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)

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Learning Activity and Lesson Plans

Museum Observation Field Journal

Consider a museum an important text that deserves careful reading. Before visiting a museum, inventory your assumptions about what you expect, even if you are familiar with the institution. Think about where it is, how it sits on the landscape, its relationship to the natural and built environments.

Dress to Express: National Heritage Fellows' Portraits Unit

Access portraits portraying artists who have mastered their art forms through years of study with elders and family members and have received the NEA National Heritage Fellows award to learn more about the relationship between dress and culture. This unit includes classroom-ready exercises, worksheets for students to study their own fashion choices, and ideas for local research that connect learners with their community.

Then and Now

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

Exploring Portraits, Dress, and Identity in Asian Art

What can art objects from distant times and places express about the identity of the people and the cultures depicted in them?

Exploring Dress, Culture, and Identity in American Indian Objects and Dress

How would you feel if someone (outside your identity group) used your identity design references in a clothing line? What might change how you feel about this use?

Tradition, Innovation, and Hawai'ian Cultural Identity in Lau Hala Papale

How is the weaving and wearing of lau hala papale (hats) connected to Hawai’ian history, identity, natural resources, and culture?

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.

Collecting!

Kids are natural collectors, piling up treasures like seashells and Pokémon cards. Likewise, museum curators deal with many types of collections, from paintings to train engines. Curators organize collections for public exhibits, showcasing what they have learned about objects. By thinking like a curator, how would you organize one of your collections for a home museum?

Research and Readings

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 […]

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.