One hundred years ago, Harvard Business School initiated a novel approach to teaching called the case study method. Patterned after the use of cases in its law school, the business faculty started using true stories of business practices to instruct students. In the classroom, students analyzed the details of a business problem with the professor in a Socratic dialogue. This methodology became known as the case method and is commonly practiced in that form today in graduate schools of law, public policy, and business.

Clyde Freeman HerreidDirector, National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science

Introducing Manoomin:

Where Science and

the Sacred Meet

There are three main modules in this case study: Intercultural Competence, Stakeholder Analysis, and Systems Thinking. When teaching this case study, an instructor can choose their own adventure based on the needs of your students and objectives of their course. Use part of a module, a whole module, or all three modules.This case study was made to be as user friendly as possible so even instructors who do not have expertise in systems thinking, intercultural competence, or stakeholder analysis have plenty of tools and resources to tailor the case study to best achieve their objectives.

Wild rice is an annual grass, different from white rice in nutritional content and in how it grows, found in thousands of water bodies across Minnesota and Wisconsin. In the Ojibwe language, the word for wild rice is manoomin. Manoomin is of great spiritual and cultural significance to the Ojibwe and, in Minnesota, protection of wild rice has led to a series of political debates, rulings, and conflicts between various stakeholder groups including mining companies, environmental groups, the University of Minnesota, and tribal communities.

The Modules

  • The Intercultural Competency module focuses on wild rice as a spiritually significant part of community livelihoods, food traditions and culture for Ojibwe and other American Indian people.
  • The Stakeholder Analysis examines the public policies related to wild rice protection and on the human stakeholders who affect and are affected by these policies.
  • Finally, the Systems Thinking portion of this case asks students to consider how humans, other species, and social systems interact with wild rice in complex ways.


Help bring the case study to life by:

  • Adding personal experiences (especially in the Intercultural Competence module) of missteps made, lessons learned, and examples that have worked well.
  • Invite guest speakers that can share Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), perspectives from the industry, law-making and policy, etc.
  • Tailor readings and assignments to best match the previous and upcoming course materials.

Intercultural Competence Teaching Notes

Preparation for 75 Minute Class

Pre-class: Have students complete the Cultural Competence Self-Assessment or another intercultural assessment of your choice and read blog on why self-awareness is the starting point of intercultural competence. Ask students to watch video overviews on the Anishinaabe perspective of your choosing before class. Examples can be found in the module.
In-Class Materials: Print-outs of diversity wheel exercise.
At start of class: Have students complete a one-minute paper on why self-awareness is the foundation of intercultural competence.

Lesson Plan: Class One

One-Minute Paper & Discussion (15 min)
Start with a one-minute paper and then dovetail into a discussion on self-awareness. The one-minute paper typically actually takes three to five minutes. Invite students to share personal stories, experiences, and reflections on why self-awareness is the foundation and starting point of intercultural awareness.

Diversity Wheel (30 min)
Handout Page One: Examine the diversity wheel and have students work in small groups to examine what dimensions could be missing (7 minute brainstorm).

Handout Page Two: Have students do a quick research scan of why clans are important to Anishinaabe identity. (8 minute research scan followed by brief  5-minute discussion).

Handout Page Three: Ask students to start filling out the wheel with components of their identity. Make sure they understand what they are doing and that everyone is off to a good start. After starting the work, ask the class to turn in the completed  diversity wheel at the start of the next class (10 minutes).

Introduce Case Study & the Platinum Rule (15 min)
Briefly discuss the Platinum Rule and how it differs from the Golden Rule. Then students take turns reading the introduction and texts out loud.

Sophia’s Dilemma: Small Group Discussions (10 min)
Have students work in small groups of 4-5 (ideally five) and discuss the four questions. You can also ask the whole class these questions if you are short on time.

Wrap-Up (5 min)
Remind students to complete the diversity wheel, and let them know at the beginning of the next class you will discuss the following question: “If you were meeting someone from another culture, how would you describe your culture?” and continue on with the case study.

90 minute class adaptation: With the extra 15 minutes, spend more time with the initial discussion on the importance of self-awareness and the diversity wheel.

Lesson Plan: Class Two

Small Group Discussions (10 min; 5 min share with class)
Have students answer the question: “If you were meeting someone from another culture, how would you describe your culture?” Start in small groups and then extend to wider class.

Part II of the Case Study (30 min)
Have students brainstorm the elements of the training program which includes three primary components. You can divide the class into six by assigning two small groups to each component. They will not be able to cover all three components in 30 minutes.

Present the Training Elements (20 min)
Have each group give a three-minute (or less) overview of the primary component they decided to focus on.

Wrap-Up (10 min)
Ask each student to write down one key take-away from the case study. Hopefully, the themes of self-awareness and the Platinum Rule will emerge in the presentations and take-aways. Consulting with the tribal communities and developing genuine relationships are other aspects that should come to light.

90 minute class adaptation: With the extra 15 minutes, spend more time letting students brainstorming the training elements perhaps by adding another prompt if they finish the original one quickly.

Cultural Competence Self-Awareness Checklist

The Diversity Wheel

The Module

Letter to the Editor Assignment

The Letter to the Editor assignment is the bridge between the intercultural competence and stakeholder modules. It helps students articulate their own perspective informed by their cultural identity and values, while also understanding the various dimensions of this complicated case.


Stakeholder Analysis Teaching Notes


Pre-class: Divide students into four groups and assign readings by group. The students assigned the stakeholder roles should review the recommended reference materials or do their own research to gain deeper knowledge about the perspective, influence and points of leverage for the assigned role.

  1. Scientists – State Agencies such as Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) or Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or higher education affiliated, usually adherents to Western Science.
  2. Tribal Nations – Ojibwe Tribes, Dakota and other local tribes, multiple tribe organizations, tribal members, elders and holders of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK).
  3. Environmentalists – Various non-profit organizations focused on water, conservation, environmental justice, sustainability and related areas, focused locally to internationally.
  4. Mining Companies and Miners – Mining companies propose different mines with varied levels of risk/opportunity and miners or former miners tend to support the company views.

Direct students to the Stakeholder Analysis website module for the following briefing materials:

In-Class Materials: Printouts of the rainbow diagram. You might choose to offer large paper and markers for making slogans or graphics for stakeholder group presentations.

Lesson Plan

75 minute class (60 minutes possible by excluding Rainbow Diagram)
Case Introduction (10 min)
Introduce the case as a way to explore how different stakeholders affect and are affected by the wild rice water quality standard. Identify the four stakeholder groups. Look at the map of mines and the map of wild rice waters and discuss the overlapping geography. Review the two different wild rice water sulfate standards. Present on, or ask students to share their perspectives on, the history, effectiveness and feasibility of each of the two standards, as well as the cultural context of having a standard. Review the timeline, particularly the years 1973 (when the first standard was adopted) and 2010 (when the prospect of mining caused the standard to be revisited).
MPCA Environmental Justice Framework Discussion (5 min)
Discuss what the MPCA Environmental Justice Framework aspires to do. Make sure students attend, in particular, to the question of 1) disparities and 2) “meaningful involvement” for stakeholders. Ask the students to keep in mind, for the coming discussion, if the Minnesota Environmental Justice Framework directive were followed, what it mean for their stakeholder group.
Stakeholder Group Discussion (30 min)
Divided into stakeholder groups, ask students to discuss and agree upon:
  • an appropriate standard for wild rice protection for their group and a rational for that choice
  • the Influence Assessment Grid for their group, considering all of the factors described in the student directions
  • the implications of the MPCA Environmental Justice Framework for their group
Each group should prepare to present to class for 3 minutes. You might ask them to use large paper and markers to prepare a sketch, slogan, map,  infographic or outline of their main points.
Stakeholder Group Presentations (15 minutes)
Students should present followed by by questions and wrap up.
Rainbow Diagram (15 minutes)
Present the Rainbow Diagram and have the class map out where each stakeholder group lies. Consider connections between stakeholder groups as well as potential subgroups – or differences – within a particular stakeholder group. Ask students to think about how economic change, such as job losses in forestry or taconite mining, or social change, such as more enforcement of treaty rights or increased focus on environmental justice, might affect how the Rainbow Diagram looks for their group.

Students should review their briefing materials prior to class. In class, students should then spend time discussing the different stakeholder groups before they complete the Rainbow Diagram Stakeholder Analysis. 

The Module

Rainbow Diagram

Alternative to Rainbow Diagram

Adapted from Mendelow, A.L. (1981). ‘Environmental Scanning – The Impact of the Stakeholder Concept,’ ICIS 1981 Proceedings, 20 and UN Women.

Systems Thinking Sample Lesson Plan


Pre-class: Divide students into four groups and assign readings by group.
In-Class Materials: Provide markers of multiple colors and blank paper for system sketches.
At start of class: Load Manoomin: Food That Grows on the Water video. 

Lesson Plan

Case Introduction (15 min)
Introduce the case as a way to explore the interconnections between environmental and social elements that are part of the ecological and social system affecting wild rice in Minnesota. Manoomin video can be shown to provide context of the sacredness of wild rice to the Ojibwe people.

Introduction should cover:

  • Acknowledgement of treaties between the United States and the sovereign tribal nations.
  • That the focus of this case is on the impact of sulfate on rice in Minnesota.
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency decision in 1973, more recent research leading up to current question: how to protect wild rice?

Systems Thinking Introduction (10 min)
Lead a discussion on “What is a system?” and provide background information on systems thinking, the concept of a system model, and how to use a concept map to show relationships. First ask students to think of how they might see their university as a system. Then have them consider the broader idea that all models are simply models, and not completely descriptive of a system. Finally, ask: How might wild rice be part of a larger system?

Group Work on Ecological System (15 min)
Divide students into groups that include students who were assigned each of the various pre-readings. Provide each group with the Student Handout “Systems thinking – Ecological factors related to wild rice and sulfate.” Students are to share the ecological components they identified from their readings and the handout and make an initial sketch of the different elements that are interacting (wild rice, iron, sulfate, sulfite, water, other plants, waterfowl, red-winged blackbirds, sediment). Depending on the assessment plan, have the students either create their own system drawing or create a group system map.

Social & Environmental Interactions (10 min)
Return to a large group discussion. If time allows, lead a plenary discussion on natural system factors. Ask students if there were social factors that came up in their discussions to initiate the value of considering the interaction between social and environmental factors. Use the illustration from Díaz, S., et al. (2015) to illustrate interactions and the importance of scale in systems thinking. Briefly discuss what scale is appropriate for wild rice and how the decisions (i.e., local, statewide, regional) would be affected by scale.

Group Work on Social and Environmental System (15 min)
Students return to their small groups to share which social groups and institutions they read about that are a part of the system interacting with wild rice. Instruct the students to start labeling the interconnections on their maps to clarify the influence they see between the elements.

Leverage Points and Wrap-up (10 min)
Return to a large group discussion. Introduce leverage points. Have the student groups propose leverage points (if time allows) and lead a large group discussion on potential leverage points. Discuss the assignment, if applicable.

Adaptations for 75 minute vs. 90 minute class

75-min plan

90-min plan

Case Introduction

15 min

15 min

Systems Thinking Intro

10 min

10 min

Group work & report back on ecological system

15 min

15 min

Social & environmental interactions

10 min

10 min

Group work & report back on social and environmental system

15 min

15 min

Group work on leverage points


10 min

Leverage points and Wrap-up

10 min

15 min

Download the Presentation

The Module

In-Class Activity / Assignment

Have ideas? Questions? Contact us about the modules:

Tailor the case study for your course Resources