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Introducing Your Child to the Arts: Folk Art (page 4)

— National Endowment for the Arts
Updated on Mar 14, 2011

Education and Special Programs in Folk Arts

Young people absorb their own cultural traditions from family members, friends, neighbors, and spiritual leaders. Experiencing cultural traditions of others through local programs offered by museums and other cultural institutions helps young children learn about others.

Six- to eight-year-olds gain knowledge about folk arts in many settings: home, school, community centers, libraries,museums, festivals. Quality educational programs integrate folk arts into language arts, social studies, math, science, visual art,music, theater, and dance. This approach teaches literacy, civic responsibility, and cultural curiosity in an authentic, meaningful fashion. In today’s schools, folk artists share their talents with students by demonstrating cultural traditions and performing stories, songs, or dance.

For example, a local artist may visit the school to show students the art of Navajo basketweaving. Encourage your children’s teachers to strengthen school-community connections by incorporating folk arts into their ongoing lesson plans.

In elementary school, students work with educators to document folk arts just as professional folklorists do by interviewing, photographing, and recording family and community members. Six- to eight-yearolds interview family members and document their findings like junior ethnographers. As students mature, they test interesting venues to present their fieldwork findings: exhibits, performances,multimedia presentations,Web sites, publications, radio programs, and videos.

If we take the time to stop, look, question, and listen, we discover that art is all around us, often in the form of folk arts. The process of exploring folk arts with our children helps us rediscover that our families, neighbors, and communities provide rich, engaging learning environments.

Resources

Today we can find hundreds of books, Web sites, and recordings about local, regional, national, and global cultural groups and their folk traditions. Organizations such as the National Council for the Traditional Arts, National Network for Folk Arts in Education, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress strive to introduce people to authentic resources that convey accurate portraits of people and places. Individual state arts agencies employ or collaborate with state folk arts coordinators who will be able to provide expertise and information concerning folk arts.

Children's Books About the Folk Art

Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco
A Is For Amish by Kim Gehman Knisely
Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan’s Chinese New Year by Madeline Slovenz

Parent Resources

Masters of Traditional Arts, A Biographical Dictionary by Alan Govenar is a two-volume set with biographical entries for all of the NEA National Heritage Fellows from 1982-2001. Many libraries have a copy of the set.
A DVD-Rom presenting audio-visual samples of the works of National Heritage Fellows is also available.

Children of the Midnight Sun: Young Native Voices of Alaska by Tricia Brown profiles children from eight Alaskan Native groups.

Step It Down: Games and Songs From the Afro-American Heritage by Bessie Jones and Bess Lomax Hawes includes many games and play songs and stories that will jog parents’ memories of their own childhood play.

Web Sites

American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress
lcweb.loc.gov/folklife
Houses thousands of photographs, recordings, and documents. Look for online collections such as the John and Ruby Lomax Collection, which has many children’s songs, and publications such as Folklife and Fieldwork, a guide to doing fieldwork.

CARTS: Cultural Arts Resources for Teachers and Students
www.carts.org
CARTS is a Web site created by City Lore, a nonprofit cultural organization, to provide resources and best practices for integrating the folk arts into schools’ curricula. The site also includes information on the National Network for Folk Arts in Education, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which provides artist residencies with NEA National Heritage
Fellows, activities, and links to national and regional resources. Click on the map under “Resources” and find out about the folk arts of your region.

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
www.folklife.si.edu
Find a virtual festival, online guides such as “Borders and Identity” about the U.S.-Mexico border, and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, offering hundreds of recordings of traditional music from around the U.S. and the world, http://www.si.edu/folkways.

National Council for the Traditional Arts
www.ncta.net
Founded in 1933, the National Council for the Traditional Arts is the nation’s oldest presenting organization that deals with folk, ethnic and tribal arts, dedicated to the preservation and documentation of traditional arts in the United States.

Folkstreams.net
www.folkstreams.net
This is a Web site intended to build a national preserve of documentary films about American folk culture. Educational materials are presented to accompany the streamed audio-visual presentations.

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