Lesson 1: Health

Caring Minds (Grades 7-12) > Understanding, Experiencing and Equity > Lesson 1: Health

Lesson 1: Health

Starter: Famous and Healthy? (5 minutes)

  • Have the students list some well-known people they consider to be “healthy”. Have the students say why they would call these people “healthy”. Ask: How do you know? Discuss the ideas and suggestions.
  • Explain that in this lesson they are going to take a look at what health is.

Discussion: What is Health? (25 minutes)

  • Brainstorm with students what they think health is:
    • What is health?
    • What makes someone healthy? (e.g.: exercise, eating healthy, getting enough sleep) What do healthy people doWhat does health look like? (e.g.: people are active, eat well, go to bed at a decent hour, look physically healthy)
    • What does it mean to be unhealthy? What does unhealthy look like? What do unhealthy people do?
    • Can you always tell if someone is healthy or unhealthy from looking at them? Why/why not? (What about stuff going on inside them – e.g. in their head).
  • It is important to note that health is made up of several parts or elements (physical health, emotional health, psychological health, spiritual health). Each part is important for our overall health. Also, the parts are connected and they can influence one another. E.g. a physical injury may lead to someone being depressed or emotional distress may lead someone to not eat in a healthy way. In addition, you can’t always tell from looking at someone if they are healthy because some aspects of health are harder to see (e.g. psychological and emotional health).
  • Following the initial discussion, provide the students with the following World Health Organization definition of health and discuss it as a class:
    • Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
    • Questions:
      • What are the different parts of health that are referred to in the definition?
      • What does not merely the absence of disease or infirmity mean? What does it imply about the connection between the different elements of health?
      • How is the definition different or similar to their understanding of health?
Indigenous Perspectives of Health:
    • Indigenous and other cultures include spirituality in their views of health. Some of you may be familiar with the Indigenous or First Nations Medicine Wheel teaching of holistic health. (RESOURCE 1A)
    • The Medicine Wheel, symbolized by a cross within a circle, is a ceremonial tool and the basis for all Aboriginal teaching wheels. The Power of the Four Directions is implied wherever a wheel or circle is drawn. Since traditional Native cultures view life as a continuous cycle, life mirrors the cycling of the seasons, the daily rising of the sun, and the phases of the moon. Traditional Native cultures also hold the view that all things are interrelated. The Medicine Wheel incorporates the Powers of the Four Directions and the interrelatedness of all things.
    • The Medicine Wheel is used the explain and examine concepts such as health and the development process that involves leading a person to wholeness.
    • The Four Directions each have their own meanings related to health;
      • East – Mental Aspect
      • West – Emotional Aspect
      • North – Physical Aspect
      • South – Spiritual Aspect

  • Question: How many of you are familiar with the Medicine Wheel concept? How would you connect it with your own views of health?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

In Chinese thought, the concept of yin/yang is used to describe how natural forces that seem opposite are interconnected. This concept is central to classical Chinese science, philosophy, exercise, martial arts and is also key to traditional Chinese medicine.(RESOURCE 1B) Natural dualities like hot and cold, dark and light, female and male, are believed to be manifestations of yin and yang, but everything is also understood to be interconnected, with both yin and yang aspects.

This is the yin/yang symbol, with black representing yin and white representing yang. The flowing border between black and white, and the smaller circles of colour represent the interdependence of all things.

  • Question: How many of you are familiar with the concept or symbol of yin yang? Where have you seen it? How would you connect it to your own views of health?
Definitions of Unhealthy
  • Not in or exhibiting good health in body or mind ; “unhealthy ulcers”; Not conducive to good health ; “an unhealthy diet of fast foods”; “an unhealthy climate”; Detrimental to health . (Merriam Webster)
  • Indigenous peoples consider ill health to be a lack of balance among the four aspects of health in the Medicine Wheel.
  • Traditional Chinese healers believe that poor health is a result of an imbalance between yin and yang forces. Sickness is often understood to be related to changes in weather or in the shift between seasons.
  • Explain to students that it is important to understand what health is in order for them to take care of themselves, but that there a range of cultural and personal understandings of poor health.

Activity 1: Defining Health (15 minutes)

Have students come up with their own definition of health. What does it mean for them to be healthy? What do they need to be healthy?

Activity 2: Fostering Well-being (15 minutes)

Have students work in small groups to generate a list of factors that influence their health (sleep, nutrition, exercise, use of medications or substances, worry, relationships, living conditions, etc). Have the students identify which factors influence their health in a negative way and which influence their health in a positive way. Have the students share their lists with the class.

Note that some factors may be both positive and negative, depending on the context.


Have students write a journal reflection on what they do to stay healthy, and what friends and family members do to stay healthy. What works best?



1A Medicine Wheel Teaching
1B Traditional Chinese Medicine