Pumpkin Totem Pole

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A team of pumpkins!

Fun, creativity, group identity, decoration, idea generation, collaboration, possibly donations of outcome as outreach to community organizations.

Group Size

Any size group can work, divided into small teams of 3 - 7 people.


Pumpkins of a variety of sizes, from very large to small. At least one for every participant. Carving tools. Materials for cleanup. One sturdy pole for each group (e.g, PVC or metal pipe, rebar, bamboo): 1"-2" diameter; 5'-7' feet tall. Tools to dig hole in ground, or to create a stand to hold the pole. Optional: strings or tubes of outdoor holiday lights; extension cords; outlets.

Set Up

Have participants divide into teams of 3 - 7. Have each person choose a pumpkin - sizes for each team could be graded, so that each team has large to small.


Everyone carves jack-o-lanterns. - There can be a declared them, such as design each as a "self portrait" or "team/organization mascot," or something relevant to the group's activities (e.g., friendly customer service).

Remove stems and "caps" of each pumpkin. Save the cap/stem of the smallest in each group. Top openings should have level surfaces (for setting the next pumpkin on). Cut holes in the bottom of each pumpkin - large enough to fit over the pole (and string of lights, if you are wrapping the pole). Clean out the seeds and goo. Clean up and recycle the mess!

Each team mounts its pole securely (or, the organizers can set up the poles ahead of time). Optional: wrap the string of lights around the pole tightly (may require duct tape to secure), with the plug end at the top. Mount the team's pumpkins on the pole, possibly with the largest on the bottom and progressing upward. Cut a slot in the stemmed cap of the top (smallest) pumpkin, to allow the cord to come out. Plug the light string into the extension cord. Secure the cord to prevent tripping or other hazards. Note that carved pumpkins can last a week or less before decomposing, depending on weather and other factors.


Admire each others' sculptures!

Gather as whole group and discuss the process - successful moments in collaborations, what to do differently to make the experience smoother another time . . . Discuss what was learned that could be applied to ongoing group projects/work.


The poles could be erected at an assisted living/retirement facility, a day care, or other places where many people could enjoy them.

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