MEDICINE WHEEL – Directions, Elements, Clay

Students create and paint a clay coil pot. The circular bowl represents ideas connected to the medicine wheel. The students will reflect on relationships between: the 4 cardinal directions, the 4 elements, the 4 seasons, the medicine wheel, and themselves.

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MEDICINE WHEEL – Directions, Elements, Clay


  • Crayola Air-Dry Clay - White
  • Crayola Acrylic Paint - 6 Count
  • Crayola Paint Brushes - 5 Count
  • Crayola Marker & Watercolour Paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm
  • Crayola Fine Line Markers - 12 Count
  • Clay Carving Tools (only if available)
  • Toothpicks


Step 1
  1. Begin with a circle and divide it into 4 equal parts.
  2. Label the 4 cardinal directions.
  3. In each section identify one of the 4 elements (earth, air, water, and fire).
  4. Brainstorm images connected to each element.
    - Reflect on each of the 4 seasons, thinking about the changes that occur during each season.
  5. Brainstorm words and images connected to each season.
    - Spring is in the east, summer is in the south, fall is in the west, and winter is in the north.
Step 2
  1. Make a small slab of clay by flattening some clay in your hands and pressing it onto a flat surface.
  2. Press a cup into the clay to get a circle.
  3. Then cut away the excess clay with a popsicle stick, plastic knife, or clay cutting tool.
  4. This will be the base of your pot.
Step 3
  1. Create clay coils by rolling clay into long cylinders with your hands.
  2. The clay coils will be used to make the walls of your pot.
Step 4
  1. Wind the coils around the circular base.
  2. Make sure you blend each end of the clay coils into the clay.
Step 5
  1. Continue to attach the clay coils together by using your finger to blend the end into the clay.
  2. Build the coils up until your pot is high enough (5-10 cm).
Step 6
  1. Choose either the inside or outside of your pot to blend the coils together.
  2. Use the end of a paint brush, a popsicle stick, or a clay tool to blend the clay coils.
Step 7
  1. Dip your hands in a little water to keep the clay moist.
  2. Smooth the walls and the edges with your fingers.
Step 8
  1. Using a toothpick carve the letters for the 4 cardinal directions into the base of your pot.
Step 9
  1. Carve words and images into your pot that symbolize the 4 elements (earth, air, water, and fire).
Step 10
  1. Reflect on the images you drew for each season.
  2. Choose one image to represent each of the 4 seasons.
  3. Begin with spring.
    - Flatten a small piece of clay and form a symbol for spring.
    - Attach the clay onto the pot in the east direction.
    - Score the clay and paint it with slip before you attach it.
  4. Repeat this process for summer in the south, fall in the west, and winter in the north.
  5. When you have finished creating a relief sculpture around your walls allow the pot to dry for several days.

  • Subjects:

    • Language Arts,

    • Science,

    • Visual Arts,

    • First Nations, Metis, Inuit

  • Grades:

    • Grade 3,

    • Grade 4,

    • Grade 5,

    • Grade 6,

    • Grade 7,

    • Grade 8

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