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Folk Arts in Education

Pennsylvania Teacher Training in Folk Arts, Folklife, and Oral History


  1. May 12-June 21, Anthropology of Education, School of Education, University of Pittsburgh, taught by Linda Deafenbaugh. This course introduces educators to the intersection of the fields of anthropology and education. Core topics, explored cross-culturally, include formal and informal cultural transmission, sense of place, identity, metaphors and story, cultural congruence and conflict in schools, community and school celebrations as vehicles for moral education, and folk, popular, and elite cultural processes operating in schools.
    Contact, 412/915-6382.
  2. Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers July 5-August 8, Voices Across Time: Teaching American History Through Song, Center for American Music, University of Pittsburgh. This NEH institute is open to full-time teachers in all disciplines.
    Contact Kathy Haines and see
  3. July 7-August 10, Writing and Culture, Place Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, taught by Miriam Camitta. This course looks at writing as several variable, multiple, diverse, and changing practices contingent upon specific cultural and social contexts. We want to understand what writing means to the individual, to his or her community, and to larger social entities. The approach and readings draw on the theory and methods of anthropology, folklore, sociolinguistics, and the new literacy studies.
    Contact Penny Creedon, 610/898-8434, or
  4. July 7-11, Developing Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity I, Allegheny Intermediate Unit 3, Homestead, led by Linda Deafenbaugh. This workshop focuses on understanding cultural differences, the processes that lead to prejudice, and the basic concepts underlying multicultural education program models. We explore the range of cultural issues that confront English Language Learners and approaches to working with all students and teachers to help these newcomers to our schools adjust.
    Contact, 412/915-6382.
  5. July 21-30, Developing Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity II, Allegheny Intermediate Unit 3, Homestead, led by Linda Deafenbaugh. This workshop deepens our learning about the issues raised in the introductory workshop. We will look at the dynamics and tensions inherent in the assimilation and acculturation process in our country, focusing on the effects this has had on the cultural identity of English Language Learners in our schools. We work with several multicultural education program models to explore their strengths and limitations at addressing pressing issues in the schools.
    Contact, 412/915-6382.

The Center on Education Policy, an independent advocate for public education and effective schools, has updated research on the effects of NCLB on the curriculum. Their press release states, We knew that many school districts had made shifts in the time spent teaching different subjects since the No Child Left Behind was enacted, but we had little evidence of the magnitude of these changes within those districts. Digging deeper into the data, we now know that the amount of time spent teaching reading, math, and other subjects has changed substantially. In other words, changes in curriculum are not only widespread but also deep. Learn more at

American Folklore Society workshop for local educators, students, and folklorists. Were looking for ideas, volunteers, and local teacher contacts, email me. Learn more about folklore and the conference at

Lesson Plans & Classroom Materials Ways to Use Primary Sources from the Library of Congress in the Classroom
The following linked pages offer a wide range of teaching strategies and learning activities for K-12 classes in American and world history, civics, politics, the visual arts and literature. Activities and lesson plans contain a wealth of primary source materials and are also designed to teach students the skills and techniques that folklorists, historians, anthropologists, and librarians use in the course of conducting research, interpreting their findings, and presenting the results of their research to the public.

Some Tips of the Trade: A few guidelines make oral history easy

Technology has made recording oral histories cheaper and the results more engaging. Here is some advice for getting started.

Covers such aspects as:

+ Preparation (”Head to your local library and dig up newspapers from pivotal dates in your subject's life (i.e., wedding, first day on the job, death of a parent). By reading not only the headlines but also the advertisements, sports scores, and entertainment pages, you might be able to take the subject back to the old days and prompt unusual responses.)

+ Technology (”Archivists argue over the best format and the medium with the most longevity. But the basic rule is to use the best technology available to you. First and foremost, choose between audio and video. Each has its own advantages and drawbacks. Audio is intimate and less obtrusive in the interview process, but the poignancy of a moving image is considerable.”)

+ Questions (”Avoid yes-or-no questions at all costs. The purpose of oral histories isn't to ascertain a given set of facts but rather to take a collection of memories and feelings. Open-ended questions like 'How did it make you feel to…?' work best.”)

Congress appropriated a $20 million increase for NEA from $124.4 to $144.7 million, and each program will receive more funding. Learning in the arts is an indispensable part of American education: 1) children celebrate and participate in their cultural inheritance, and 2) academic and social maturity follow directly from arts education experiences. The guidelines again allow applications for professional development for teachers and artists and encourage projects that involve National Heritage Fellows in arts learning with goals and assessment based on the values and benchmarks appropriate to the traditions studied. Contact Terry Liu with ideas and questions,

Folkstreams Educators Portal offers strategies for teaching with folklife documentaries and several lesson plans for high school students

Heritage Education - National Center for Preservation Technology and Training for lesson plans. The program curriculum was developed to encompass the primary subjects of math, English language arts, science and social studies, using culture and heritage resources as the method of delivering the lessons.

South Georgia Folklife Collection Education guide Folkwriting, by Laurie and Diane Howard.

A Game Room features virtual board games for students, who start by designing their own bobble-head doll playing pieces. Visit artists, use multimedia guides, and play the games.


The Hohle Fels Venus figurine cave discovery suggests the humans, who are believed to have come to Europe around 40,000 years ago, had the intelligence to create symbols and think abstractly in a way that matches the modern human. "It's 100 percent certain that, by the time we get to 40,000 years ago in Swabia, we're dealing with people just like you and me," Nicholas Conard said, referring to the southern German region where the Venus Hohle Fels ivory sculpture was recovered.
Erotic art, the Venus of the Hohle Fels unveiled in Germany by Nicholas Conard of TubingenUniversity in Germany said that sexual symbolism was alive and well in ancient human cultures, just as they are today. Some theories in Germany suggest the cave, Hohle Fels, where the ancient "Venus" figurine was unearthed could indicate an ancient human sexual hiding place. In 2005, researches found a 20cm-long 28,000-year-old piece of stone shaped like a penis in the same cave. The discovery predates the well-known Venuses from the Gravettian culture by at least 5,000 years and radically changes our views of the context and meaning of the earliest Palaeolithic art. Before this discovery female imagery was entirely unknown. It is clear that the sexually symbolic dimension in European, and indeed worldwide, art has a long ancestry in the evolution of our species.