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I've been quietly reaping the results of my request for background
information on totem poles. Many people had great ideas about their origins
and how to make them in a classroom, and I thank you. I plan to use a
resource which is plentiful around here-two pound coffee cans and paper
I like to learn as much as I can. Right now some family members are
visiting friends in Oregon, Vancouver, and Victoria, who promise to collect
information and images of totems for me. Also, a special thank you to Deb
Meier-Sprague, who went into some detail about the origins of the totems. I
also have found some good books in the libraries, and I have learned a lot
from the suggestions here, including websites, books, and craft ideas. My
bedtime reading seems to follow the units I'm planning, so that I can be as
informed as possible. Thanks to all of you who had suggestions!
The issue of appropriation has taken off here on the list. It has been
quite interesting and civil, thanks. I am still well aware of the delecate
balance between projects which cheapen the native crafts of other cultures
and projects which attempt to use native crafts to broaden the
understanding of other cultures. As a matter of fact, I mentioned in my
original post that I felt I was being sensitive to this issue by planning
to use an abreviated totem pole format to illustrate or symbolize the
student's own cultures. I was thinking of making a list of things our
village is famous for, and creating a really tall, symmetrical group
sculpture about it. While we were doing that, wewould have an opportunity
to reinforce some elements and principles of design. I wasn't planning to
talk for ten minutes about the northwest indians, look at a picture or two,
then tell the students that they know all there is to know about the
northwest indians, so make an authentic totem pole for the classroom.
Lily touches on a good point. We have a lot of resources which when
combined with some creative thinking we can make some pretty cool stuff
with, but we don't have big cedars here that we can cut down for our third
grade projects. Neither do we have safe tools for cutting wood like that
with our third grade. But the curriculum specifically tells us to explore
Native Americans in the third grade. Also, integrating art with social
studies, math, english, and music will increase learning. So if we aren't
going to be free to use every tool we can find to look into other culture's
arts and crafts, then we might as well go back to using the See Dick and
Jane, See Spot Run, 1950's American misguided bigoted texts.
I have a new question. What do you folks who don't teach art based on other
people's cultural artifacts do instead? Are your students studying these
other cultures with out any hands on activities? Do you leave the study of
people from other parts of the world and of differing beliefs in the hands
of the social studies teachers? Just curious.
Mark Alexander, 1-8 Art
Lee H. Kellogg School
47 Main Street
Falls Village, Connecticut 06031
"The object of education is to
prepare the young to
throughout their lives."