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Totem-Pole Treasures

Design and build a totem sculpture using animals that represent family and heritage using Crayola® Color Explosion!

  • Grade 2
    Grade 3
    Grade 4
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Invite students to research the traditions of Native Americans from the Pacific region of North America. People there have an abundance of food from the ocean, so they use natural resources such as trees to create canoes, bowls, utensils, and very large totem poles. Totem poles traditionally show stylized animals that represent family characteristics. For example, a bird’s freedom in flight could represent a family who moved often. The eyes of a wise owl could represent knowledge.
    2. During a whole class discussion, ask students what animal traits describe members of their families. Ask them to sketch some that might be included on a totem pole replica with Crayola Erasable Colored Pencils. Look at traditional totem animals to see how stylized the shapes are. Add simple designs that follow these shapes inside any large open areas. Lay animal sketches on top of Crayola Color Explosion™ paper and trace. Press hard to create a slight impression in the black surface.
    3. Students trace over impressed designs with a Color Explosion marker. Add any new designs, as desired. Students cut out totem animals, leaving a thin line of the black edge around each animal.
    4. Cut black construction paper with Crayola Scissors to cover a cardboard tube. Attach the pieces with Crayola School Glue. Use rubber bands to hold the paper until the glue dries.
    5. Glue animals to one side of the tube, slightly overlapping each one. Totem poles often have a bird at the top and the largest animal at the bottom for balance.
    6. During a presentation of personal totem poles, students ask friends and family to explain why they think you chose the animals you included on personal totems.
  • Standards

    LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grade level text complexity band independently and proficiently.

    LA: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade level topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

    LA: Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

    MATH: Solve problems involving measurement and conversion of measurements from a larger unit to a smaller unit.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    SS: Give examples of and explain group and institutional influences such as religious beliefs, laws, and peer pressure, on people, events, and elements of culture.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    SS: Identify and use various sources for reconstructing the past, such as documents, letters, diaries, maps, textbooks, photos, and others.

    VA: Use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.

    VA: Use visual structures of art to communicate ideas.

    VA: Select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning.

    VA: Identify specific works of art as belonging to particular cultures, times, and places.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Totem Pole by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith; North American Totem Poles: Secrets and Symbols of North America by Molly Perham

    Using recycled materials, have students collaborate to create a single, large totem based on identified class characteristics.

    Encourage students to further investigate the Native Americans of the Northwest including the geographic areas where they settles, the climate that they made their homes in, what plants were available and other characteristics of the Native peoples. Students organize research into an electronic format for presentation to classmates.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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