The Philadelphia Folklore Project is dedicated to assisting educators and artists in making folk arts accessible to students of all ages. We see folk arts as transformative and one of the most powerful ways to help students understand cultural diversity and human ingenuity. Since folk arts relies on informal transmission, happening outside of larger institutions, the study of folk arts also helps educators raise critical questions about how knowledge has been historically constructed, shared, and the multiple ways it continues to be passed on. In short, folk arts teach students to see the various types of learning opportunities that happen in all areas of their lives, from the classroom to the family room.
Folk arts and education has played a pivotal part in PFP’s mission. In 2005, working with Asian Americans United, we co-founded the Folk Arts–Cultural Treasures Charter School (FACTS) to address some of the educational needs of Philadelphia’s growing immigrant and non-English speaking communities. The school welcomes and honors the gifts of the rich cultural and linguistic diversity of the city, recognizes the power of traditional cultures in teaching children, and utilizes folk arts as a springboard for learning across the curriculum. In this school, Philadelphia folk artists teach dance, music, craft, and other traditional arts from cultures around the world, presenting each cultural tradition as equally valid, beautiful, and deserving to be shared. In doing so, this community-based educational approach incorporates and respects the lives of students and their families, helps students understand their own and their friends’ cultures as well as communities, assists students to see themselves as active cultural participants, and encourages them to work for a more just and inclusive society. Learn more about FACTS here.
To support artists and educators in bringing community-based traditions into the classroom, we have developed several resources, including publications, exhibitions, and websites:
- “Sites of Struggle: Bringing Folklore and Social Change into the Classroom” (2001), by Deborah Wei and Debora Kodish, published in Works in Progress, Vol 14:1/2 Summer 2001.
- The Folk Arts of Social Change exhibition (1999), which detailed how we learn/transmit ethics and values as well as how community-based arts help make this learning and teaching possible.
- “Big Shoes to Fill,” by Debora Kodish and Teresa Jaynes, provides instructions on how to make your own folk arts exhibition. It was reprinted in the book, Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching (2004), edited by Alana Murray and Deborah Menkart and published by Teaching for Change and the Poverty and Race Research Action Council.
- www.culturetools.org, a website featuring student work in folk arts and resources on teaching folk arts, developed with Asian Americans United (AAU) and FACTS, supported through Scribe Video Center’s eSights, Sounds community project initiative.
- “The Education of a Storyteller” (2011), by Irma Gardner-Hammond, interviewed and transcribed by Abimbola Cole, published in Works in Progress, Vol 24:1/2, Spring 2011. This piece shares powerful information on how to conceive, become, and think about traditional storytellers.
- “Folk Arts and Multicultural Education: Notes on a Folklore Project Program,” by Toni Shapiro-Phim, published in Works in Progress, Vol 19:2/3, Summer 2005. This piece discusses the impact of arts residency programs on students.