Cooperative Cereal Box Totem Poles

Today’s lesson correlates with the work done in 1st grade in February and March with animals.  Students will work in groups of 4-6 to brainstorm three dimensional animal features then each student will complete and one animal using a cereal box and construction paper that will be part of their group totem pole.


  • Discuss with your teacher.  For this project your teacher may have supplies in here classroom that you can make use of, specifically squares and strips of construction paper and glue sticks.  If she does not have these, they are available in the TAP room.  You’ll also want to decide how many kids will be in each group so you know how many groups you will have
  • Cereal boxes.  Your teacher has been collecting cereal boxes.  You’ll need cover one for each in butcher paper in advance.  Try to recruit a friend or two to help.  Use as many different colors as you can, including at black or brown.
  • Additional parents.  It would be ideal if you can get one parent for each group, but any additional sets of hands will be a great help to you.



  • Vibrant: Bright, having or giving a sense of life to
  • Muted: subdued, toned-down, earthy
  • Realistic: a form that is recognizable a true to life, not abstract
  • 2-Dimensional:  Something flat, with to dimensions to measure: heigh & width
  • 3-Dimensional:  A form with three basic directions to measure: height, width, & depth.  Not flat.
  • Form: The 3-dimensional expression of a shape; cube, sphere, cylinder, pyramid, cone, etc
  • Sculpture:  A work of art in 3-Dimensions, a sculpture can be completed by molding, carving away, or constructing.

Creating in Three Dimensions

Creating art in three dimensions can be different than creating a flat painting, drawing or other two dimensional piece of art.  First, the work of art can be viewed from multiple sides, so attention must be paid to the front, back, and sides.  Elements of the work can also stick out to enhance the work or contribute to its overall form.  Today you will be using construction paper to create 3D animals using a cereal box as your base.

Examples of Animals


  • cereal boxes covered with butcher paper, one per student – see prep section
  • pieces and strips of construction paper, various colors – discuss with teacher
  • scissors – will be in classroom
  • glue sticks – discuss with teacher
  • 2-4″ Tape – in TAP Room
  • A sharpie marker – in TAP Room

What to Do:

  1. Place the construction paper, scissors, and glue sticks on the group tables.  NO PENCILS.  It is hard for students to resist the temptations of drawing features when drawing implements are available.
  2. With the students seated on the carpet,  show a sample of the project.  Explain students will be working in groups to create each totem poles.
  3. With the students still seated on the floor, talk about the vocabulary and what it means to create a three dimensional piece of art.  Brainstorm some of the characteristics animals would have:  Tails, fins, wings, whiskers, feathers, fangs, claws, beaks, lips, scales, limbs, eyelashes, etc.
  4. Model some of the features you discussed.  Show them how to cut triangles from corners, curl strips around pencils, cut slits for eyelashes and feathers, and layer shapes for eyes and scales.
  5. Break them into to groups of 4-6.  Your teacher will help you with this.
  6. Each group is responsible for completing a mammal, fish, bird, and reptile on their totem poles.  If there are more than 4 students in a group add insects and creepy crawlers.  Groups should work together to decide who will do each animal.  Encourage them to help each other decide which animals to do.  Encourage the group to choose a habitat for their totem pole:  Arctic, Topical, Forest, Desert, etc.  Encourage students to help each other when they get stuck for ideas on animals, features, colors, etc.
  7. Start working.  Now the fun begins.  Students should start creating their animals.  Remind them to use the front, back, and sides of the cereal box, but not the top and bottom.
  8. If time permits and you have parent help, you’ll be able to assemble each groups totem pole using the 2-4″ tape during the session.  Write all the students names and the animal each one completed on the bottom of the totem pole.  If you do not have time to do this with the kids, you can complete it after.  It will work best to have another set of hands to help assemble them.
  9. Cut a strip of construction paper to size and glue it to the top of each totem pole.

For the Gallery

Once the totem poles are assembled bring them to the TAP Room.  Please email me ASAP to let me know they are there.


One thought on “Cooperative Cereal Box Totem Poles

  1. Last year I taught this lesson. I made index cards to organize the students. Each student randomly chose a card. I had 24 students and broke them into groups of 5. I gave each group a geographic region for a tribe; North America, South America, Africa, Oceania, Australia. I wrote five animals which represented each region on the front of the index card. On the back of the index card, I wrote a possible symbolic meaning for their animal. We discussed how individuals were given nicknames based on their similarity to the animal and its symbolic meaning from the region in which they lived.

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