Students break Indian tradition, design modern totem pole items
But instead of limiting students to animals that would have been familiar to American Indians, such as bears, coyotes and deer, she gave them permission to be as creative as they wished. Working in teams, her students came up with a stunning array of totems, including SpongeBob. His left arm is outstretched and in his hand is a delicious Krabby Patty.
"My team created a rainbow monkey," said Haley DeRoche, 11. "We wanted to make it colorful, so we gave it a rainbow nose."
Taylor Chechowitz and her team couldn't decide between creating a tiger or a panda bear, so they settled on a hybrid creation they wound up calling a half-tiger, half-panda.
Here's what I think. The project seems to trivialize the thought and effort that goes into carving a totem pole. A real pole tells an ancient legend such as a creation story. The figures on the pole have a spiritual or cultural significance; they aren't chosen on a whim. Yet this project implies that they are--that they're no more meaningful than cartoon characters.
To give an analogy, suppose the teacher assigned the students to draw Bible stories. Pay no attention to what really happened in the Bible and make up your own events, the teacher might say. Suppose the kids came up with Adam kicking God out of Eden, or Jesus kissing Satan, and said this was their version of the Bible. True believers might very well find that offensive.