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My daughter is learning about states. Recently, she was studying Alaska, which covered some information on Indigenous People for that area. This piqued her interest and so she asked to learn more about the Native culture there.
This is one of the things I love most about homeschooling. If you allow it, there is a natural process of learning that happens. After my daughter studied Alaska, she started telling me about Native storytelling and then asked if she could make a totem craft. And, I almost always say yes to her request to expand her learning on a topic. (Because, I mean, duh.) And, as an added bonus? This happened to be right before Native American Heritage Month, so I kind of felt like I was WINNING on that homeschool day!
Totem Pole History, Facts, and Symbols
What is the purpose of a totem pole?
Before you do the totem pole craft, make sure that you spend some time learning about authentic Native culture. What is a totem pole? Who uses it? What are totem pole symbols? Did you know that every animal and every color has a special meaning and significance?
The craft is fun, but it loses its learning value if you don’t understand what is behind it.
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Here are some great resources for Native and totem pole information. These could even help you create a unit study before the craft!
A short Native American unit study
A few weeks before we did the Native American totem pole activity, we scored an awesome Native American book at a library book sale. (It was a little dated, but still had some really interesting information.) She started reading through the book and found a great section on totem poles.
Then, a quick search online and we found this cool Native American Totem Animals & Their Meanings.
My daughter decided that she wanted to tell a story of her personality through animals, but your totem can be anything. It can tell a story, represent a specific important event in your child’s life, or anything else from their imagination! This Native American Totem Animals & Their Meanings really helped us understand the different meaning of animal symbols and she applied that to her totem pole. Each section was a different animal that represented a part of her personality. It was really interesting to hear her explain it after it was finished and apply it back to her personality!
Make an Animal Totem Pole
• Paper towel tube, toilet paper tubes, or craft tubes (the amount depends on how tall you want to make your totem)
• Paint brushes
• Hot glue (if needed)
• Paper and pencil
• A copy of the totem animal symbol meanings
• Small square piece of cardboard for base (optional)
1. Review and discuss the totem animal symbols meanings. Encourage the kids to think about what kind of story they want their totem to tell. (You could even read some books about totems before the craft.) If level appropriate, have them write their story.
2. Plan and draw the totem on paper. This will help them rearrange their animals or stories before they start painting.
3. Glue the craft tubes together. (Optional. If you are using a tall paper towel tube and you want this to be the height of the totem, you can skip this step.)
4. Paint the craft tubes with the animals. Let dry.
5. Hot glue the bottom tube onto the piece of cardboard as a base. (Optional only if you need extra stability.)
6. Have your child tell your story of their totem pole!
Totem Pole Books for Your Lessons
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