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: 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.

Interviewing Virtual Unit

By interviewing family and community members to document their stories, songs, crafts, and skills, we encounter deep local learning, which we can record and share in many ways. Visit our Inquiry Resources to go more in-depth!

Research and Readings

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 […]

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.

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.

The Artful Interview in Documentary Production

An Oregon folklorist who has guided many young people to document community culture through video shares her framework for producing successful video projects. See the reprint of this article in the 2019 Journal of Folklore and Education.

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.

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, […]

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.