Uncommon Folk: Creating Community

A lesson plan involving folk art provides a great opportunity to explore the many aspects of community—and to strengthen school-community connections. The prompts below will facilitate a class discussion as you introduce concepts around folk art to your students. Explore one or all of the prompts in preparation for your visit to the Museum—and for a visit from a local artist! The Milwaukee community  has a number of artists active in the making of folk art. Perhaps some of your students even know someone in their family who could visit your school to discuss his or her art with the students.

First, write “folk art” on the board and ask students what the phrase means. Urge students to participate as you record their responses.

Next, divide the two words. Ask what “folk” means. Record responses. [It means people: we are all folk. What if we think of it as referring to different groups of people?]

Ask what different kinds of groups the students belong to. [Differences in background, gender, age, neighborhood, interests/skills may emerge.]

Extend: Consider, within these categories, differences of “belonging” (beginner/expert, comfortable/uneasy) and differences in ways of belonging (attitude, perspective, etc.).

Now ask what “art” is. Sort answers. [Something that is beautiful/meaningful, created/shaped/made/crafted; something that requires skill.

Extend: Use examples such as music, song, craft, riddles, proverbs, homemade food, gardening. Discuss what seems to count as art, what does not, and why.

Ask what “traditions” are. List abstract definitions. [Something that is passed on, shared, among members of a community.]

Extend: Share examples of traditions in your family, school, classroom, etc.

Choose a single example of a tradition, for instance, birthdays, and ask what people do to celebrate them.

Extend: For specifics, such as foods, customs, clothes, behavior, discuss how they learned these traditions. [From family, friends, others: person-to-person. By watching, learning, copying—not by books or lessons or TV.]