Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Totem Poles in Clay 2nd Grade Project...

After watching the Totem Pole Power Point and video students start by drawing an animal that represents them personally in the style of the Northwest Indian tribes located in the Pacific Northwest Coast in British Columbia and southeastern Alaska. The names of the Northwest Tribes which carved Totem Poles included:

Students have to write and explain why their animal represents them or their family

Construction of the totem

Wrap the clay around the larger pole with the construction paper attached.

Smooth out the overlap.

Carve out your decorations.

Slip and Score your add on parts.

Add vinegar to your slip water, it creates a nice bond and reduces air bubbles. 1/4 vinegar to 3/4 water. Note...you hands will smell weird for days and the kids will say "what's that smell" but they get over it fast. I tell them you will get messy, it does smell, and it is slimmy...just put your hands in it, it's okay to get a little messy in art. Oh how times have changes! Some times kids even say "my mom will be mad at me if I get messy... Really? I do have aprons and paint shirts they can use if they choose to (no one ever does).

I use this 4 inch tile cutter to have the totems the same size every time.

Texture stamps and tools.

Everyone hard at work!

After creating your finished totem, slip the larger pole out right away before the clay starts to dry and shrink. The paper may stay in and that is fine. You can remove it when the clay is dryer. When you take it off the larger pole place the smaller pole inside the finished clay totem. The smaller pole 
will be the same size as your real pole. 

Example of what not to do above!
SPECIAL NOTE: Do not leave the clay on the larger tubes...they will dry, shrink and crack! And yes I figured this out the hard way!

Correctly placed in the drying room with the "small" poles in place!!!

I have students ball up the extra clay and put it in a bag. I use the these balls for our 3rd grade clay birds.
3rd grade pinch pot birds.

Hubby drawing out the plans for the totem pole stands. I decided I wanted totem poles for my 2nd graders and he is the one with the mad math and construction skills that made it happen!

Cutting the bigger PVC pipe pieces for the kids to wrap the clay around while creating their individual parts of the totem pole. I am the luckiest girl in the world! 

After they are made you can pull the poles out and stack them in the corner for storage.


  1. This was so helpful and insightful! You have some great ideas!

    1. Thank you Kristine...I am so glad it was helpful to you.

  2. Hi...what size PVC pipes did you use?

    1. 2 inch pipe
      2 inch male adapter
      2 inch cap socket

      email me and I will give you the building instructions artroomblog@yahoo.com