Thursday, October 21, 2010

From the Art Room: Totem Poles

We've been working on totem pole paintings in art class this month.  My 5th graders are currently studying Native Americans so I thought that this project would be a great way to enhance our studies.

First, we talk about how some Native American tribes used totem poles to tell stories about their culture. For instance they might make a totem pole to commemorate a great battle or tell a family legend. Next, we talk about what kinds of figures mights appear on a totem pole. Humans? Animals? Monsters?

Next, we start the first part of the project; using acrylic paint to create the totem pole shape. 

Step 1. Fold your paper in half, the long way. 

Step 2.  Using a popsicle stick, dab coin-sized globs of acrylic paint along the fold.

Step 3: Fold the paper in half again. 

Step 4: Run your hand along the fold, so that the paint fills the entire fold, then use your fingers to squeeze the paint outward from the fold to create interesting shapes. 

Step 5: Open your paper again to find your symmetrical totem pole. 

Step 6: Leave your totem pole painting to dry for at least 24 hours (sometimes the acrylic paint can take a while to fully dry)

Step 7: After the paint is dry, use fine point sharpies to create details on your totem pole. Most people will quickly find interesting faces or objects within their totem pole that they can work from. Be imaginative!


  1. This is a fun project. I am planning to do symmetry for math next Monday. I think we will try this project! I will link it to this. What fun!

  2. haha, I love the one with the frog on top and the angry then happy smiley faces!

  3. Ha haha how simple and great idea. I going to do it.
    do you like paper dos?
    Yesterday I posted a free printable. Is Lulu (a doll inspirated in my chubby) with 3 costumes

  4. This project is neat. I forgot about this I'm going to have to show this to my kids. Thanks for the reminder and inspiration.