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

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 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.

Come Rain or Come Shine

From song lyrics to predictions, we use weather lore every day. Have you ever worn your pajamas inside out in hope of a snow day? What sayings do you use to predict the weather? Do you have stories about storms or rainbows or really hot days? This activity looks at a variety of ways we are all folk meteorologists.

Folk Song Remix

This activity offers a creative way to interact with favorite folk songs. Follow these directions to tap into familiar folk songs and give them your own, unique spin by remixing them!

Music Around the Year

So much music surrounds us, we may not always be aware of it. This activity invites you to find and celebrate the music that you hear all around you—all around the year.

Song Circle

Everyone sings. This means everyone knows some songs. Singing alone or with others can make us feel playful, help us through tough times, and bring us together.

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

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 […]

Clara’s Song: Writing Songs from Interviews

In City Lore’s Songwriting Artist Residency, students write songs inspired by their interviews with family, school, or community members. This article focuses on one interview with an immigrant teacher and the students’ songwriting process.

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 […]

May I Borrow?

30 teens from across the country gathered at the University of Maryland for an intensive two weeks of dance and composition classes, rehearsal, and creation. They were African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Caucasian. They studied diverse dance techniques, from jazz and modern to salsa and traditional Hmong. Some were dramatic, some were shy. Some skateboarded, […]

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.

The Florida Music Train: Moving to the Sunshine State

Using traditional music as a window into the increasingly diverse migrant population in the United States.