Circle of Life or Medicine Wheel

First grade students are studying what happens to a seed, and dividing the life cycle into four phases (seed grows roots underground, becomes a young plant with stem and leaves, plant flowers and produces fruit with seeds, and fruit releases seeds which germinate in the soil, starting the plant's life cycle all over again).

All American Indian tribes have some form of the medicine wheel. There is no single answer as to its meaning. The Ojibwe or Anishinabeg often referred to the medicine wheel as the Circle of Life symbolizing the natural cycles of birth, growth, death, and regeneration, just like the life cycle of a plant, beginning with a seed.

The four parts of the circle are viewed in a clockwise direction. East will be to the viewer's right, south on the bottom, west on the left, and north on the top. In Native cultures, we start in the east and rotate to the south and west, arriving at the north circle on top.


Image courtesy of Tess Watson via Wikimedia Commons.

Materials Needed


Art Materials


Activity Process


Read a book on the life of a seed, such as "Just a Seed" by Wendy Blaxland. Review the stages of a seed's life. Show Google images of Circle of Life / Medicine Wheels from different tribes.


Take a bean seed and put it into a wet paper towel. Keep the towel moist for several days and notice when a sprout forms. Then plant the bean seed in a container of soil and place on a windowsill with plenty of sunlight. Be sure to water the seed before the soil is completely dry (daily or every other day is probably good). If possible, have the students plant their own seeds.


  1. Students will make their own Circle of Life much like the Anishinabe (Ojibwe) Circle of Life or Medicine Wheel. The circle will be divided into four sections pointing to the four directions (east, south, west, and north), colored with the traditional colors (yellow, red, black, and white respectively).
  2. Talk with students about the Ojibwe Circle of Life and various interpretations and dimensions (see handout).
  3. Using your planted bean seed as an example, talk about what happens when a seed is put into the ground and how it grows in a cycle (refer to the book reading).
  4. Have students draw pictures of the four stages of growth of a bean seed (bean sprouting and beginning to grow under ground, young bean plant with flower buds, full grown bean plant bearing bean pods and seeds, and bean plant dropping seeds to renew the cycle of life), cut them out, and place them in the four sections on their Circle of Life.
  5. Encourage students to use sequence words like first, then, next, finally, etc. to help them understand order and prepare for sequencing questions on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) test.
  6. Encourage students to make another Circle of Life that is personalized and that uses another set of dimensions for the four directions (not phases of a plant's life), such as the four seasons, the four elements, etc. (see handout).


Students will share their Circle of Life with the class, describing the sequence of the seed's life, using sequencing words. Students will also share the Circle of Life that is personal and share why the four areas are important to them.


Did students make a Circle of Life with the correct color order with the given directions and were they able to see and share the sequence involved in the life of a seed?

Vocabulary Words

Grade Levels


Primary Content Areas

American Indian Learner Outcomes

Content Standards


Language Arts