The Totem Pole Project: Inly Elementary Students Extend Native American Studies Through Art

For the past month or so, the UE students have been working with Pam on two large totem poles. One for UE1 and the other for UE2. Each class has been split into eight three-person groups. Each group has an animal. The totem poles will be put in the classes when finished.

There were lots of materials that we had to use. Every group had to provide their own plastic container. We could use yogurt cups and water bottles too. We had to use lots of duck tape and plaster. Some groups used foam core for wings or paws. The groups used lots of paint.

—Ashley A. (4th grade)

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This fall the Upper Elementary students embarked upon an exciting research project that resulted in the creation of a 10-foot tall totem pole sculpture! The students in both UE classrooms worked together in small groups to research and sketch their chosen animal to be represented on the totem pole.

Inspired by the artwork of the Haida and Tlingit tribes from the Pacific Northwest, the students sketched their animals in stylized forms, and used curved shapes and symbolic colors.

The students worked cooperatively in the classroom and the art room. The students brought in lots of recycled plastic gallon jugs and yogurt containers, and using quantities of duct tape, transformed them into animal faces!

The students then applied plaster gauze strips to the sculptural heads and make them strong.

The students chose colors and painted the sculptural faces, looking at many images of masks and totem poles for design inspiration. The finished heads were stacked together on a secure armature, along with several pairs of wings!

The finished totem pole sculpture was installed in the UE1 classroom in January 2011. Additionally, the students are covering a structural pole inside the UE2 classroom with animal drawings, scientific facts and environmental information that pertains to the totem pole project. Please stop by and take a look!

–Pam Golden–

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