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Students’ research into the First Americans of the Pacific Northwest region centers around totem poles created by these cultures. These totem poles tell of family stories, using animals to portray human values and strengths. Through this research, students understand the close relationship the early inhabitants have to their natural environment, and the use of available resources for their cultures to thrive. Students develop an understanding of how human values and strengths are similar in different cultures and time periods. Students design a personal totem pole representing their own family. Students extract information on the meaning of animal symbols, the strengths and human values represented, and transfer that meaning to their own family members. Using an additive sculpture process, students transfer and develop original designs onto clay, which they later paint. Another component of the project is for students to create a folktale in which animal values are represented in the narrative. A culminating exhibit within the school grounds showcases students’ artwork, including an invited audience of peers and discussion about the projects.


CCSS English Language Arts
SL 1a, SL 1d, SL 5, W 3, RI 9

5.1.1, 5.1.2

CA Arts Standards
5.VA:Cr1.1, 5.VA:Cr1.2, 5.VA:Cr2.2, 5.VA:Cn11

Grade Level