In this unit, student artists study art made by Indigenous Cultures around the world. They learn that the Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest believed that totem animals could represent traits of a person, a family, or a tribe. They choose an animal to represent themselves, then draw & paint a self or family portrait using animals.

Scope & Sequence:

Lesson 1: In this lesson, student artists are introduced to totem animals: animals that guide or protect. The decide to draw a portrait of either themselves or a loved one as an animal. In this first lesson they roughly draw their chosen animals on a large piece of paper.

Lesson 2: In this lesson, students artists begin painting their animal and environments. 

Lesson 3: In this lesson, student artists are given the day to completely cover the white of their painting. As they finish, they are introduced to texture by using air-drying clay to create a 3D model of their animal. 

Lesson 4: Student artists learn about different types of texture, and use implied texture to finish their artwork. They have two days to complete their work.

Lesson 5: Student artists have the entire day to finish. Some students will already be finished. See ‘early finishers’ section for ideas.

Lesson 6: Optional. a final day for finishing.

(you can preview the first lesson in a project without enrolling by clicking on ‘lesson 1’ above).


The above will take you to a supply list that assumes a class size of 30. Adjust according to your needs. 

Books & Media:
Lesson 5: Lesson 5: ‘Totem Tale’, by Deb Vanasse, ‘Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest’ by Gerald McDermott, ‘Rainbow Crow (Dragonfly Books)’ by Nancy Van Laan

Art Elements: 

line, shape/form, color, texture


Art Principles: 



National Core Visual Art Standards: VA:Cr1.2.2a, VA:Cr2.1.1a, VA:Cr3.1.2a,  VA:Cr3.1.3a, VA:Re.7.1.3a, VA:Re.7.2.3a, VA:Re8.1.1a, VA:Cn11.1.1a, VA:Cn11.1.2a, VA:Cn11.1.3a



Language Arts (could study Indigenous cultures and folklore) , Mathematics (patterning), U.S. History (link to a course on Native American populations)


Common Core Standards: 

W.1.8, W.2.8,SL.1.1a, SL.2.1a, SL.1.1b, SL.2.1b, SL.1.1c, SL.2.1c, SL.1.2, SL.2.2, SL.1.3, SL.2.3, SL.2.4, SL.1.5



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Navigation tip: when you first go through the project, you must hit the 'mark complete' button, at the bottom of the page, to unlock the next lesson. After 'mark complete' has been hit, you've unlocked that lesson, and you can then use the sidebar to easily click to different lessons within the project (helpful if you are working through the project with more than one class).

Why do I need to hit mark complete? Certain lessons have email triggers (such as teaching tips when there is a painting lesson), and this helps us know when to send them. It also helps us track completion rates.

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