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Folklife & Folk Art Education Resource Guide


Hosting a Folklife Fair

At the conclusion of a teaching unit on folklore community traditions, students can host a folklife fair. This is a great way for students and teachers to share what they have learned about folklore with their peers, parents, and community.

At the fair, students present their folklore. For instance, if a child brought a baby quilt his/her grandmother made, the child would display the quilt and tell the invited quests the significance of the quilt: "My grandmother made this baby quilt for me before I was born and I slept with it every night when I was a little kid. Now I use it when I watch videos. Next year my grandmother is going to teach me to quilt. I am going to save this quilt for my children."

Through this process, the child learns presentation and participation skills, and gains a greater understanding of the concepts of folklore. It is also a great tool for sharing differences, in a controlled, caring environment. At one folklife fair, a Vietnamese American boy brought a food dish of rice and octopus which he and his family eat on a special celebration day. Because the other children had learned about the importance of celebration foods during the folklore unit, the boy not only felt safe in bringing this dish, but he was well received by his classmates, who asked such questions as: "What holiday do you eat this at?" and "Who makes it in your family?" The idea of the folklife fair, therefore, is to share folkloric concepts and expressions in a non-threatening way, thus acknowledging the talents of every student, not just the academically successful.

A folklife fair can be held in the media center, classroom, cafeteria, gymnasium, etc. The place is not important, as long as every child has space to present and there is room for visitors. Usually, visitors walk from child to child listening and asking questions.

As a fun activity prior to the fair, children can make posters to announce the fair to hang in the halls of the school. The art work on the posters could reflect folklore concepts from the students' lives, thus giving the students ownership of the fair and their folklore.

Students may also wish to make invitations for their family: parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. The invitations can be made to reflect the students' folk expressions. For instance, a child with a tradition in home preservation could make his/her invitation in the shape of bottled fruit. Likewise, a child from a tradition of weaving could have a traditional blanket design decorate his/her invitation. Also, you will most likely want to send a note home to parents explaining the event. (For an example see "Sample Folklife Fair Parent Letter.")

For added diversity, invite community members like the mayor, civic and religious leaders, school district superintendent and folk artists, such as carvers, quilters, ethnic/regional cooks, storytellers, dancers, etc.

Sample Folklife Fair Parent Letter

Dear Parents:

You are invited to a folklore fair at Central Elementary School, Friday, February 9, at 1:30 P.M., in the gymnasium. At the fair your child and his/her classmates will share their folk traditions. The fair is the culminating activity of a folklore unit. At the fair students will learn about one another. Please read the information below regarding what your child can share.

WHAT IS FOLKLORE?:

Folklore is the expressive traditions of everyday life that we pass along by word of mouth or by example in folk groups, such as families, regional groups, or ethnic groups. Folklore is the unofficial "stuff" that we all do. For instance, the way we decorate our homes at holiday times, the foods we make on special occasions, or the stories we tell about how our family migrated to the United States.

Some examples of folklore your child could bring and present at the fair are:

Folk object

  • quilts
  • hand-made instruments
  • decorated eggs
  • baskets
  • traditional foods
  • embroidered items
  • leis
  • traditional costumes
  • samplers
  • rag dolls
  • carved/whittled items
  • homemade toys

Customary activity

(If your child decides to share a customary folk expression he or she could bring or draw a picture of the custom and explain the expression at the fair.)

celebrations:

  • Passover
  • fiesta
  • New Year's Eve
  • 4th of July
  • luau
  • Christmas
  • birthday
  • wedding

folk medicine:

  • wart cures
  • hiccup cures
  • cough cures
  • headache cures

school traditions:

  • cat's cradle
  • jumprope
  • hopscotch
  • handclap games

verbal folklore:

  • jokes
  • family songs
  • urban legends
  • jump rope rhymes

Please have your child bring the item they choose to share at the fair to school by Friday, February 9. And, PLEASE JOIN US.


Thank you