Resources

For Teachers, Folklorists, Academics, and Beyond

Folk arts contribute not only to students’ understanding of cultural traditions but also to their ability to think critically, gather and analyze evidence, and express their ideas and interpretations through personal creativity. Folklife and the tools of the folklorist can support learning in all subjects, including the arts. Folk arts are uniquely suited to explore the ways in which traditional art forms reflect the history, culture, geography, and values of different cultures and communities.

Everyone has folk traditions — expressive customs practiced within a group and passed along by word of mouth, imitation, and observation. Calling on the work of folklorists and the field of folklore in the classroom educates, motivates, engages, and fosters the creative expression of students and powerfully links them to their communities. Integrating the study of folk arts into existing curricula awakens self-awareness in students of their own roles as tradition bearers, their families as repositories of traditional culture and history, and their communities as unique resources.

(Text above adapted from: Local Learning: A Folk Arts Integration Handbook)

Filter by Class Subject

Filter by Themes

Filter by Research Topic

Resources by Type

Learning Activity and Lesson Plans

Heritage Fellow Michael Doucet Virtual Residency

Local Learning’s virtual residencies with National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellows take us into the communities and lives of master folk artists.

Heritage Fellow Rosa Elena Egipciaco Virtual Residency

Local Learning’s virtual residencies with National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellows take us into the communities and lives of master folk artists.

Heritage Fellow Mary Louise Defender Wilson Virtual Residency

Local Learning’s virtual residencies with National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellows take us into the communities and lives of master folk artists.

Heritage Fellow Eva Castellanoz Virtual Residency

Local Learning’s virtual residencies with National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellows take us into the communities and lives of master folk artists.

Heritage Fellow John Cephas Virtual Residency

Local Learning’s virtual residencies with National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellows take us into the communities and lives of master folk artists.

Then and Now

This activity invites you to think about how objects in your life have new uses and meanings.

Games and Play

Games are fun to play at any age and tell us a lot about our families, friends, and communities. There are many cool ways to think about and study games.

Good for What Ails You

Our beliefs about health and wellness are part of our personal and family folklore. Collecting cures, home remedies, and health sayings reveals how much a part of daily life our folklore about health is.

Dress to Express

Our clothes are important cultural elements. We use them for many reasons. They are practical, fun symbols of our identity. Let’s find some surprises while exploring how we Dress to Express.

Interviewing Virtual Unit

By interviewing family and community members to document their stories, songs, crafts, and skills, we encounter deep local learning, which we can record and share in many ways. Visit our Inquiry Resources to go more in-depth!

Research and Readings

Local Learning: A Folk Arts Integration Handbook

This 24-page handbook outlines how to incorporate folk arts and folk artists into arts integration programs.

Artists as Educators

Our featured artists consider educating young people essential to their lives as artists. Their stories of sharing a specialized skill or passing on knowledge of a culture or tradition offer insights into effective practices and ways of teaching and learning that are underutilized. They collective make the case for preserving pedagogical diversity in education. Read […]

Teaching with Foodways

The study of foodways offers compelling ways to explore local and world customs and cultures through an accessible, universal, everyday practice. The foods we eat provide a firsthand, sensory experience that can build an appetite for learning in any subject and offer opportunities for active, experiential education. Read the 28-page issue of the popular 2010 […]

Kentucky Remembers

The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights and a consortium of organizations developed Kentucky Remembers to train students to collect stories of human rights movement activists. The project demonstrated that through the folklore of our daily lives we can articulate what is strong and beautiful in our cultures and also what we hope to change.

Listening Is an Act of Love: The Power of Storytelling in Education

StoryCorps has inspired thousands of Americans to share their stories. Here a StoryCorps advisor shares tips for bringing personal storytelling into the classroom.

Interviews: The Heartbeat of Our Inquiry

A 1st-grade teacher demonstrates how much even young children can learn from interviewing. “Books and the Internet are useful, but perhaps the most child-friendly and exciting way for young people to find answers is by interviewing people in their community. Information and concepts children can discover at an interview often go well beyond what they […]

Norma Miller: Stompin’ at the Savoy

This Heritage Fellow grew up in Harlem during the 1920s and as a young child loved to dance. She was among the original performers of the Lindy Hop and is renowned among swinger dancers worldwide today. Alan Govenar compiled text from his interviews with Norma to create a picture book of her life. Here we […]

The Life Cycle: Folk Customs of Passage

“In an age when it is easy to live vicariously through t.v. shows and other popular media, attention to the life cycle returns the focus to ourselves and our families, the arenas in which the real work of life takes place,” writes the Director of City Lore.

Rangoli: Traditions of the Threshold

Threshold traditions offer a concrete form for exploring how rites of passage help practitioners make a transition between two states, such as secular to sacred, outside to inside, child to adult, and so on.

Walk in Another’s Shoes

“The trim, silver-haired man sits ramrod straight, a legacy of his former military training. Sitting close by, not quite as still or straight, his eight-year-old Swapping Stories partner’s smile reflects his own. After the storytelling session, the former Mr. America finalist states, ‘Even though there’s a 75-year difference in our ages, we’ve had very similar […]

Words Are Serious, Words Are Divine

Taking students to visit community sites can provide rich, authentic experiences that inspire powerful personal responses. Often young rappers are—as freestyler Toni Blackman put it—”stuck in style” so writing about dramatic new experiences forces them to experiment. African-American high school students who participated in City Lore’s Poetry Dialogues project worked with poets Toni Blackman and […]

Poetry Dialogues

“I was in the sixth grade when I started writing poetry. I had never realized how special poetry was to me. I started writing not just as an assignment, but almost as a way to let myself be free from everything around me. As I grow older, my poetry seems to evolved from blue hummingbirds […]

Sense of Place

“What is a ‘place?’ Is that strip of grass between the lanes on the Interstate highway a place? Is a Web site a place?” Michael Umphrey, a poet and former principal, who currently directs the Montana Heritage Project explores the many notions of place. Umphrey also provides examples for how students can learn the skills […]

La Trace du Boudin

An engaging profile of Acadiana and Lafayette High School students who prepared the “Guide to Acadian Stores and Meat Markets That Sell Boudin.” The guide, a French and English tourism brochure, explores the boudin, a Cajun sausage made and sold in small family-owned markets all over South Louisiana.”

How Deer Came to the Kodiak Archipelago

Josh Wood, a student from rural Alaska, writes about an unusual relationship between people, animals, and place.

The Blues

“‘What are the blues?’ Well, as Louis Armstrong said about jazz, cousin to the blues, ‘Man, if you gotta ask, you’ll never know.’” That said, folklorists, Amanda Dargan and Steve Zeitin provide a brief history of blues poetry—with examples.

Poetry Slam in the Classroom

A detailed description of poetry slams and the pros and cons of hosting them with young people in a classroom.

Writing Exercises

“One of the toughest tasks for educators teaching young writers is to get them to see that poetry is everywhere in our lives….The “site” of the Work Poem is a good place to engage young writers to focus on a specific subject matter and to encourage them to explore the language that surrounds the jobs […]

Poetry Contests and Improvisations

An international and historical overview of poetry contests and improvisation.

Cowboy Poetry Adventures

“Imagine herding 21 high school students from the coast of Oregon to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada over nine days in the middle of the school year….” Join Paddy Bowman as she chronicles the literary adventures of two teachers and 21 students (cowboy poetry resources provided).

Fieldtrips to Find Poetry

The Handbook of Poetic Forms published by Teachers & Writers Collaborative regards a ‘found poem’ as a piece of writing that was not intended as a poem, but is desclared to be by its ‘finder.’ Poetry can be ‘found’ in everything from newspaper articles, store signs, lists, scraps of conversation, and other everytday uses of […]

Teacher's Self-Discovery

Teaching teachers acceptance and respect through training that begins with the teacher examining their own culture and then expanding to the cultures of other people. For a similar approach with students, see “Engaging Diversity: A Teacher Talks about Folk Arts-Driven Educational Reform” by Susanne Nixdorf

A Community Celebration Of Place

A program brings rural Alabama communities together when students interview community elders and get the stories to music.

That Zora Sure Could Write

Looking at the work of Zora Neal Hurston, Anokye examines how oral discourse can be transferred into writing. He argues that Hurston’s work provides a model teaching tool for preserving oral traditions through writing. Also includes a short biography of Hurston.

Folk Culture Inspires Writing Across The Curriculum

Two folklife activities that encourage writing across the curriculum: reading cultural objects and fieldwork about Halloween and Day of the Dead.

Writing the Range

Reflections on the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada by student participants.

A Teacher Talks About Folk Arts-Driven Educational Reform

How a rural Pennsylvanian school district taught about diversity and respect for other cultures through a folklife/folk arts program.

Storytelling at the Crossroads

Teaching storytelling: the power, importance and influence of the storyteller

How to Teach Folk Arts to Young People: The Need for Context

In a a speech at New York University, Chalmers challenges the practice of “aesthetic scanning” by providing art teachers with ways to teach students the social context in which art is created.

Passing it On

Excerpts from the now classic folk arts-in-education book, Passing It On which explores collaborative programs between classroom teachers and folk artists/community educators. We have excerpted four sections that map the New Jersey Main Road School’s sixth grade residency with auctioneer Andrea Licciardello. Licciardello worked with classroom teacher Glenn Christmann to present a study of auctions […]

An Accessible Aesthetic

The folk artist is very much like a curator and the community is a living museum. In unpacking this metaphor, Kirshenblatt-Gimblett explores how the folk artist learns various traditions and then teaches adults and children to develop strong ties to their communities and cultural history.

Folk Arts in the Classroom: Changing the Relationship Between Schools and Communities

The publication of this article launched Local Learning in 1993.