Personal totems

The 6th grade reading class designed totem poles to serve as a personal representation.


Missy Klapperich

Kylie Sindt and Kinzley Rezac display the totem poles they created for reading class

Anya Nygaard was thinking about what animals represented her. Then she realized that a badger represents her so well. The badgers represent her because it represents being bold and outgoing. She is not afraid of being her. Later she thought of the deer and the dog. The students had an assignment to make a totem pole for reading class.

Elliot Iverson chose a different medium for here totem (Missy Klapperich)

Totem poles are the Native Americans way of showing others their story or the story of their ancestors. They can also tell how different natural things happen and why in their culture. But in a 6th grade reading class they were made to represent their classmates.

What teacher has as much joy in doing crafts with her students as Missy Klapprich. She is always getting new ideas for crafts, but where did she get the idea for totem poles? She got the idea from her parents. She said this when asked where the idea came from, “They went on an Alaskan cruise and saw a lot of real totem poles.  Then, they found a small totem pole in a gift shop that they brought home for me. I decided it would be fun for kids to make their own!” Also she thinks it would be good for the students to learn the history of the Native American culture.

Carson Carel with his totem pole (Missy Klapperich)

Totem poles originated on the west coast where Native Americans made them by carving animals into red cedar trees. They made them tell stories, history, or what clan they are in. Some totem poles are really important because they tell of ancestors. They made them out of cedar wood, so then the totem poles would decay over time; because of that the oldest totem poles have since rotted. Although the old ones have rotted away the students can still make their own to tell their story.

Camryn Huebsch and his recycled materials totem pole. (Missy Klapperich)

It was also the end project of a book they were reading in reading class. Every year Mrs. Klapperich passes by totem poles on her way to Lake Of The Woods which is where she goes to fish. She got inspired by them and decided to do a project with her students. She’s been doing it for a few years though she doesn’t do it every year. She only does it when time and circumstances allow her to. Each year the students amaze her with their creativeness. 

The students also had lots of fun making them too. Students were asked what their favorite part was. Some of them said it was seeing it when it was done. When asked the same question Kinzly Rezac said “spending time with my dad and painting my totem pole.” Lots of people think that the animals represent them and everyone had some fun.

A totem pole fashioned by Ben Flanders (Missy Klapperich)

So how did they make them? Some people made them out of wood or clay. Some of the more unique items are cardboard, recycled material, and drawing it. How they made them might be more complicated. Some people carved them out of wood as the Native Americans did. Others did not want to take so much time or did not have the proper tools so they molded theirs out of clay or made them out of recycled material. But there are some talented artists in the class and they drew theirs which turned out beautiful.

The project was a great success. In the end Anya got a 40/40 grade on her totem pole. She burned her totem pole on wood cookies. The other ones were magnificent like the one made of socks. Others were made of recycled material  and they were the coolest ones because they used other materials throughout.