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 Michael Doucet 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.

Heritage Fellow Rosa Elena Egipciaco 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.

Heritage Fellow Mary Louise Defender Wilson 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.

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.

Heritage Fellow John Cephas 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.

Research and Readings

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.”

The Power of Informal Learning

The NEA Heritage Fellows can inspire young people to investigate the masters of tradition in their own families and communities.

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 […]