Module 1 – Sample Lesson Plan

On this page you will find the corresponding lecture content for Module 1 – Starting Dialogue and Systems Thinking. This sample lesson plan includes the following:

  • Student learning outcomes
  • Lecture slides
  • Lecture notes and activities
  • Lesson Summary

You may download any or all of this content and adapt as you wish to implement it in your class.

Student Outcomes

Use these student learning outcomes to guide the implementation of this module into your course.


Lesson Plan –  Student Outcomes

At the end of this lesson and accompanying assignment, students will be able to:

  • Describe the characteristics of simple and complex systems
  • Express the complexity of intercultural partnerships through the generation of a systems map
  • Locate mutually beneficial and sustainable partnership objectives among a list
  • Select an appropriate community contact on a First Nation’s website
  • Re-create a collaboration systems map based on a relevant example
  • Acknowledge the importance of mapping communication channels
  • Formulate a personal understanding of respectful email communication

Lecture Slides

The lecture slides for this module are embedded below. Feel free to download and adapt the content as you see fit into your course(s). 


Lecture Notes & Activities

The following lecture notes and activities parallel the content that are in the lecture slides – you may also use this for your reference when teaching this module’s content to your class. You may want to share the lecture notes with students to enrich their learning. A downloadable document with the lecture notes and activities can be found at the bottom of this page.

First Nations’ Governance

A First Nations band is the term designated by the Indian Act that describes the smallest unit of a group of first nations peoples. For example, the Secwepemc First Nation in BC is composed of 17 distinct bands (Secwepemc, n.d.), which each have their own band councils. On the other hand, some first nations are the same as their bands, like the K’omoks first nation. The band council acts as a local government for the band, and can have jurisdiction over land use, education, health, and other departments relevant to the functioning of the band. Each council is composed of 1 elected chief and at least 2 elected councilors. The number of councilors is representative of the number of people in the band.

Prior to the implementation of the Indian Act, many Indigenous governance systems were based on hereditary leadership.  Hereditary leaders inherited responsibilities to their community and their culture.

Because the chiefs & councilors are elected by the band, the elected chief is not necessarily the hereditary chief.

Many bands and tribal councils have websites with tons of information about:

  • History
  • Traditional lands
  • Governance Structure
  • Administrative Directory
  • Departments (if the community is large enough) & Projects
  • Current Alerts
  • Language resources
  • Comprehensive Community Plan

Comprehensive Community Plans

One thing you may find on a community’s website is a comprehensive community plan [CCP]. A comprehensive community plan (CCP) is a detailed plan created by and for a First Nations community with the purpose of creating community guidelines on (Indigenous Services Canada, 2021) :

  • Governance
  • Land & Resources
  • Health
  • Infrastructure Development
  • Culture
  • Social
  • Education
  • Economy

The CCP (K’omoks First Nation, 2014) may cover how the lands and waters within a community should be used and developed, and how local municipalities, governments, private companies, and individuals can interact with the land in the future. It assists with the planning of future developments and delineates what the land can be used for and by whom. The plan may also include an implementation strategy that “ensures that the directions set out in the plan are achieved”.

CCPs may be useful to engineers who interact with the First Nations community. For example, the CCP may:

  • outline which lands can be developed for certain purposes, such as water & sewer lines and treatment facilities or installments of energy generation infrastructure
  • outline the preferred communication strategy for contractors or businesses looking to partner with the community
  • entail what types of commercial business they would allow to operate on their land
  • outline what types of resources they want to invest in (green energy, for example)
  • outline other plans for community economic development, such as who may be employed within the territory/reserve/treaty area

For example, say you are working for an engineering firm that wants to approach the K’omoks First Nation for the purpose of collaboration on a project in the First Nation.

  1. Go to the First Nations Website
  2. Review the Site
    • Look around and answer: What do you notice on the website?;  Does the website include things mentioned on the previous slides?
  3. Review Community Strategic Plan
  4. Review Additional Links

Consider, what parts of the plan are most applicable for engineers? The K’omoks plan has 9 main goals and is centered around four pillars: Past; Present; Future; and Community Action Plan (CAP).

Four sections of the plan are immediately relevant to engineers: 4.3 – Future Land Use; 4.4 – Future Infrastructure; 4.7 – Economic Development; and 4.8 – Sustainability.

Let’s explore Section 4.3 a bit deeper to better understand why it could be useful to engineers hoping to engage with the community. When you are doing the assignment later, make sure to look over more than just this section, since land use is only one of many pieces to consider here.

Collaboration in Action

So we mentioned sustainable relationships in the past slide, what are the 3 pillars of sustainability? Social, environmental, and economic! When doing any consulting work, we want to work toward solutions that meet all three pillars. So let’s say your vision and values align with the community. What’s next? Contact! But who should you contact?

Reusable Interactive – Finding the Correct Contact

If your project falls under the portfolio of an existing department (for example lands and resources, reach out to the Lands and Resources Project Coordinator), otherwise speaking to the reception first, they will be able to guide you to the correct person.

Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is a crucial concept to understand before engaging with Indigenous communities, but even if you aren’t working with Indigenous communities, it is important for all engineers to be somewhat familiar with the topic. There are three types of systems we are likely to encounter as engineers: Simple, Complicated, and Complex.

Simple systems have known knowns (AKA all the variables are known), so they are solvable. For example, the equation of a line with a known x or y value is solvable. The cause and effects in this system are clear.

Complicated systems have known unknowns, like a large system of equations that can be only solved with a matrix. In this case, the cause & effect relationships are separated by space & time. You can utilize systems thinking to solve these systems.

Lastly, there are complex systems. Complex systems have unknown unknowns, so you don’t know the framework or the variables. The cause & effect relationships aren’t repeated, and the system is only coherent in retrospect.

For example, your household growing up was a simple system. There’s you, some siblings, and probably one or two guardians. You can easily map that system in terms of who is related to who. A complex system, though, is hard to map. These systems involve many variables, and many of those variables are dependent on one another. You cannot control the outcome of a complex, systematic problem. However, you can learn the nuances of the system & understand outcomes retroactively. In these cases, the whole of the system is greater than the sum of its parts. Some examples of complex systems and problems include weather predictions, racism, or tracking a virus (epidemiology).

So as an engineer, how should you think about systems? How often do you interact with complex systems?

If you work in construction, infrastructure planning, natural resources, or a similar field, you probably collaborate with organizations or communities with different values, goals, motives, and structure. Cross-culture or cross-organizational collaborations are complex because they involve a reliance on people, and people are complex. When you or your organization enters a collaboration, you are met with unknown unknowns. Until the project is complete, you won’t be able to track the effects of a decision, since the outcome of a decision relies on numerous moving parts.


Mapping Communication Channels

We can map our communications in a Systems Map. We need to understand where lines of communication exist so that you can ensure the right people are getting the right information.

Consider a bicycle wheel. If the wheel represents a communications framework,  we are all spokes and a communication map is the wheel holding the spokes. Mapping communications helps us keep track of what everyone needs to know and what they are expected to bring to the conversation.


Exercises – Systems Map Scenarios Brainstorm

You work for a construction company that specializes in “green” solutions. You want to approach a local First Nation to collaborate on a greenhouse project. Your company is willing to subsidize a large part of the project. Consider:

  • What stakeholders do we need to include in our systems map?
  • Can we use the CCP to figure this out?
  • Which stakeholders communicate with each other?
  • After you’ve finished brainstorming, sketch a draft systems map based on what students have described. Share the following systems map for students to follow along.
FIG 3 – Example of a Collaborator System Map

Afterward completing the activity, share tips on how to create a systems map:

  1. Start by listing your stakeholders! Stakeholders within your company, within the First Nation, and externally.
  2. Determine who are the two initial people involved in the communication.
  3. List who needs to directly communicate with who on paper, a Word document, a whiteboard, or some other medium that can easily be changed.
  4. Plan the layout of the system map. Consider the following:
    • It is a good idea to keep multiple stakeholders from the same main group (e.g. various departments in the First Nation) in the same area of the chart
    • Assign one color and/or shape to stakeholders within one main group
    • Make the initiator (you!) a special shape so you are easily identifiable

Drafting an Engaging Cold Email

A good cold email will include the following: provide context, give details, and include a call to action. Providing context means explaining why you are contacting them, giving them the details necessary to move them from understanding towards action, and a call to action let’s the recipient know what you need from them.

Reusable Interactives – Drafting a Cold Email

Downloadable Files

Downloadable Lecture Notes


Indigenous Services Canada. (2021, May 28). Comprehensive Community Planning. Government of Canada. Retrieved from

K’ómoks First Nation. (2014). Comprehensive Community Plan Version 1.0, 2014-2024. Available at



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Decolonizing the Engineering Curriculum Copyright © 2022 by Pamela Wolf, Ben Harris, Nika Martinussen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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