Steven Infinger

Language Arts and Technology

Susan Silverman

Midterm Project

My Story, My Totem


In the book Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen, Cole is sent to live on a remote island for his brutal beating of his classmate Peter. Cole is sent there by the members of Circle Justice, a Native American form of justice where all community members take part in the justice/healing process. While on the island Cole comes across a Spirit Bear and is mauled by the animal. Throughout the book Cole learns to heal not only himself, but also Peter, who has become depressed and suicidal. As Cole comes to each step of the healing process he sees various animals that teach him about healing through their actions. Afterwards, he does a dance based on what each animal teaches him. Upon completing a dance about what the animal represents, Cole carves that animal into a log that he wants to be his totem pole. Totem poles are a Tlingit Indian tradition that represents a familyís history or a personís story.

I have decided to create a digital totem pole of my life. Usually, totem poles have figures of humans or animals. I have deviated from the traditional totem figures and use living and non-living symbols to represent me.  Click here for my totem.

Extension Project Self Assessment


Describe the process you went through as you created your project.

As I was brainstorming for my extension project, I tried to think of something that reflected the themes and important events found in the book. I decided that the totem pole is an important piece found in the book, so I decided to make my own. At first I looked for any online assistance in creating a totem pole, but everything I found was for physical arts and crafts. I decided I could make the pole in a Word document so I drew a rectangle and filled it in with brown. Next, I searched for images that I wanted to add to my totem pole using I copy and pasted those images into my document. I also took two pictures from my personal files and added them. After looking at my totem I decided I didnít like the brown rectangle and looked under the Fill Effects and chose a wood textured fill-in. Once I had the totem together I decided that I needed to add something else, so I drew text boxes and added what the pictures on the totem mean to me. I also used the autoshapes to draw arrows from the text boxes to the pictures and filled in each box and arrow with a different color to show each represents something new. Finally, I typed a reflection that included a summary of the book and how it provided inspiration for my totem pole.


In what ways does your project reflect an important part of the book?

In Touching Spirit Bear Cole creates his totem pole to represent what he has learned in the healing process. Each time that Cole witnesses an animal, he learns something from the animalís actions, and translates it to his life. In essence, the totem shows Coleís history on the island. In my case, my totem shows a reflection of my life and what I hold important.


How does this project show what you have learned about the book?

This book and project have shown me that you have to reflect on various parts of your past to have a true sense of where you are in life. The future can always change without you knowing it, but no matter what, I know what things I hold dear to me; Iím confident those things will be there for me in the future through any struggles I might encounter.


When someone views your project, what will they learn about your book?

By looking at my totem pole, an observer might realize that Touching Spirit Bear has a theme of reflecting on the past. The person might also make a connection between a totem pole and the title to infer that it has a Native American element to the book.


Hill, B.C., Schlick Noe, K.L., & Johnson, N.J. Literature Circles Resource Guide
© 2003 Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc