Explore the connections that people have with the natural world based on seasonal activities. Seasonal Rounds of some First Nations are analyzed and students create a Seasonal Round for their own area. The impact of invasive species and control measures are considered in the context of these seasonal patterns.
This activity is part of the Lesson “Restoring Connections”, where students discover the deep knowledge and connections that indigenous peoples have with the natural world. By engaging in discussion, analysis, and outdoor investigations, students learn about traditional ecological knowledge and how invasive species can impact peoples’ relationship with the environment.
- How do daily and seasonal cycles affect living things?
- What are the seasonal cycles in the natural world around me?
- What are some traditional activities of local First Nations during the seasonal cycle?
- How do invasive species impact seasonal activities? When is the best time to take action to remove invasive species?
BC Curriculum Links
Science Big Ideas
- All living things sense and respond to their environment (Grade 4)
- The motions of the Earth and moon cause observable patterns that affect living and non-living systems (Grade 4)
- Multicellular organisms have organ systems that enable them to survive and interact within their environment (Grade 5)
- Multicellular organisms rely on internal systems to survive, reproduce, and interact with their environment (Grade 6)
- Evolution by natural selection provides an explanation for the diversity and survival of living things (Grade 7)
- First Peoples concepts of the interconnectedness in the environment (Grade 5)
- First Peoples knowledge of sustainable practices (Grade 5)
- First Peoples knowledge of changes in biodiversity over time (Grade 7)
- Local First Peoples knowledge of climate change (Grade 7)
Science Curricular Competencies (All Grades)
- Identify First Peoples perspectives and knowledge as sources of information
- Experience and interpret the local environment
- Express and reflect on personal, shared, or others’ experiences of place
Social Studies Big Ideas and Content
- Interactions between First Peoples and Europeans led to conflict and co-operation, which continue to shape Canada’s identity (Grade 4- Big Idea)
- First Peoples land ownership and use (Grade 5- Content)
Documents to Download
Our lives follow seasonal rhythms. At certain times of the year we do different activities, such as sledding in the winter or swimming in the summer. We associate certain types of foods with the seasons or with seasonal holidays. Each cultural tradition has connections with the seasons and the land. Today, however, most of us have lost these deeper connections to the seasonal rhythm of the land. We rely more on grocery store sales to decide what to eat rather than relying on an intimate knowledge of the cues on the land, such as a certain bird song that indicates when a type of berry is ready to be harvested.
Seasonal Rounds (also called Seasonal Wheels) are a visual representation of the natural events and cycles that typically take place over the course of a year. They are cyclical, like a calendar that never goes out of date, and typically follow a lunar cycle. Seasonal Rounds are another way to look at connections to place and knowledge of the natural world throughout the seasons and the year. How does a bird know when it’s time to migrate? Why do “April showers bring May flowers”? Plants and animals take cues from the changing seasons, like temperature, daylight, and rainfall, to enter new phases of their life cycles. The study of the timing of these changes is called phenology. People who study phenology might gather information on the timing of when leaves start to open, when flowers bloom, when the first butterflies show up, when animals are born, migrate or hibernate, and other seasonal phenomena. Indigenous people were the experts in the phenology of natural events on their territory, and the rhythm of their own lives also followed seasonal cycles.
The Indigenous people from the place now known as British Columbia have deep knowledge and cultural connections to the lands and waters. Before European settlement and colonization, people relied on the land for everything they needed in life! From the land and waters, people hunted and harvested foods and medicines, they knew what plants could be used and how to use them to build their homes, to make clothing, baskets, canoes and paddles, hunting and fishing tools, and materials for ceremonies. Peoples’ activities followed a seasonal rhythm that dictated when certain plants were ready for harvest, when it was time to hunt or fish, when ceremonies took place, where people lived and when they moved to different regions. The specific details depended upon the region where one lived—the timing of the seasons and the plants and animals living in a place are different in the interior than on the coast, for example.
Predicting Harvest Cycles Through Clues in Nature
Indigenous people carefully observe the natural world and can predict harvest times through clues in nature. Some examples include:
- When Oceanspray blooms, the Butter clams are ready to harvest (Comox people)
- When Soapberries ripen, the Sockeye salmon runs are starting (Secwepemc people)
- When Sagebrush buttercup (also called Spring salmon eye) blooms, the Spring salmon are coming up the Fraser River (Stl’atl’imx people)
- When the Lupine booms, it is time to hunt marmots (Okanagan people)
(Understanding Nature’s Signals- Secondary Science First Peoples Teacher Resource Guide, 2019, FNESC/FNSA)
Another example of the intimate knowledge of seasonal cycles and how it dictates activities is shared by the Haida people.
In Haida Gwaii, the salmon berry blossoming at HlGaagilda, Xaayda Gwaay.yaay (Skidegate, Haida Gwaii) tells us halibut have returned to the north shore of Haida Gwaii. They are still skinny; their flesh has a bluish tinge. When the berries are still green but have formed around Skidegate, the halibut will be in our southern waters and will be fat enough to harvest. Sk’aawgan gaalang skaasda – When the berries twinkle like effervescence, when they are getting ripe one at a time, these berries serve as our calendar, it is time to travel to the fishing camps to start harvesting fish for the coming winter. In Namgis, the salmon berry blossoming tells us the eulachon have returned to Knight Inlet. For Heiltsuk the color of salmon berries tells us the percentage of return of salmon on species specific to the color of the berry. (e.g., orange berries indicate an abundance of chum). When the salmon berries first start ripening in ones and twos, it is time to move to the west coast to harvest passing stocks. The moon’s position and cycle are predictors of appropriate times to harvest food sources. For Heiltsuk an understanding of how and where to obtain food – especially knowledge of fishing sites – is a priority, and this information is passed down through generations from one to the next. The clam beds nearest the village belonged to the dominant family, while families of lesser rank had to venture to remoter beds to ensure clam supply. (Staying the Course, Staying Alive, 2009).
Invasive species are non-native organisms that cause environmental or economic harm. For general information on invasive species and their impacts, read Background on Invasive Species for Educators). Invasive species follow predictable changes and seasonality during their life cycles, affecting other species, habitats, and communities in different ways throughout the year. By learning more about Seasonal Rounds one can not only connect more deeply to place and to traditional ecological knowledge, but one is also able to consider the best times and ways to take action to help stop the spread of invasive species.
Read the Background Information. Download the Seasonal Round- Template (of the preferred size to use with your students) and some examples of Seasonal Rounds. If possible, find an example of a Seasonal Round for your region. Examples of Seasonal Rounds can be found in the Documents to Download section (Seasonal Round- Examples), in the Additional Resources section, or by doing an internet search for “Seasonal Round” or “Seasonal Wheel”. The Indigenous liaison with your school district may also be able to assist.
Part 1. Introduction to Seasonal Rounds.
- Use the Background information to introduce phenology and Seasonal Rounds to the students. Start with a discussion on seasonal events in your own lives and place. Then ask for examples of how traditional lives of First Nations followed seasonal cycles. Discuss the type of knowledge you would need to have of natural cycles/phenology in order to know when it was time to harvest, gather, fish, etc. Share some of examples in the Background section on Predicting Harvest Cycles Through Clues in Nature.
- First Nations’ Seasonal Rounds
Divide students into small groups to look closely at examples of Seasonal Rounds. Provide questions to help guide student discussion and analysis, such as:
- What activities did people do in the spring/summer/winter/fall?
- Give an example of some stages in the life cycle of a plant or animal based on information in the Seasonal Round.
- Give an example of something that one would need to know about natural cycles in order to take part in that activity (such as, when are the berries ripe? Where are the best berry patches? How much can I harvest?)
Part 2. Create your own Seasonal Round and Observe Outdoors!
Use the Seasonal Round- Template
Seasonal Rounds can be created as a collaborative class project with individual contributions on a large piece of paper, as a bulletin board mural, or digitally. Alternatively, students could individually make their own personal Seasonal Rounds. This is a great project to start at the beginning of the school year in the fall and to add to it over the course of the year based on outdoor observations in nature. Some seasonal rounds incorporate actual natural objects, such as leaves or cones. But it can also be started at any time of year and incorporate information from discussions and research.
- Add to a Seasonal Round starting with seasonal events that are meaningful and familiar to students (such as when school starts and ends, outdoor activities and sports, certain holidays and traditions). Then add common natural phenomena, (such as when the tulips bloom, when the maple leaves turn yellow, when they go strawberry picking at the farm) or what one particular plant or animal does throughout the year during its life cycle. Help students to focus which items/events to include on their Seasonal Rounds.
- Get outside! Look at what is happening in your schoolyard or nearby nature in the community. Looking at the trees is a great way to start. If you are able to go outdoors regularly, each student could “Adopt a Tree” to follow over the course of the school year to track changes in its growth, its leaves, flowers, fruits, and its connections to other life (such as birds and insects). Students could also observe changes on the ground and in the sky and make sketches or even add natural materials (without picking) to their Seasonal Round.
- Students could research other native species from their region to add to the Seasonal Round. See the Additional Resources section. Case Studies from the Activity Everything is One could also be a useful source of information (See Related Activities section).
- Seasonal Impacts of Invasive Species
Knowing the phenology of invasive species is important as a way to consider its impacts on native species and when control measures are best taken. For example, invasive plants should be removed before they flower and produce tens or hundreds of thousands of seeds per plant!
- Get outdoors to look at the phenology of some common invasive species in your schoolyard or nearby. Looking closely at individual dandelions and tracking their rapid change in growth, flowering and producing their wind-blown seeds can be fascinating!
- Add some invasive species from your area into your Seasonal Round and incorporate their life cycle events, such as when they flower, fruit and produce seeds. A helpful source of information is ISCBC’s Best Management Practices For Invasive Plants in Parks and Protected Areas of British Columbia or look up specific invasive species profiles.
- Ask students to consider how invasive species could impact native species or other seasonal events from your Seasonal Round. What actions could be taken to help minimize impacts of invasive species?
- Share your Seasonal Rounds! Display them in your classroom or common areas in your school or on your school’s website!
Share with us!
We’d love to have your feedback and see photos of your students’ learning and participation in this activity. Send to [email protected] for the opportunity to win resources and have your class have a virtual visit with an invasive species expert!
- Go on a nature walk with a local First Nations Elder or Knowledge Keeper to extend your learning on seasonal phenology and traditional activities.
- Based on information gathered in the Seasonal Rounds come up with an action plan that could help lessen the impacts of invasive species in your area. Carry out your plan!
- Participate in Project Budburst, a citizen science initiative to help protect plants by collecting and analyzing data on phenology and climate change.
- ISCBC’s Past, Present, Future: Interview a First Nations elder from your region.
- ISCBC’s Create Your Own Field Guide.
Seasonal Rounds Examples
- Athabaskan, Alaska
- Coast Salish (From Vashon Island, Puget Sound)
- 13 Moons of the WSANEC People. For detailed descriptions of each month, see The Saanich Year: 13 Moons of the Wsanec Nation. Dave Elliott Sr., Earl Claxton, Sr. and John Elliott. 1993. https://www.firstvoices.com/13 Moons of WSANEC Or available at https://racerocks.ca/the-13-moons-of-the-wsanec/, https://racerocks.ca/the-saanich-year-teacher-instructions/
- Secwepemc, Shuswap/South Central BC
- Seasons of the Moon, the Sto:lo Year (Fraser Valley and Lower Fraser Canyon)
- Tlingit Cycle and Haida Moons
- ISCBC Factsheet: Invasives Species that Affect Indigenous Communities
- ISCBC’s Best Management Practices for Invasive Plants in Parks and Protected Areas of British Columbia (includes timing of flowering and fruiting)
Seasonal Rounds-Teacher Guides
- My Seasonal Round- An Integrated Unit for Elementary Social Studies and Science, Open School BC, 2020.
- Seasonal Cycles and Migration Patterns, Canadian Geographic
- Seasonal Activities: Aboriginal Moon and Connection to the Seasons. Comox School District, SD71.