How to Make a Totem Pole for a School Project


Totem poles are one of the best-known symbols of Native American culture. Each one represents a Native American's family history and spiritual identity. A totem pole can be made as a class project to reinforce ideas taught in school about Native American culture and history. A cardboard and paper totem pole can be constructed by students in as little as a single class period by following these simple steps.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper towel tube
  • Glue
  • Brown construction paper
  • Crayons
  • Markers
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Wrap a piece of brown construction paper around an empty paper towel tube once and cut off any excess construction paper.

  • Place the trimmed construction paper flat onto a table. Using the ruler, draw four equidistant, horizontal lines across the paper, three inches apart. This will divide the paper into five parallel sections.

  • Use crayons and markers to decorate each section by drawing an animal head.Native Americans commonly depict such animals as bears, beavers, seals--even mythical beasts--on their totems.

  • Glue the construction paper onto the paper towel tube with the plain side facing the tube and the decorated side facing outward.

  • Make wings for your totem pole by cutting pieces of construction paper lengthwise and gluing them onto the backside of the pole. The size of the wings should be in proportion to the animal depicted on one of the five areas you have decorated.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you want to make a smaller totem pole, you can use an empty toilet paper tube instead of a paper towel tube.
  • If this project is being completed by young children, supervise them while they use the scissors to avoid any injury.


  • Photo Credit totem pole image by Earl Robbins from
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