CARTS Newsletters

Each year Local Learning and City Lore published a newsletter connecting a folk arts theme to classrooms, communities, and teaching. Below find the two special editions and excerpts from previous issues.

Artists as Educators 2012

Our featured artists consider educating young people essential to their lives as artists. Their stories of sharing a specialized skill or passing on knowledge of a culture or tradition offer insights into effective practices and ways of teaching and learning that are underutilized. They collective make the case for preserving pedagogical diversity in education. Click HERE to download the 34-page issue, which features color photos.

Teaching with Foodways 2010

The study of foodways offers compelling ways to explore local and world customs and cultures through an accessible, universal, everyday practice. The foods we eat provide a firsthand, sensory experience that can build an appetite for learning in any subject and offer opportunities for active, experiential education. Click HERE to download the 28-page issue of the popular 2010 CARTS Newsletter.

Listening: Interviewing in Education

Interviews help build skills essential to learning and critical thinking: formulating questions, close listening, observation, analysis, synthesis, interpretation, collaboration, and patience. Interviews rely on the art of asking questions, but good interviews depend even more on the art of listening, whether it is listening with fresh ears to someone we already know or listening to uncover stories that need to be told.

Interviews: The Heartbeat of Our Inquiry by Paula Rogovin
A 1st-grade teacher demonstrates how much even young children can learn from interviewing. “Books and the Internet are useful, but perhaps the most child-friendly and exciting way for young people to find answers is by interviewing people in their community. Information and concepts children can discover at an interview often go well beyond what they can read.”

Listening Is an Act of Love: The Power of Storytelling in Education by Barbara Becker
StoryCorps has inspired thousands of Americans to share their stories. Here a StoryCorps advisor shares tips for bringing personal storytelling into the classroom.

The Art of Work/The Work of Art: Interview with Brad Bonaparte by 4th Grade Students at PS 78, Long Island City, New York
Occupations are a perfect topic for student interviews. People like to talk about their jobs and how they learned them, what their skills are, what they contribute.

Discovering Community by Paddy Bowman
A 4th-grade teacher in Vermont introduced her students to the concept of community teachers, people who the children learn from in everyday life. Their resulting interviews and art projects helped students see how they are part of history and a community.

Kentucky Remembers by Meredith Martin and Caitlin Swain
The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights and a consortium of organizations developed Kentucky Remembers to train students to collect stories of human rights movement activists. The project demonstrated that through the folklore of our daily lives we can articulate what is strong and beautiful in our cultures and also what we hope to change.

The Artful Interview in Documentary Production by Carol Spellman
An Oregon folklorist who has guided many young people to document community culture through video shares her framework for producing successful video projects.

Clara’s Song: Writing Songs from Interviews by Leo Schaff
In City Lore’s Songwriting Artist Residency, students write songs inspired by their interviews with family, school, or community members. This article focuses on one interview with an immigrant teacher and the students’ songwriting process.

NEA National Heritage Fellows

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowships, we focus on the Heritage Fellows as pedagogical masters who can teaches us a great deal about education as well as art and life. They personify the power and value of informal traditional learning.

Carriers of Culture: Teaching and Learning Native Basketry by Marsha MacDowell and C. Kurt Dewhurst
This extensive project examines the contemporary state of Native American weaving in the U.S. and the ways Native baskets—and their makers—are carriers of culture.

Diversifying Arts Education: A Conversation with Sarah Bainter Cunningham
NEA’s Arts Education Director describes her interest in traditional pedagogy as well as ethnography. She says, “The folk arts remind us, teach us, and train us in context. This is vital to our aesthetic lives, to the living heartbeat of our local communities, and to the success of our citizenship within a democracy.”

The Power of Informal Learning by Paddy Bowman
The NEA Heritage Fellows can inspire young people to investigate the masters of tradition in their own families and communities.

Norma Miller: Stompin’ at the Savoy by Alan Govenar
This Heritage Fellow grew up in Harlem during the 1920s and as a young child loved to dance. She was among the original performers of the Lindy Hop and is renowned among swinger dancers worldwide today. Alan Govenar compiled text from his interviews with Norma to create a picture book of her life. Here we reproduce an excerpt.

The Life Cycle

“When we honor our children with ritual, they know where they belong.”
–Duane Hollow Horn Bear (Rosebud Sioux, South Dakota)

Rituals provide frameworks to help people mark life’s transitions and make meaning of milestones. This issue of CARTS plumbs the deep knowledge embedded in rites of passage and life milestones to build bridges from self to school, student to student, classroom to the world.

The Life Cycle: Folk Customs of Passage by Steve Zeitlin
“In an age when it is easy to live vicariously through t.v. shows and other popular media, attention to the life cycle returns the focus to ourselves and our families, the arenas in which the real work of life takes place,” writes the Director of City Lore.

Welcoming a New Life: Yoruba Naming Traditions by Lisa Falk
By exploring what names mean and how different cultural groups have special naming traditions, students have a lot to learn about themselves, their families, their community, and the world.

Step on the Pedal and Go: Coming of Age in Bermuda by Lisa Falk
A teen and his mother consider the milestone of a first motorbike.

Cajun Weddings by Jane Vidrine
Weddings are very familiar rites of passage, yet each differs. Cajun wedding traditions provide a window for researching this life passage.

Rangoli: Traditions of the Threshold by Amanda Dargan
Threshold traditions offer a concrete form for exploring how rites of passage help practitioners make a transition between two states, such as secular to sacred, outside to inside, child to adult, and so on.

Cemetery Secrets by Paddy Bowman
Cemeteries may seem unlikely fieldtrip destinations, yet they offer rich possibilities for engaging students in primary research.

Claiming Pluralism

If membership and identity remain such vexing issues in our country, what can educators do to help students not only cope with the problem but also take action to resolve it? Preparing young people for active citizenship is arguably the chief end of public education.

“At Home In the World” by Jim Carnes
If membership and identity remain such vexing issues in our country, what can educators do to help students not only cope with the problem but also take action to resolve it? Written by Jim Carnes, editor of Teaching Tolerance, a national education project of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama explores the question,

“May I Borrow?” by Elizabeth Johnson
With the help of the Surdna Foundation, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange launched the National Teen Institute and 30 teens from across the country gathered at the University of Maryland for an intensive two weeks of dance and composition classes, rehearsal, and creation. They were African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Caucasian. They studied diverse dance techniques, from jazz and modern to salsa and traditional Hmong. Some were dramatic, some were shy. Some skateboarded, some studied the Bible. Some liked hip-hop, some liked punk. And despite or maybe because of their differences, they really wanted to like each other…

“More Than Feathers and Casinos: Rethinking Native American Education” by Rick Hill
“….The most difficult thing to impress upon your students is that there is not one standard of Native American culture, dress, art, language, or experience. Over 400 native groups in the U.S. have very different realities. Our cultures are as different from one another as Japanese culture is from Polish culture…”

“Walk in Another’s Shoes” by Judy Thibault Klevins
“The trim, silver-haired man sits ramrod straight, a legacy of his former military training. Sitting close by, not quite as still or straight, his eight-year-old Swapping Stories partner’s smile reflects his own. After the storytelling session, the former Mr. America finalist states, ‘Even though there’s a 75-year difference in our ages, we’ve had very similar experiences.’ His young African-American female partner describes their exchange as ‘talking to him like he was my father.’ How did two former strangers build a bridge of understanding that spanned their cultural, racial, age, and gender difference? They participated in Swapping Stories, an intergenerational/intercultural project I created for….”

“Words Are Serious, Words Are Divine” by Kewulay Kamara
Taking students to visit community sites can provide rich, authentic experiences that inspire powerful personal responses. Often young rappers are—as freestyler Toni Blackman put it—”stuck in style” so writing about dramatic new experiences forces them to experiment. African-American high school students who participated in City Lore’s Poetry Dialogues project worked with poets Toni Blackman and Kewulay Kamara to write poems based on their experience of visiting St. Augustine’s Church, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where slaves and former slaves were separated from White parishioners in a ‘slave gallery’ above the main sanctuary.

“Poetry Dialogues” by Tahani Salah
“I was in the sixth grade when I started writing poetry. I had never realized how special poetry was to me. I started writing not just as an assignment, but almost as a way to let myself be free from everything around me. As I grow older, my poetry seems to evolved from blue hummingbirds to the dark and sorrowful days of oppressed Palestine….My experience as a poet had been great but got even better when I started workshops with the Def Jam Poet Suheir Hammad and City Lore as part of a program called Poetry Dialogues.

Sense of Place

Our own communities are often overlooked laboratories where students find learning that totally engages them. Encouraging young people to engage their five senses to explore their own sense of place binds them not only to a locality but to people; deepens their self-knowledge; and teaches them essential research, decoding, and analysis skills.

“Sense of Place” by Michael Umphrey
“What is a ‘place?’ Is that strip of grass between the lanes on the Interstate highway a place? Is a Web site a place?” Michael Umphrey, a poet and former principal, who currently directs the Montana Heritage Project explores the many notions of place. Umphrey also provides examples for how students can learn the skills of documentation, analysis, synthesis, interpretation, and presentation by studying history, nature, and folklife in the towns and neighborhoods that surround them.

“Fieldwork Builds Learning and Community” by Mark Wagler
Elementary school teacher and folklorist Mark Wagler shares fieldwork methods he uses with his classes. The article includes exercises and inspiration for teaching folklore in the K-12 curriculum. “I am convinced”, he says, “that the single most important factor for teaching folklore in the K-12 curriculum is for teachers to think of themselves, and act, as fieldworkers.”

“La Trace du Boudin” by Paddy Bowman
An engaging profile of Acadiana and Lafayette High School students who prepared the “Guide to Acadian Stores and Meat Markets That Sell Boudin.” The guide, a French and English tourism brochure, explores the boudin, a Cajun sausage made and sold in small family-owned markets all over South Louisiana.”

“How Deer Came to the Kodiak Archipelago” by Josh Wood
Josh Wood, a student from rural Alaska, writes about an unusual relationship between people, animals, and place.

“Family Maps” by Luanne McLaughlin
Luanne McLaughlin, a parent at PS 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, shares a family mapping activity that works in any locale.


Poetry lives not only on the fine paper of beautifully bound books but also in lively slams of verbal duels, cowboy poetry gatherings, and school auditoriums.

“Writing Exercises” by Dave Johnson
“One of the toughest tasks for educators teaching young writers is to get them to see that poetry is everywhere in our lives….The “site” of the Work Poem is a good place to engage young writers to focus on a specific subject matter and to encourage them to explore the language that surrounds the jobs and work they do daily…”

“Poetry Contests and Improvisations” by Amanda Dargan and Steve Zeitlin
An international and historical overview of poetry contests and improvisation.

“Poetry Slam in the Classroom” by Bob Holman
A detailed description of poetry slams and the pros and cons of hosting them with young people in a classroom.

“The Blues” by Amanda Dargan and Steve Zeitlin
“‘What are the blues?’ Well, as Louis Armstrong said about jazz, cousin to the blues, ‘Man, if you gotta ask, you’ll never know.'” That said, folklorists, Amanda Dargan and Steve Zeitin provide a brief history of blues poetry—with examples.

“Fieldtrips to Find Poetry” by Steve Zeitlin
The Handbook of Poetic Forms published by Teachers & Writers Collaborative regards a ‘found poem’ as a piece of writing that was not intended as a poem, but is desclared to be by its ‘finder.’ Poetry can be ‘found’ in everything from newspaper articles, store signs, lists, scraps of conversation, and other everytday uses of language. Steve Zeitlin explains the ‘rules’ of found poetry and offers images and examples for you to begin your own fieldtrips to find poetry.

“Cowboy Poetry Adventures” by Paddy Bowman
“Imagine herding 21 high school students from the coast of Oregon to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada over nine days in the middle of the school year….” Join Paddy Bowman as she chronicles the literary adventures of two teachers and 21 students (cowboy poetry resources provided).