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)

Filter by Class Subject

Filter by Themes

Filter by Research Topic

Resources by Type

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 […]

Teaching with Foodways

The study of foodways offers compelling ways to explore local and world customs and cultures through an accessible, universal, everyday practice. The foods we eat provide a firsthand, sensory experience that can build an appetite for learning in any subject and offer opportunities for active, experiential education. Read the 28-page issue of the popular 2010 […]

Kentucky Remembers

The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights and a consortium of organizations developed Kentucky Remembers to train students to collect stories of human rights movement activists. The project demonstrated that through the folklore of our daily lives we can articulate what is strong and beautiful in our cultures and also what we hope to change.

Discovering Community

A 4th-grade teacher in Vermont introduced her students to the concept of community teachers, people who the children learn from in everyday life. Their resulting interviews and art projects helped students see how they are part of history and a community.

Listening Is an Act of Love: The Power of Storytelling in Education

StoryCorps has inspired thousands of Americans to share their stories. Here a StoryCorps advisor shares tips for bringing personal storytelling into the classroom.

Interviews: The Heartbeat of Our Inquiry

A 1st-grade teacher demonstrates how much even young children can learn from interviewing. “Books and the Internet are useful, but perhaps the most child-friendly and exciting way for young people to find answers is by interviewing people in their community. Information and concepts children can discover at an interview often go well beyond what they […]

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 […]

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.

Cajun Weddings

Weddings are very familiar rites of passage, yet each differs. Cajun wedding traditions provide a window for researching this life passage.

A teen and his mother consider the milestone of a first motorbike.

A teen and his mother consider the milestone of a first motorbike.

Cemetery Secrets

Cemeteries may seem unlikely fieldtrip destinations, yet they offer rich possibilities for engaging students in primary research.

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.

More Than Feathers and Casinos: Rethinking Native American Education

“….The most difficult thing to impress upon your students is that there is not one standard of Native American culture, dress, art, language, or experience. Over 400 native groups in the U.S. have very different realities. Our cultures are as different from one another as Japanese culture is from Polish culture…”

At Home In the World

If membership and identity remain such vexing issues in our country, what can educators do to help students not only cope with the problem but also take action to resolve it? Written by Jim Carnes, editor of Teaching Tolerance, a national education project of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama.

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, […]

Poetry Dialogues

“I was in the sixth grade when I started writing poetry. I had never realized how special poetry was to me. I started writing not just as an assignment, but almost as a way to let myself be free from everything around me. As I grow older, my poetry seems to evolved from blue hummingbirds […]

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.”

Sense of Place

“What is a ‘place?’ Is that strip of grass between the lanes on the Interstate highway a place? Is a Web site a place?” Michael Umphrey, a poet and former principal, who currently directs the Montana Heritage Project explores the many notions of place. Umphrey also provides examples for how students can learn the skills […]

Fieldwork Builds Learning and Community

Elementary school teacher and folklorist Mark Wagler shares fieldwork methods he uses with his classes. The article includes exercises and inspiration for teaching folklore in the K-12 curriculum. “I am convinced”, he says, “that the single most important factor for teaching folklore in the K-12 curriculum is for teachers to think of themselves, and act, […]

Family Maps

Luanne McLaughlin, a parent at PS 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, shares a family mapping activity that works in any locale.

How Deer Came to the Kodiak Archipelago

Josh Wood, a student from rural Alaska, writes about an unusual relationship between people, animals, and place.

Poetry Contests and Improvisations

An international and historical overview of poetry contests and improvisation.

Cowboy Poetry Adventures

“Imagine herding 21 high school students from the coast of Oregon to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada over nine days in the middle of the school year….” Join Paddy Bowman as she chronicles the literary adventures of two teachers and 21 students (cowboy poetry resources provided).

Fieldtrips to Find Poetry

The Handbook of Poetic Forms published by Teachers & Writers Collaborative regards a ‘found poem’ as a piece of writing that was not intended as a poem, but is desclared to be by its ‘finder.’ Poetry can be ‘found’ in everything from newspaper articles, store signs, lists, scraps of conversation, and other everytday uses of […]

Poetry Slam in the Classroom

A detailed description of poetry slams and the pros and cons of hosting them with young people in a classroom.

A Child's Salute: Iowa's Project Honors Newcomers

Information on how teachers can identify folk groups and then incorporate the exploration of these groups into the classroom learning experience.

Teacher's Self-Discovery

Teaching teachers acceptance and respect through training that begins with the teacher examining their own culture and then expanding to the cultures of other people. For a similar approach with students, see “Engaging Diversity: A Teacher Talks about Folk Arts-Driven Educational Reform” by Susanne Nixdorf

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.

Among Folk: Using Folklife To Build Partnerships With Students And Their Families

A folklife curriculum bridges the generational gap between students, parents, and grandparents and aids in student’s quest for their own identity.

A Community Celebration Of Place

A program brings rural Alabama communities together when students interview community elders and get the stories to music.

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

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

Folk Culture Inspires Writing Across The Curriculum

Two folklife activities that encourage writing across the curriculum: reading cultural objects and fieldwork about Halloween and Day of the Dead.

That Zora Sure Could Write

Looking at the work of Zora Neal Hurston, Anokye examines how oral discourse can be transferred into writing. He argues that Hurston’s work provides a model teaching tool for preserving oral traditions through writing. Also includes a short biography of Hurston.

Holidays and Schools: Folklore Theory and Educational Practice, or, Where Do We Put the Christmas Tree?

How an Ohio parent and folklorist successfully engaged the issue of holiday celebrations in schools by integrating community study, family folklore and social studies curricula.

Mining Values in the Montana Heritage Project

Through asking her junior English class to investigate an old building that was once a gym, Rasmussen “discovered the joy of using cultural heritage in the classroom.”

Finding Folk Arts in Teachers' and Students' Lives

How teachers can identify folk groups and incorporate cultural explorations into the classroom learning experienceHow teachers can identify folk groups and incorporate cultural explorations into the classroom learning experience. .

A Teacher Talks About Folk Arts-Driven Educational Reform

How a rural Pennsylvanian school district taught about diversity and respect for other cultures through a folklife/folk arts program.

Storytelling at the Crossroads

Teaching storytelling: the power, importance and influence of the storyteller