Ojibwe Seven Teachings Star Map and Stories

Lesson submitted by Carolyn Olson (Art) of South Ridge School.

Students are constantly reading and learning about others' inventions, ideas, and stories. It becomes an activity of observing history rather than being part of writing their own stories. In writing your own story, you determine what is important to share and what is true. If democracy is to sustain itself, we as a people need to know and be in charge of our own stories. Once we know and understand who we are, we can better relate to and understand other cultures and ways of living.

In a workshop on the Native American Star Map at the St. Cloud State Planetarium, I learned how American Indians interpreted and used the stars. I found that using the example of the Greek and Native Star Maps provides students another way to read the stars and interpret and include themselves in writing history.


See related lesson plans, Native Night Skies and Seven Teachings.

Image courtesy of Annette S. Lee.

Materials Needed


Art Materials


Activity Process


Students will study our current star map (see Sky Maps) by comparing the Greek, Ojibwe, and D(L)akota star constellations. They will also create their own star constellations depicting stories they create based on the Ojibwe Seven Teachings - Wisdom, Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility, and Truth. Following the lessons taught through the Seven Teachings keeps us on a good path in life. By recognizing and talking about the seasonal star constellations students gain confidence in telling their own stories and owning their own history.As a class students visited the University of Minnesota-Duluth Alworth Planetarium for a Native American Skies program, as well as the U of M Tweed Museum ENCODED exhibition. These two activities together demonstrated the use of historical information to devise modern thought.


Demonstrate making a scratchboard.


  1. Students examine Ojibwe, D(L)akota, and Greek Star Maps and recreate Greek and Native constellations on blank maps. Introduce students to the vocabulary words.
  2. Students review and discuss the Seven Teachings (they will write stories based on each). Write headings on the whiteboard: animals native to the area, prepositional phrases, and local landmarks and have students suggest items for each. Students choose 1 word from each for their story title (ex. The Whitefish Over Big Lake) and write a 200 word story based on each teaching.
  3. Students participate in a field trip to the planetarium for Native program.
  4. Students rewrite stories (encourage peer reviews in pairs, 10 min. per story). Students brainstorm and sketch objects to depict their story (1 per story). Students find stars and sketch their constellations on a blank map using a grid with 4 rows and 4 columns, marking the seasons and/or months outside the circle.
  5. On scratchboard, students draw a large circle and the same grid. Students redraw stars and transfer the constellations (established and new) onto the scratchboard, using solid lines and varying the line widths, shape sizes, and textures. The student's constellations should stand out from the others. Cross-hatching used to create contrast (between months and/or seasons). Students highlight their constellations with color.


On the last day students will create a hallway display of their star maps with one or more stories displayed with each student's map. In our classroom, we photographed the star maps and displayed them on the school art department's web page.


This class is a weekly class that meets for 2 hours every Wednesday. Students will leave their sketchbooks for weekly progress grades, visual critique and rewriting suggestions. Each week daily rubrics will be made clear to students.

Vocabulary Words


For the Seven Teachings, I would have taken more time - a dedicated period of time - to talk about the teachings. Every culture has a similar set of "rules of conduct" for society so I would try to show comparison texts, stories, and experiences to clarify what each of the teachings meant in their life. (Editor's Note: We included a few links on the Ojibwe Seven Teachings in the Materials Needed section, however teachers are encouraged to draw upon their own resources.) I also would have allowed more time for rewrites, and possibly asked for the support of the English teacher. For the scratchboard crosshatching and variation of line and shape, I felt this requires additional study. I would complete a simple etching lesson prior to the scratch art. I would suggest a crosshatching workshop. (Editor's Note: We included a YouTube video on crosshatching techniques.) Travel was funded through a [Target Field Trip grant](https://corporate.target.com/corporate-responsibility/grants) which is offered every August online. It is a simple one-page grant application awarded in January.

Grade Levels


Primary Content Areas

American Indian Learner Outcomes

Content Standards


Language Arts



Social Studies