Teacher Creates Totem Pole: A Letter from Pete

Woodworking class totem pole project sample


Many late Hellos!!  This letter has been a year and a half in the making….maybe more.  Your email about using the Iditarod experience is coming back to you.  As a shop teacher, I was always looking for a way to include the experience in my life in my classes.  Well so far, I’ve found two ways.

One-  the current teacher from our school…. his/her students get to make a dog bone from a template that I made.  The students then choose which dog name they like from the list we get from the musher’s team that our current teacher is riding with as an Idita Rider at the start of the race.   Students  paint the name on the bone and have it as a keepsake.

Two- I was  looking for a way to include           students 8th grade through 12th in a long term project and came up with the idea of a totem pole.  I said to myself, if I am going to ask the students to try this idea out, maybe I should try to do it first.  You know, to check out where the construction problems may lie in wait and have solutions ready at hand.  My idea was something 12 inches high and 3 inches in diameter with proper base…. something they could have enough space to car on…. something that would be meaningful to them and not just a memento from their school years here, though it could be.

So, of course, me being me, I made a totem pole almost three feet high and over 5 inches in diameter not including the wings.  7 pieces glued together, blocked.. planed the corners down to round the pole out… made 2 eight-sided end pieces screwed in to allow for moving the pole in the direction you need to carve,  draw the items on the pole, carve them out…. then paint everything after taking off the end pieces and adding the final base.  It too a year and a half to complete the project.  As you can see by the pictures, I added the eagle head and the wings after finishing the pole portion mainly because I, at first, liked it the way it was, but then I saw that it needed something to really complete the totem.   The eagle head and wings were just the thing!

I hope that you can see that these examples are a labor of love.  Our time there with you, at the conference, with the Burmeisters, and the whole Iditarod Race and continuing story will always be with us.  Fate willing, some day we will return.

As ever,

Pete M

Pete teaches at a school in MA.  He and his wife, Peggy, attended the 2007  Iditarod Teacher’s Conference in Alaska.  Each year, a teacher from their school attends the conference and is an Idita Rider at the start of the race.                                                                  

Pete and the totem pole