In the Classroom

Lesson Plans

Bill Reid: Exploring Identity


This lesson is based on the art of Bill Reid and the traditional Haida people.

Lesson Plan Rationale

Social Studies IRPs emphasize the need for students to develop a meaningful understanding of their own cultural identity in order to understand how cultural identity influences worldviews.

Visual Arts IRPs ask students to understand the essential characteristics of cultural objects, identify symbols that have value in the community, and create images that express personal identity.

Bill Reid’s mother was Haida. Throughout his artistic career, Bill Reid sought to understand and appreciate the Haida culture and the logic and beauty of Haida art, and through it, to explore and express his own identity.

The following lesson focuses on the concept of identity in Haida culture and Bill Reid’s art. Students will be asked to explore the concept of identity by learning about Haida crests and creating a design that represents their identity.

Lesson Goals

Through this lesson students will:

  • become familiar with Haida culture
  • become aware of the cultural expressions of the Haida through Bill Reid’s work
  • explore their own cultural identity using symbols
  • explore individual identity*

General Learning Outcomes

Through this lesson students will:

  • understand the importance of culture to the Haida First Nation
  • use critical thinking to explore their own culture and the Haida culture, and how important information and stories are expressed through art and cultural objects in both.

Prescribed Learning Outcomes

Through this lesson students will:

  • use appropriate terminology to describe Aboriginal cultures and people
  • model ways in which Aboriginal peoples preserve identity and culture
  • give examples of how specific Aboriginal stories incorporate the natural and the supernatural
  • examine a variety of Aboriginal art forms
  • explain the significance of symbols in Haida culture

Lesson Plan Activities Summary

The lesson plan includes 6 lessons.

  1. The Environment and Seasonal Activities
    Class discussion: seasonal activities, tattoos
  2. Crests and Identity
    Activity: Family name research
    Virtual gallery visit: Bill Reid’s crests
  3. Activity using “Crest Animal Identification” worksheet
  4. The Oral Tradition and Transformers
    Story: ”Raven Steals the Light”
    Activity: Transformer drawing and story
  5. Crests and Bracelets
    Virtual gallery visit: Bill Reid’s bracelets
  6. Activity: Bracelets
    Choosing a design, using “Bracelet Planning” worksheet, making bracelets
    Planning and holding an event to share bracelets and stories

Preparation for Lesson

  • Review resource material on the First Nations of British Columbia and the Haida First Nation
  • Review Bill Reid’s biography and become familiar with his art in the virtual gallery (the “Gallery” section of this website, The Raven’s Call.)
  • See the Grade Nine lesson plan for more detailed information on crests and identity
  • Obtain a large wall map of Haida Gwaii or locate an online version
  • Make a copy of the “Crest Animal Features” worksheet for each student
  • Make a copy of the “Bracelet Planning” worksheet for each student


A computer with Internet access, projector and projector screen to share maps, works in the virtual gallery, and other online sites with the class as a whole.

Art Materials

  • Collect a cardboard tube for each student. You may want to ask students a week or two in advance to bring the cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper or paper towels.
  • For other art materials see Lesson Six: Visual Arts Activity – Bracelets.

*To extend the lesson with Grade Fours, or if adapting it for use with a Grade Six class, have students explore group identity as well, and work together to choose and create a design which represents the class identity.

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