Twin Valley totem pole contest puts student spirit on display

Robeson Elementary Center's (L to R) Mitchell Aukamp (grade 2), Tommy Deren (grade 4), Meghan Deren (grade 2) and Marissa Burns (grade 2) stand with the totem pole students created with art teacher Veronica Giles for the Twin Valley Elementary Tailgate Night totem pole painting contest which was held on Oct. 5. Image by Justin Finneran.
Robeson Elementary Center's (L to R) Mitchell Aukamp (grade 2), Tommy Deren (grade 4), Meghan Deren (grade 2) and Marissa Burns (grade 2) stand with the totem pole students created with art teacher Veronica Giles for the Twin Valley Elementary Tailgate Night totem pole painting contest which was held on Oct. 5. Image by Justin Finneran.

Students from the three Twin Valley School District elementary schools presented one grand show of school spirit on the evening of Friday Oct. 5 by participating in a friendly totem pole decoration contest. The totem poles of Honey Brook Elementary Center, Robeson Elementary Center, and Twin Valley Elementary Center were each on display as the district celebrated Elementary Night at the Twin Valley High School football game versus Daniel Boone.

The contest, the first of its kind in Twin Valley, is known as the Raise the Spirit Totem Pole Contest. It was recently created by the Twin Valley Raise the Spirit Committee to give the district’s youngest students the opportunity to offer up their interpretations of what makes each schools unique while celebrating the overall spirit of Raider pride. At the beginning of the school year the art teachers from each elementary school were presented with blank six-foot tall totem poles created and donated by 2012 Twin Valley alumnus Tyler Miller. The art teachers and students then collaborated to create their one-of-a-kind totem poles, bit by bit, over a period of a month and a half.

There were three categories which the totem poles were judged on - Best Overall, Most Spirited and Most Creative. The totem poles were first set up for display at each elementary school for pre-game tailgate parties for the students, and were then transported to the high school stadium entry gates for the patrons of the game. A bin was placed in front of each totem pole, and attendees were given three different colored tickets, one for each category, to place as votes in the totem poles’ bins.

Votes were tallied up before the first half of the game by members of the Raise the Spirit Committee, and the winners were announced at halftime.


Yet before we reveal those results, let’s have ‘a look’ at what went into each school’s entry.

Robeson Elementary Center

Art teacher Veronica Giles said that she told her students about the culture of the Native American people of the Pacific Northwest before deciding on a design.

“I told them that the (Native American people) were very spiritual about their clans and their relationship to animals, and that I wanted them to pick the animals they felt best represented their school.”

Giles said Robeson is a very nature-oriented school, and that there was plenty of inspiration for the kids to draw upon.

There is a nature center on-site where they raise caterpillars into monarch butterflies, and so patterns of the both the caterpillar and the butterfly found their way on their totem pole.

There is a red-tailed hawk that lives near the school, which was the inspiration for the hawk’s head of their totem pole.

The school is the home of ‘Raider’ the turtle, who’s aquarium is in the main lobby, and so the middle of the school’s totem pole boasts a turtle.

Also there are also pet fish at Robeson – the reason behind the bright orange fish head near the base of the pole.

The totem pole was created with acrylic paint as well as recycling cardboard used to form three-dimensional elements.

“I explained to the students that the Native American people used every element that they could find in their environment, so it made sense for us to do the same,” said Giles. “They did a very good job and were very excited to see the changes made as the totem pole came along.

Twin Valley Elementary Center

“We built out totem pole around the theme of the school’s C.A.R.E. (initiative),” explained art teacher Meghan LeClair. “C.A.R.E. stands for Cooperation, Assertion, Respect, and Empathy. All of these characteristics are important here, and this project allows us to show others that our school is a collaborative community of students that care.”

At the center of the TVEC pole, LeClair painted totem animals whose shapes spell out the word CARE. Her fourth grade students created feathers for the wings, the third graders created blades of grass that make up the base, the Kindergartens traced and cut out the shapes of their hands from paper and they used those cover the backs of the wings, and the first and second graders all signed the back of the totem pole. This makes the TVEC pole, with decorations made from acrylic paint, cut paper, markers and crayons, an assembly of many small individual pieces of art used to create and contribute to the whole.

“It turned out really well and the kids are excited to see it at the game,” LeClair said. “They really think that they are going to win, they were pumped about it. I teach the most amazing and talented student artists. Every year they amaze me.”

LeClair added that it is important that schools take opportunities such as these to show art projects to the community.

“Not only is it good exposure for art programs, but it is an opportunity to show the students how art can reach into different aspects of peoples’ lives. This is a really great way to build community within the schools through incorporating art. I know everyone is really excited to see the different perspectives from the different schools in one place in one night.”

Honey Brook Elementary Center

Art teacher Gina Knorr touted the levels of collaboration shown by her students as they took their totem pole design from sketches to completion.

“I spoke to the kids about Native American culture and the symbolism of animals,” she said. “We decided on three animals for our design.”

Those three animals were a peacock, a zebra, and a cougar, which were created using acrylic paint and markers.

“The Peacock stands for pride,” explained Knorr. “Honey Brook Pride is big in our school. We give out Honey Brook Pride awards to the kids for showing pride in our school.”

When it came time for the zebra, there was a bit of pizazz added to the traditional black and white stripes which make the animal famous.

“We picked a zebra for being visually interesting, but most importantly because it signifies individuality. I always tell the kids ‘you are all different individuals’. They wanted to add color to the zebra design to really represent that individuality.”

The cougar was picked as an embodiment of courage. Knorr said that the school teaches the students the importance of showing courage.

“The kids always amaze me with the quality of their work. We are excited to see the totem pole at the game and we will be happy to have it returned back to us,” said Knorr. “I am looking to use the totem pole into future lessons about art.”

At halftime the winners for the three categories were announced, with district superintendent Dr. Pleis announcing the winners and the Twin Valley mascot, the Chief, presenting trophies to the school principals. The Best Overall trophy went to Twin Valley Elementary Center, with Principal Gail Porrazzo accepting. The Most Creative trophy went to Robeson Elementary Center, with Principal William McKay accepting. The Most Spirited trophy went to Honey Brook Elementary Center, with Principal Dr. Jaime Whye accepting.

“Different communities have different things they create to celebrate spirit, and we thought it would be great to have the kids do something to celebrate spirit in the elementary schools,” said Kim Patterson, a member of the Raise the Spirit Committee and School Nurse at Robeson Elementary Center. “This lets us build that spirit in our individual schools while getting these children to recognize that they are all part of one district.”

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