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

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.

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.

Zoom! Representing Ourselves Online

This activity will help you identify some of your important folk groups and traditional knowledge. You will then create a virtual background that may be used on Zoom or other meeting platforms as a way to share something about ourselves in these online spaces.

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?

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 […]

Carriers of Culture: Teaching and Learning Native Basketry

This extensive project examines the contemporary state of Native American weaving in the U.S. and the ways Native baskets—and their makers—are carriers of culture.

Diversifying Arts Education: A Conversation with Sarah Bainter Cunningham

NEA’s Arts Education Director describes her interest in traditional pedagogy as well as ethnography. She says, “The folk arts remind us, teach us, and train us in context. This is vital to our aesthetic lives, to the living heartbeat of our local communities, and to the success of our citizenship within a democracy.”

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.

From Imagine! Introducing Your Child to the Arts

Find a chapter dedicated to folk arts education in this publication, including tips for parents on the best ways to interest children in art–helping them explore connections between their own life experiences and the artistic processes of others.

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.”

Sculpting the Face of Immigration

Using art to tell a story of immigration, George Zavala creates works of art with several different 4th grade classes in Woodside, Queens.

A Patchwork of Our Lives: Oral History Quilts in Intercultural Education

How oral history can help young people develop intercultural and intergenerational competencies.

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.