Are you thinking of introducing any particular culture
that creates/created totems? Or are you going to be
presenting several cultures?
Many ideas were posted using those carpet tubes last
fall...check a local store where they sell carpets. I
was always able to get plenty for my projects. I am
thinking they are about 6" round and up to maybe
twelve feet long? I think the ones I got were about 8
feet long. Students could work in groups on a project
A project I did that was always successful was
personal totems made using Pringles cans - boxes and a
face mold. An easy one would be to give each student a
wood base about 6" square - Glue the Pringles can and
secure with masking tape tape - Glue a sturdy box on
top of that and secure with tape - then glue a plaster
cast face to that (we made ours using those plastic
face molds -- but you could make them from the kids
faces -- get parent permission for that). Add one or
more layers of paper mache (or one layer of plaster
gauze). Paint a solid color/solid colors and collage
in a theme showing what is important to the student.
What do they value? One might be all done in beautiful
sunsets - one maybe in endangered species - maybe one
all in flowers - symbols of America - OK maybe even
sports. You get the idea.
OR the students could paint them in patterns/symbols
important to them. Either way works great with middle
school kids. Get them to put personal meaning into
You will find the more years you teach - the more of a
pack rat you become. My attic is really in need of an
art project or two right now (smile). Sculpture
assemblage is great for using up all of those boxes
you have been saving. Kids can bring in boxes, too,
for totem sculptures.
Students could even research individual animal
symbolism. I did the fish in many cultures just for my
Here is the Totem mask lesson. These could be 3-D
sculpture too - Using the Pringles can - wood base
The first I did these they were much more interesting
as a whole. Since I added so much more
research/visuals (including videos, Totems CD-ROM and
Internet) this second time around - we didn't spend as
much time hands on. The first time - students did
endangered species. The second time around they were
more personal totem animals.
Browse Incredible Art Department (URL address below)
for more answers to your needs. Post your needs to the
list one at a time and you will get answers.