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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Note: These resources are shared as a service and include historic texts that don’t always reflect the current views of Local Learning. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about the readings or activities in our library.

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Learning Activity and Lesson Plans

Culture, Community, and the Classroom: Beekeeping

Some of the most creative artist residencies come out of unexpected classroom collaborations. Not only does this set of lesson plans create connections between beekeeping and the art room, it also demonstrates how art can be a pathway to social emotional learning. Art teacher Sarah Edwards and guidance counselor Nina Muto worked with the Southern Tier Beekeepers Association to help students discover how they can work towards unity and community while still embodying their individuality.

Culture, Community, and the Classroom: Unlocking Inquiry through Mexican Traditions

Folk and traditional arts are a natural fit for the social studies classroom. They easily facilitate learning and conversations about diverse communities, both local and global. This residency demonstrates how music and social studies can dovetail. It also models how multiple subject areas–music, English Language Arts, and social studies– came together in a single artist residency. The tools of folklore–close listening, observation, interviewing–deepened student preparation for the residency and their engagement with the artists.

Culture, Community, and the Classroom: Learning from a Luthier

We love that this lesson builds on students’ interviewing skills over the course of two artist conversations. Students have a chance to think about follow-up questions based on what they retained from the first visit allowing their initial curiosity to deepen into inquiry.

Culture, Community, and the Classroom: Iconography

What happens when you bring students out of the classroom and into a working artists’ studio? This residency began in the classroom with a painting workshop led by a professional icon painter. Then, students had the opportunity to see the impact of the artist’s work when they visited the local church where his icons cover the walls and ceilings. Seeing his work in-person inspired students to ask questions about the intention of the icons and their role in communicating narratives to parishioners, leading to deeper inquiry and insights.

Culture, Community, and the Classroom: Afghan Kites

“Have you ever flown a kite?” Sometimes, a simple question can be an entry into profound learning. In this residency, students not only learned about the craftsmanship required to create a kite that is visually pleasing and capable of flying, but they also learned about the kite’s cultural significance in Afghanistan. By inviting artist Ahmad Shah Wali into the classroom, students learned firsthand how art and design contribute to quality of life within a culture, including their own.

Culture, Community, and the Classroom: Analyzing Identity and Culture in Lullabies

“My students had been under the impression that culture was something that other people had but was not applicable to them. I was excited to see students analyze their own lives and consider (some of them for the first time) how their culture shapes their beliefs and values.” - Cathryn Lally, 9th grade English Language Arts teacher, New York

Culture, Community, and the Classroom: Cultural Inquiry Through Interviewing

Folk artists are often invited into a classroom to demonstrate their art form and sometimes have the opportunity to teach students artistic skills. Less often they are given an opportunity to speak with students about the value of the art form in their personal life and community context. This lesson plan, created for three short artist residencies over the course of a semester, provided the space for student inquiry that allowed them to connect with the artist on a personal level and learn more about their cultural traditions.

Culture, Community, and the Classroom: Hand Mudra Ceramic Sculpture Interpreting Classical Indian Dance

An art teacher pondered how a classical Indian dancer would fit into her high school sculpture curriculum. As she and the artist talked, the idea of gestures, mudras, as sculptural expressions took hold. Folk arts are inherently interdisciplinary, making traditional art forms, ways of teaching and learning, and artists’ passions easy to integrate into most content areas and engaging for all ages. No matter the genre, learners can answer, Where is something like this in my life?

Culture, Community, and the Classroom: Introduction to Mosaic

By studying mosaics across time, students could put a local artist into the context of art history. The lesson also heightened awareness of mosaic art in their community. After a two-part residency (demonstration, interview), the artist and teacher devised an extension to create a large class mosaic. Students made individual leaves for The Collaboration Tree to reflect their own sense of cultural identity. They focused intently and worked hard together and with the artist. Creating a beautiful work as a team allowed them to realize that each of their contributions is important artistically and created a beautiful, meaningful outcome in the mosaic Collaboration Tree.

Culture, Community, and the Classroom: Step Dance

Stepping is a dynamic, vital dance tradition that is widespread among African American fraternities and sororities. Many high schools have step teams. Other students may be unfamiliar with step dance, so learning about it—how to do basic steps—enriches all students.

Culture, Community, and the Classroom: Ritual, Dance, Theatre - An Introduction to Sattriya

By asking students to dig deeper than they usually might to consider their personal traditions and identities and sharing their responses with the artist, this teacher created a pathway to a deep connection between students and the artist. During their planning conversations, the teacher and the artist found similarities in their passions, drama and dance, and developed a close rapport. The teacher introduced the artist by asking students to read her Artist Statement and closely observe her Artist Portrait, which the artist developed during the summer workshop. This allowed them to inventory their assumptions and prepare questions.