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Art teachers were STEAM-ing before STEAM was cool!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Soap Carving and a Collaborative Totem Pole

In my Tribal Art of North America class, we were able to do a fun technique that the students always enjoy: soap carving. I've done soap carving with my students before when I taught Inuit carvings (see my original  post here). This time, I thought the children could carve the soap and work together to make a totem pole.


The completed Totem Pole--each of the students
created a section (one animal). I placed them on
a background that looked like sky just to snap the picture.

I found a great handout online about totem poles. It gave some background information as well as great images of some typical animals that appear on totem poles along with a description about the symbolism of each animal. The children chose one of the animals to replicate in soap and began carving with their tools: a vegetable peeler, plastic spoon and a toothpick. Features such as beaks, tongues and wings that protruded far away from the main carving were added later using craft foam. I had a sheet of white craft foam on hand for these "extras," but encouraged the children to do most of their carving in the soap.

Detail of the BEAR (symbol of power on the earth).
The tongue is made with a bit of craft foam.

Once the children were done carving their individual totem animals, we put them together into one totem pole and I snapped a picture. The children took their individual pieces of the totem pole home, but before they left, they had enough time to create a second carving of their choosing that was more like the Inuit. We had a great discussion of how different their two sculptures were: the totem was more of a shallow carving meant to be viewed from a very limited radius, but the Inuit-inspired carving was meant to be held and seen from all angles. The carving was much more intense on the Inuit piece in that they had to think about removing the excess and accurately carving their animal on a variety of planes.

And here's one of the Inuit carvings: a polar bear.
These soap carvings are hard to take pictures of
with my camera--sorry they are blurry!
The children did a great job! ENJOY!


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