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

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

Step dance is a dynamic, vital 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.