Students learn art of the totem

LYNNWOOD — Four faces emerge from a cedar log.

An eagle holding a bear cub is perched on top of a large bear holding a frog.

The eagle and the bears symbolize the relationship between teachers and students — the intermingling of trust and power. The frog is the family clan of Haida and Tlingit carver Fred Lauth Sr. For years to come, the frog will remind students at Spruce Elementary School in Lynnwood of the color, artistry and skill he brought to their school.

Since the start of the school year, Lauth has helped nearly every fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grader chip away at the log to create a totem.

“It’s thrilling knowing that we started from a raw cedar log,” said fifth-grade teacher David Tookey, who organized the project. “It was just a raw cedar log and now we have this stunning work of art and it will be in our building for a long, long time.”

Students are working one on one with Lauth this week to paint the totem. The Seattle-based carver is also busy etching details into the wood that are too fine for students to handle.

Parents, students, staff, donors and Haida dancers plan to dedicate the totem Friday. They’ll carry the 12-foot-tall totem from the gym floor to its new home in the library.

The project was funded through donations, including large gifts from the Spruce PTA, the Tulalip Tribes and a city of Lynn­wood art fund. Lauth also donated a lot of his time sharing stories and Haida and Tlingit culture with classes of younger students that weren’t allowed to carve, Tookey said.

“We brought in something unique and hands-on,” Tookey said. “Rather than sitting at a desk, reading a book, (students) were listening to an actual Pacific Northwest carver tell stories as they carved a pole.”

Reporter Kaitlin Manry: 425-339-3292 or

Totem facts

The totem at Spruce Elementary is 12 feet tall and 34 inches across.

The pole was carved from a 2-ton red cedar log.

Students spent three days a week carving.

The pole is being dedicated Friday.

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