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104 Activities that Build: Self-Discovery
Family Totem Pole
 
    A totem pole is a tall woodcarving consisting of animal heads and/or bodies and is used to tell Native American stories or legends. A family totem pole can be created to tell the story of a family in a fun and unique way.
 
Objective
For people to explore feelings, perceptions, and relationships that they have with their family members.
 
Who
People who need to share about their family life with the group or with a counselor but who have a difficult time talking about family dynamics and family situations.
 
Group Size
1 or more
 
Materials
Construction Paper
Glue
Scissors
Tape
Colored markers
Optional: Cardboard tube (i.e. toilet paper roll, paper towel roll or 
       wrapping paper tube)
Optional: Google eyes, felt, fabric, puff balls, pipe cleaners, or
      anything else that can be used to create animal faces.
 
Description
    Ask the group if they know what a totem pole is and explain how each totem pole tells a unique story. Explain to the group that they are to create their own unique totem poles about their families. Each person chooses a different animal to represent each family member and places the animal on the pole wherever they think that family member should be in their own story. For example, one pole may have a lion for a brother who is good looking, athletic and everything seems to come easy for him, and who also happens to be known for being quite lazy. Each totem pole must include at least three people and each person must put him/herself on the totem pole s/he is creating. Emphasize that a family can be whoever they feel their family is at the time. For some it may be a foster family, grandparents, a special relative, or even a group home.
     Give each person a cardboard tube or create one by rolling construction paper long ways into a tube and taping it. Supply the group with all the animal face creation supplies that you have gathered that can be used to create animal faces. Instruct them to create animals out of the materials and to glue them onto their totem pole. Allow quite a bit of time for this activity and people will do a really good job and be proud of their totem poles when they are finished with them. Allow for sharing time at the end so that each person may explain his/her special family totem pole to the group.
 
Discussion Prompts
Discuss each totem pole after it has been explained to the group. You may allow group members to ask questions or use this time to discuss family relations that are occurring in each separate family.
 
Variation
Create the totem poles out of modeling clay or play dough.
 
(From the book 104 Activities That Build:)


Unique self-discovery activities from the books
104 Activities That Build: Self-Esteem, Teamwork, Communication, Anger Management, Self-Discovery and Coping Skills
and
The wRECking Yard of Games and Activities
to help people to easily share and open up.
To Make this Box Represent Me, I would…
 
Being able to open up to others in a group is the first step in becoming an active member of the group. Some people have difficulty opening up to others and sharing their feelings. Something as simple as a cardboard box can be a helpful tool for getting people to feel comfortable about sharing their feelings with the group, for the first time or even for the fifteenth time.
 
Objective
To learn the perception that each person in the group holds about him/herself.
To provide a chance for people to open up to others in the group.
 
Who
People who have difficulty expressing their feelings directly.
 
Group Size
2 or more
 
Materials
- An empty box with a lid
 
Description
Gather the group into a circle. The leader holds the empty box and says "to make this box represent me I would…" (i.e. "I would fill it with chocolate covered candy and then tape it shut because it is difficult to find out what is inside of me but once I open up there are many wonderful surprises to be discovered.").
 
Once the leader has completed the statement he/she passes the box to the next person who then completes the sentence and then passes it to the person beside him/her. The box continues around the circle until everyone has had a turn.
 
Discussion Topics
1. Did the box make it easier to say something?
2. Did you feel that you could be in better control of how much you said?
3. What did you learn about others?
 
Variation
- Change what the box represents: "To make this box represent __________ (my family, the way I deal with my anger, my relationship with God, my role in this group, etc.), I would…"

(From the book The wRECking Yard of games and activities)


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