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Art teachers were STEAM-ing before STEAM was cool!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Story Totem Poles

The last time I taught an art class about totem poles I had the children create family totem poles. They could bring in pictures of their family members or draw them. They came out great and the children were very happy with them. While looking online for totem pole images, I came across an idea that got me thinking a bit: Story Totem Poles from Art Smarts 4 Kids. She used a simple story, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and had the children illustrate the characters and plot on a totem pole.

In this piece, the student shows the Old Man with his cloak, and then attached the Old Man and Rock with the same fastener so that he could show 1. the rock on top of the fallen Old Man and 2. the rock cracking in two. The Night Hawk is on a tab so that it moves down the Totem pole and can touch the rock (and crack it in two) as in the story.
So clever!

I decided to have the children illustrate a Native American tale and I found a few great ones at Apples 4 The Teacher. I chose "Why The Night Hawk Has Beautiful Wings." Besides having a couple of moral lessons, it is also a funny story and has great visuals for the children to explore. Here's the tale.


Supplies Needed:

  • Paper towel roll
  • Construction paper (I used green, brown and white)
  • Markers/Colored Pencils/Crayons
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Clear tape
  • Wing template, optional
  • Brass fasteners, optional
  • Images of totem pole figures and a picture of a Night Hawk for reference, optional
Directions:

1. Read the story to the students. Once I was finished, we discussed characters and plot. I then gave a brief discussion on totem pole art, highlighting some of the features they may want to include in their totem pole designs (3D wings, etc).

2. I gave each student a 6 1/2" x 12" piece of construction paper (green) to use as a base for their artwork. The children then divided it into about 5 horizontal sections (change this based on how many characters and plot points you want to show). I instructed the students to work directly on or attach their work on this piece of paper--flat on the table--and then when it was done, they could glue it to the tube.

The children could draw right on the background paper, or could illustrate their characters on a half sheet of white construction paper, cut them out and glue them to the background paper. I also gave them a half sheet of brown to use for the Night Hawk and/or the stone from the story, if they wanted. 

I also showed them how they could add motion to their totem poles (not really traditional, but fun!), by attaching characters to the background paper with brass fasteners (you know, the ones that allow things to spin. See the pictures for reference). I showed them how they could attach a picture of a stone with a brass fastener to make it roll, a key point in the "Night Hawk" story. They loved that idea and many of them took the mechanical aspect of the project even further (see photos).

3. Once the characters and images of plot points are completely colored in, cut them out and attach them to the background paper with glue. Work the story from the bottom of the totem pole up (that is more traditional). Attach any pieces that require the brass fasteners to the background NOW (before you glue the paper to the background). Wings and other 3D elements are added later, in step 5.

4. Once all of the pieces are on the background, turn the entire thing over and spread glue on the back (we used a glue stick, but white school glue would work). Roll it around the paper towel roll and secure with a couple pieces of clear tape, if needed.

5. Add any 3D elements such as wings or a beak using the glue stick.

Done! Enjoy watching your child retell the story using his or her Story Totem Pole!



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