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Folklore and Education Projects

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The American Folklore Society's Folklore in Education Section gives two awards to recognize excellent work to incorporate folklore into K-12 classrooms and curricula in all educational environments: the Dorothy Howard Prize, which recognizes projects that encourage K-12 educators or students to use or study folklore and folkloristic approaches in all educational environments; and the Robinson-Roeder-Ward Fellowship, which supports educators with a demonstrated commitment to folklore to attend folklore and education workshops at the AFS annual meeting.  These award-winning projects and educators are valuable resources for K-12 and other educators who want to explore the integration of folklore into their classrooms and curricula.




Past Dorothy Howard Prize Recipients

2014: Home in the Heartland: Nebraska's Sudanese Cultures educational trunk by the Nebraska Folklife Network. Gwen Meister received the award. 

2013 (two awards)Pass It On: Cultural Traditions of the Lower Eastern Shore, A K-12 Curriculum and Activity Guide by the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, of Salisbury University. The curriculum project was directed by Dr. Cynthia Byrd.

Everyday Music by Alan Govenar, with the Everyday Music Education Guide by Paddy Bowman.

2012 (two awards): Through the Schoolhouse Door: Folklore, Community, and Curriculum, edited by Paddy Bowman and Lynne Hamer.  This anthology details nine approaches to folk arts education, grounds the field in a historical context, and looks ahead to future developments in folk arts education. 

Here at Home, A Wisconsin Cultural Tour for K-12 Teachers, a project of the Wisconsin Teachers of Local Culture, the Wisconsin Arts Board, and the Center for the Study for Upper Midwestern Cultures.

2011: Show-Me Traditions: An Educators' Guide to Teaching Folk Arts and Folklife in Missouri Schools, written and developed by Susan Eleuterio in collaboration with staff and master artists of the Missouri Folk Arts Program, was published in 2009. A revised and updated edition was e-published in 2011 at The guide includes eight lesson plans, definitions and vocabulary, outcomes and links to grade level expectations, as well as artist profiles for ten teaching artists in Missouri's folk and traditional arts.  

2010 (two awards): Folklife Resources for Educators, a project of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, is an online portal for educators working in K-12 and undergraduate education. It provides access to resources for teaching about aspects of folklife, culture, and the traditional arts, with a focus on place-based and community-based teaching materials.

Iowa Folklife, Volume II invites students and teachers to explore the traditional music, foods, dance, rituals, and crafts of Iowa's diverse cultures. This online resource includes content pages, photos, audio samples, suggested readings, lesson plans, and a variety of online resources for students (k12) and educators. Written and developed by Iowa Folklife Coordinator Riki Saltzman, Iowa Folklife, Volume II, a companion to Iowa Folklife: Our People, Communities, and Traditions (2006 Dorothy Howard prize winner), represents many years of creative collaboration with traditional artists, their communities, museum and library educators, and multicultural curriculum specialists.

2009: Folk Arts in Education: A Resource Handbook II, a project of the Michigan State University Museum, examines the state of folklife and folk arts in education projects around the U.S. with sample curricula from over 50 exemplary programs for youth in educational settings in K-12 schools, youth-serving organizations arts and humanities councils, museums, and cultural heritage and folk arts nonprofit organizations. Folklife programs in schools and after-school programs bring young people in touch with their communities, their ethnic identities, the authentic cultural expressions of their own families and others through direct participation and ethnographic methods using photography, video, radio, audio recordings, exhibitions, festival, and residencies with tradition-bearers. A web resources section links educators to folk arts programs nationwide.

2008: The Folkstreams web site is a powerful resource with national and international appeal and potential for use. This easy to navigate site currently provides 106 documentary films which represent a wide slice of the American experience and provide a valuable learning tool for educators, students, folklorists, cultural studies specialists, film studies students, and the general public. provides information on filmmakers, blog opportunities, ways to access links, copyright information, links by subject and region and a guide to best practices in film digitization. There are both educator and generations portals which have links to excellent discussion questions, a range of related activities that incorporate several learning styles and suggested activities which promote critical inquiry, student application of the ideas and techniques for students’ own community research.

Honorable Mention: The Fisk Jubilee Singers: Singing Our Song received a noteworthy honorable mention award as an excellent multimedia presentation and educational kit. Produced by the Tennessee Arts Commission under the American Masterpieces initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts, this kit explores the history and today’s role of the Fisk University African-American choral group which began in 1871.

2007: Quilting Circles--Learning Communities, submitted by Anne Pryor. Quilting Circles is a thoughtful, focused and well-balanced use of material culture resources and scholarship about those materials. This curriculum guide is quite thorough, relevant on a national (possibly even an international level) and the tactile-ness of the project is both appealing and useful for teachers. Educators in a range of classroom settings will find the package of practical activities, culturally contextualized essays and the guides for further exploration and study a welcome and innovative addition to their own teaching toolkits. The most-welcome addition of the CD allows the images to be projected on the wall, multiplying the possibilities of group discussions or large-scale patterns from which to practice sewing techniques. The lessons in Quilting Circles--Learning Communities move between hands-on projects and studying quilts in cultural contexts. They invite students to make connections with the quilts in their own lives. All lessons are interdisciplinary, infusing art with social studies, language arts, and technology. All lessons are linked with Wisconsin curriculum standards. T0 order materials, contact the Office of Education Outreach, 1050 University Avenue, Madison WI 53706; 608/262-4650.

Second Place: The website Folkvine, submitted by Tina Bucavalas of the Florida Folklife Program. This website is an extremely innovative and interactive resource. The Dorothy Howard committee particularly liked the fresh, creative approach to presenting and discussing folklore: the use of bobble heads and each "guide” to the artists is specific in a design sense to the artist’s style, which gives the site a very unique feel. It is also packed with information and offers a variety of ways to access audio, visual, and textual resources.

Honorable Mention: "Bullfrog Jumped: Children's Folksongs from the Byron Arnold Collection," a CD-ROM submitted by Joey Brackner of the Alabama Center for Traditional Culture. "Bullfrog Jumped: Children’s Folksongs from the Byron Arnold Collection” is a wonderful compilation of children’s folksongs and a tribute to Bryon Arnold. The recordings are of excellent quality, and the contextualization of the songs further enriches the project. Included is a seventy-two page guide, which provided resources for educator.

2006: Iowa Folklife: Our People, Communities, and Traditions provides teachers and students with a variety of resources to explore folklife and community traditions in Iowa. K-12 educators can access resources to teach folklife in the classroom as well as compare and contrast their own state or country traditions with Iowa’s folklife. This online resource includes content-related connections, video and audio recordings, suggestions for student projects and ways to engage senior citizens in documenting their traditions.

Honorable Mention: Bermuda Connections: A Cultural Resource Guide for the Classroom. Published by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The guide includes a 278-page classroom handbook, a videotape, an audio CD, a map of Bermuda, and an interview guide in poster form. It draws on the research for and presentations at the Bermuda Connections program of the 2001 Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the fieldwork projects of the students of Bermudian teachers who had been fellows at the Smithsonian during the Festival.

2005: The Spurrin’ the Words 4-H Cowboy Poetry Project, created by Kirk A. Astroth, Director of the Montana 4-H Center for Youth Development, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana. Published in July 2004, this work embodies the principles Dorothy Howard practiced herself in promoting the study of folklife and folklore in schools and other educational settings. The book teaches youth how to write poetry following rhyme and meter patterns, but it also includes recipes, history, tips for reading brands, and profiles of famous poets like Badger Clark, and a section on Native American cowboys and women poets. A CD features Montana cowboy and cowgirl poets reading their works and the works of others that include classics. More information is available online.

Wisconsin Weather Stories, a collaborative project between the Wisconsin Arts Board and two divisions of the University of Wisconsin : the cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies and the UW Folklore Program. The project designers include folklorist Anne Pryor, atmospheric scientist Steven Ackerman, meteorologist Margaret Mooney from CIMSS, and folklorist James Leary from UW. Five undergraduate students were key workers and five Wisconsin K-12 classroom teachers participated in developing an interdisciplinary approach to teaching about their love of weather and testing the materials in their classrooms.

2004: The Hmong Cultural Tour, developed by Mark Wagler. This comprehensive project provides a superb model for students, teachers, folklorists and community members who wish to document and educate about their community’s cultural development. Teacher and student guides are available online.

Honorable Mention: Portraits of Oregon: Youth Exploring Culture and Community, developed by Carol Spellman at The Oregon Historical Society Folklife Program. This thorough, intensive documentary project brings together youth and older community members using interview and video documentary techniques. Project guides and streamed video are available online.

2003: The Florida Music Train, written and developed by Laurie Sommers and produced by the Florida Folklife Program’s Bureau of Historic Preservation and the Florida Folklore Society. For more information about this multimedia kit, contact Laurie Sommers.

Honorable Mention: The Masters of Traditional Arts DVD and Teacher’ Guide, available online, and the Wisconsin Folks website.

2002: Discovering Our Delta, by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Jan Rosenberg, project leader.

Uncle Monday and Other Florida Tales (University of Mississippi Press, 2001), written by Kristin Congdon with illustrations by Kitty Kitson Petterson. Teaching points accompany each of the stories, which come from contemporary as well as historical sources.

2001: Traditional Arts of the Oregon Country (1999) by Laura Marcus, and five instructional units posted on the Support for Teachers in Art section of the Oregon Public Education Network website (2000), compiled by Leila Childs

2000: Louisiana Voices: An Educator's Guide to Exploring our Communities and Traditions, by Paddy Bowman, Sylvia Bienvenu, and Maida Owens

1999: Brown Girl in the Ring: An Anthology of Song Games from the Eastern Caribbean, by Alan Lomax, J.D. Elder & Bess Lomax Hawes. Available through the CARTS Culture Catalog.

1998: CARTS (Cultural Arts Resources for Teachers and Students) website and newsletter, by Amanda Dargan, Gail Matthews-DeNatale, and Paddy Bowman.

1997: Standards for Folklife Education: Integrating Language Arts, Social Studies, Arts and Science through Student Traditions and Cultures, Diane Sidener Young, editor. Available through the CARTS Culture Catalog.

Past Robinson-Roeder-Ward Fellowship Recipients

2013: Natasha Agrawal, an ESL teacher at Carroll Robbins Elementary School in Trenton, New Jersey.  Her presentation, "Training Teachers to Connect with Elementary School Children from the Thai-Burmese Refugee Camps," is part of the 2013 AFS diamond session, "What Do Folklorists Do? We Teach."  

2011: Heather Bossert Cunningham is a high school social studies teacher at City Charter High Schoool in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the American Folklore Society 2011 annual meeting in Bloomington, Indiana, Heather presented her paper "The Community Is Our Classroom” during the panel session The Pennsylvania Standards for Folklife Education in Practice: Three Perspectives on Viability. Heather also participated in the 18th Annual Folklore in Education Workshop: Keeping the Peace: Educating for Social Justice during the conference.

2008: Emily Coffey, K-6 art teacher at Edmonton Elementary in Edmonton, Kentucky, received the 2008 Robinson-Roeder-Ward Fellowship. Emily had the opportunity of attending a hands-on seminar on Kentucky folk arts that stimulated her interest to integrate more folk study into her art curriculum.

2006: Mark Wagler from Randall Elementary School in Madison, Wisconsin, was this year's recipient. Wagler's 4th and 5th-grade classes have completed several in-depth cultural and folklife fieldwork explorations, including the Dane County Cultural Tour, the Hmong Cultural Tour, the Park Street Cultural Tour, and the Greenbush Cultural Tour. Information about Wagler's current educational programming, entitled Games and Simulations: Playing to Learn, was submitted by Steve Ackerman.

2005: Renee Morris from Gainesville Middle School in Gainsville, Georgia. Renee and several of her students attended the annual Saturday morning AFS Folklife and Education Section workshop. They shared their original research about family stories. Classroom projects included immigration and integration stories and a novella entitled A Gathering of Young People inspired by the book A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest Gaines. The students narratives address bullying, prejudice, and cliques among teens. Renee received a grant from Teaching Tolerance Foundation of the Southern Poverty Law Center. She continues to work on additional writings with her class including the gathering of stories called The Ghosts of Gainesville.

2004: Tamera Newman of Tremonton, Utah. Tamera was the first recipient of the Robinson-Roeder-Ward Fellowship. She has had her high-school English students conducting oral-history interviews with local veterans, with a special emphasis on WW II vets. She has compiled many of these transcribed interviews into a self-published book, allowing students to share their work with others. Two student participants, MacKenzie Petersen and Elizabeth Thayne, joined Newman to discuss their experiences working on the project at the annual Saturday morning AFS Folklife and Education Section workshop.

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