of equal value - knowledge of his own culture through songs and dances, thus meeting the ceremonial requirement of the potlatch. (The word potlatch derives from the Chinook word patshal, meaning to give away.)

Northwest Coast motifs of RETURN

  • Object given to assist return.
    As the celebration winds down, the boy remembers that he is yet – in spite of this high experience – lost and cannot see how to find his way back home. The chief intuits the boy’s feelings, gives him his dancing staff (shape like a dorsal fin), and instructs the boy to hold it tight and stand behind him.
  • Mysterious return by “wishing continually.”
    The boy takes his position behind the chief. He is further instructed to close his eyes and visualize his home, his parents, and his own village, and he is warned to think of nothing else. The boy is obedient, and a great mystery is played out. The viewer sees what the boy cannot: the killer whale chief and his people have transformed and are ferrying the boy to the upper realm.
  • Time is out of joint
    Most fascinating is the element of time disparity between the two realms in classic Northwest Coast hero epics: for every day spent in the spirit world, a year passes in our own. When the motion stops, the boy finds himself in front of his own village and learns from his mother that he has been missing for an entire year. His mother’s fur-lined garment, many bracelets, and abalone lip-plug mark her as a woman of high rank – the wife of the chief.
  • Claiming of a crest.
    A reunion celebration occurs at which the boy recounts his mysterious adventure and displays the killer whale staff and dance. Because of his “adoption” by the killer whale people, the boy could now rightfully claim the killer whale crest as his own to display and to pass down to his descendants. In addition, the boy would very likely exhibit greatly increased skill as a fisherman, possessing the killer whale’s prowess at hunting. This in turn would bring further fame, honors, and wealth. As the generations passed, his name and story would take its place among his people’s greatest legends.

Rain Game

From: Robert Clark Frayser

PURPOSE: Children find this lesson both interesting and thought provoking. They like it because it is a game, and it is easy. I like it because it helps show children what games were like for early First Nations people, how to use the environment around them, and how to "think on their feet" and relate to others. They learn cooperation, which is very important in First Nations culture.

OBJECTIVES: The children should know where the game comes from, and why it is important. They should be able to remember all the steps and be able to play the game by themselves. It would be really good if the students could add variations, such as a lull in the storm, or more than one storm, but having the students get through the game on their own is a reasonable outcome to expect.

RESOURCES/MATERIALS: All that is needed is a space with a hard floor (wood is best), or heavy tables. The student need to be able to get down on their knees or sit on the floor.


  1. A class of 20-25 is a good size. The students sit in a circle if possible. The teacher leads a discussion on First Nations games. Games, in the old days, often helped sharpen skills needed in adult life. Games were also just for fun. Games would reflect the environment the children lived in, as well as their culture.
  2. The teacher explains the game "Rain." It is a game played long ago on the north west coast. It rained a lot there, and one can imagine the children having to stay indoors and responding to nature outside. They made up a game, creating the sound of a rainstorm using the wood floor.
  3. The teacher asks what often comes before rain. Wind often picks up, and that is the answer sought. The students make circular motions on the floor, and it sound like wind. (If the floor doesn't have a good sound, heavy table will do.)
  4. The next part is small drops of a rain shower. The sound is made with the fingertips striking the floor softly, then a little harder. A leader shows the students how long to have the wind build up, and when to start the raindrops. The sounds should overlap.
  5. The next sound is rain. This is made with all the fingers on each hand hitting quickly together. The last new sound is a hard rain, made with the palm of each hand pounding very quickly.
  6. The rest of the game is played in reverse order, as the storm passes. Variations can be added, such as shower or two with wind in between before the heavy rain hits.
  7. Once students have mastered the basic steps they should close their eyes and listen to how real it sounds. The whole game may then be played in a dim or dark room.