Contribution by Cree Whelshula, NLCC TTA Director

Spiraled curriculum is cycling back to the same topics or themes and continuously building upon knowledge of those themes and increasing the complexity of tasks and learning objectives. This type of curriculum is conducive to indigenous education, as our lifestyles were built around cycles of season.


Here are a few examples of how to use spiraled curriculum in an immersion school.

  • Using kindergarten for example, the first year of a fishing theme, children could learn about life cycles of fish from egg to adult, what they eat, what eats them. There might be a fishing center within the classroom that has magnetic fish of different varieties (rainbow trout, bass, salmon, etc.) with magnetic poles, spears, or nets to catch them with. They can use fish to count and sort. They can also keep a data log with what types of fish they “caught” and convert it to a simple graph at the end of the unit.
  • Using 3rd grade as an example, children will be building upon their existent knowledge from the years prior and adding complexity to it. This year, they might go into fish anatomy and explore gills, fins, scales, bones, and organs. They can build their own dipnet using basic knotting techniques, or build a fish trap. If there is a local creek with fish, they could set the fish traps and hypothesize on how many fish they might catch and why. Tribal programs such as Fish & Wildlife can assist in providing fish to cut up and demonstrate food storage techniques such as canning, drying, or smoking the fish to store for the winter while using safe food handling protocol. A great addition to the canning would be making it a service learning activity to where the canned fish is donated to local Tribal Elders, or Elder care programs.