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Family Totem Pole
Ages 9 to 12
Create a totem pole that tells about your family.

What You Need
Family Totem Pole

  • Cardboard cartons of at least three different sizes
  • Colored construction paper
  • White glue (that dries clear)
  • Water
  • Bowl
  • Crayons, colored pencils, or markers
  • Pictures, drawings, and artifacts
  • Tacks or push pins
  • Tape or stapler

What to Do

  1. Native Americans of the Northwest made totem poles by carving and painting wood. The word totem comes from an Ojibwa word, nintotem, which means "my family mark." Each family's pole contained pictures of the symbols of that family. What marks and symbols would stand for your family?
  2. Mix glue and a small amount of water in a bowl to create an easy-to-use consistency. Tear construction paper into strips and dip them in the liquid. Smooth the strips onto the boxes until each box is covered. Let the boxes dry overnight.
  3. Collect things you think stand for your family. Use photographs, post cards, drawings, or anything else you choose. Invite family members to contribute something to the totem pole. You can even include symbols of your pets.
  4. Arrange things on the totem pole with tacks or push pins. When you're happy with your design, remove the tacks and use glue or staples.
  5. Build your totem pole by putting one box on top of the other. Connect them with tape.

What Else You Can Do

  • Dedicate your totem pole. Create a ceremony in which each person talks about what he or she contributed to the totem pole and why. Recite a poem or sing a song that you feel "belongs" to your family.
  • Find a book with pictures of totem poles. Look at different poles. What things were important to other families? Find out if any of the things that are important to your family were also important to other families.

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