Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Making a Miniature Totem Pole

My favorite of all the Native American art is made by tribes in the Pacific Northwest. The transforming masks, button blankets, and totem poles are absolutely incredible! This activity is an effort to give my son his own appreciation for these peoples and their incredible crafts and legends.

Before my son began creating his own miniature totem pole, we read much of the “Carving the Pole” chapter from Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith’s book Totem Pole. This excerpt explained that totem poles are like signs that help pass on legends and stories from generation to generation.

The book is written in first person, from the perspective of a young boy in the Tsimshian tribe, whose father is a wood carver. David explains to readers how his father first makes a drawing, then transfers the drawing to the cedar log before he begins carving.

We looked at the drawing in Hoyt-Goldsmith’s book of the pole David's father planned and then read the meaning of the figures being carved.

Next I gave my son sets of totem pole figures printed from onto brown craft paper (I cut postal mailing paper into 8 ½- by 11-inch rectangles and fed it through our printer to replicate the look of wood). My son selected six drawings, added color to some of the details and then we cut them out.

Now I asked him to look again at the picture in the book of the carver’s drawing and told him to move his cut figures around so they would stack vertically well. Next I cut several ½-inch vertical slits in the bottom of a paper towel tube and placed this end of the tube inside another tube, so they would look like one long pole. Next, he applied glue to the back of each figure and placed it on the pole until it was complete.

We looked at pictures of the pole raising in the totem pole book and raised our own pole. To secure in its upright position, I applied a bead of hot glue to the bottom of the pole and set it on a small piece of corrugated cardboard.

Download a PDF of this handwriting paper here.
Lastly, I gave my son a piece of custom-made handwriting paper and asked him to tell me the story of his pole. His story seemed to take inspiration from “The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” It began, “The eagle went to catch the frog. The frog went to catch the fly …” Very clever, huh?

Not only is his pole pretty cool, but he learned about another culture’s art
and got a little creative writing practice in at the same time! Fun!


  1. Awesome! Just repinned it to my North America pin board! You are soooo creative!!!

  2. I like the addition of a story to match the pole.

  3. Thanks for the link to the totem pole printouts ~ We're going to be doing a block on this next year so I've bookmarked it ^_^

  4. This is GREAT! Thank you! I am following you now!

  5. Oooh fabulous Totem Pole!

    Thank you for sharing on Kids Get Crafty!


  6. This Totem Pole looks marvelous - your son did great!

  7. I was looking for your link up - I always look forward to seeing what amazing thing you've come up with next!! This is wonderful! I wish we'd come up with it last year when we 'studied' about them. Thanks for linking up to TGIF Linky Party! See you next week =-)

  8. Oh my goodness we just read this book while doing our unit on Native Americans and made a totem pole! How funny. I didn't know about the scissorcraft figures though. Neat printable. I didn't blog about it though and this would make a very cool addition to the Hands On Homeschool carnival if you have time to submit it today. :) There's a link to the carnival webpage on my blog. Blessings to you and yours!

  9. I love your project. What wonderful details are in the craft!

  10. What a great activity! Looks like your son really enjoyed it, too.

  11. What a fun activity. If my mom had showed us this when I was in school, I can see us making repeated totem poles.:)

  12. I love the writing extension. What a fun way to create a story.

  13. love it! do you have a photo of just the totem pole? If you could send it to me at by Saturday I'll feature it! all the best!

  14. love this totem pole!!

    Thanks for linking up to Serenity Saturday.
    Hope to see you there again tomorrow

    Natasha xxx

  15. very cool! I have to say totem poles have always intrigued me. the details & stories they tell are fascinating to me.

    I love how this turned out! Thanks for sharing & linking to the Sunday Showcase! Hope to see you this week.

  16. the details are incredible!

    Thanks for sharing on Hey Mom, Look What I Did at Adventures In Mommy Land...hope to see you again soon!!