Kari Giordano – Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching 2020

Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching Inquiry Project: Place-based Art Education Creative Connections in Rural Communities

Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching Inquiry Project: Place-based Art Education
Creative Connections in Rural Communities


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Place-based Art Education

Creative Connections in Rural Communities

Kari Giordano

UK Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching


University of Edinburgh

In January 2020 my family and I headed to Scotland

to live in Edinburgh while I participated in

the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching

fellowship. I was one of three lucky teachers

from the US to conduct research through

the UK Fulbright Commission. Though cut

short due to the Covid-19 crisis, my limited

time in Scotland was spent visiting schools,

museums, galleries, historic landmarks, and

natural wonders. I interviewed teachers, professors,

administrators, students, museum educators and

community members. Each encounter expanded my knowledge

and further developed my research and findings.

There are many people I’d like to thank for their support in my

fellowship and the creation of this guide.

At home in the US:

Tracy Smith, Glenn Devoti, Kerry Burke, Jeanne Lemlin, Wendy

Casey, Michelle Raszl, Stephanie Graham, Courtney English,

Victoria Aldam, Sarah Siket, James Siket, E. Bonnie Silvers, Kurt

DeGrenier, Angel Rote, Erin Graham, Andrew Graham, Curtis

Bohner, Jesse Carpenter, Peter Bohler and the staff at IREX, and

my colleagues at the Southern Berkshire Regional School District.

Abroad in the UK:

Rebecca Thurston, Ana Guerra Pereira, and the staff at the US/

UK Fulbright Commission, Teresa Pickburn, Sandra MacGregor,

Robbie Nicol, Nick Adair, Melvyn Roffe, Robin Baillie, Vaila

McLaren, Jane Kerr, John Kerr, Marina McLeod, Isobel Finnies,

Vaila McLaren, Pauline Cumming, Claire Kalambay, Elana

Eisen-Markowitz, Sarah Cowie, and to my advisor, Rowena

Arshad who made all of the Scottish connections possible and

whose support and enthusiasm were invaluable.

The author of this publication is a Fellow of the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Semester Research Program, a program

of the United States Department of State, administered by IREX. The views and information presented are the grantee’s own

and do not represent the US Department of State, the Fulbright Program, or IREX.

This resource is the product of my Fulbright DA experiences in

both Scotland and the United States.





Community Collaboration

Museum Collaboration

The National Galleries of Scotland in Galashiels

Lesson: Student Museum Guides

Lesson: Intergenerational Design

Beyond the School Walls

Outdoor Education

Lesson: Priorsford Maps Peebles

Lesson: Gum-pack Photo Tour

Finding Inspiration (with photography)

Lesson: Treasured Maps

Students as Empowered Creatives

Pop-up Experiences

Lesson: Open-Air Exhibit

School and Student Social Enterprise

Craft and Folk Art in Place-based Pedagogy





















There is no such thing as a perfect school. Educators

teaching in schools throughout the world devote their

time to improving their methods; to effectively teach

the population they are charged with. We notice trends

in deficiencies and accomplishments by country, town,

school type, and size and we use these to guide our efforts

towards improvement, innovation, and progress. Schools

are categorized in many ways – by their source of funding:

public or private; their teaching methodology: Steiner,

Montessori, comprehensive, parochial, etc.; and their

location: urban, suburban, or rural. It makes sense to

study each group individually, as the challenges are distinct

and often without comparison to their counterparts

across categories.

Rural schools in the US, defined by their geographic

isolation and small population size, while challenged

by hurdles unique to each location, share one common

thing: they are called on to do far more with far less.

Despite the fact that roughly 25% of US schools are rural,

the obstacles they face are often absent from the conversation.

Rural districts face hardships stemming from

high transportation costs, limited funding, high poverty

rates, teacher shortages, and professional isolation. Many

rural districts face declining enrollment issues as the

national and international trend of declining rural populations

continues. When enrollment drives funding, the

smaller the school, the smaller the budget and the fewer

resources available for students. The arts, often being the

academic facet that is perceived as superfluous, is a sure

casualty. Within the limited body of research centered

around rural education, arts education and its impact in

rural communities is far from covered, particularly how

the two can become mutually beneficial.

The need for a strong art education presence in each

school is accepted and backed up by copious research.

What has been studied far less is the connection between

arts education and the problems many rural communities

face due to declining population. In their working

paper “Leveraging Change: Increasing Access to Arts

Education in Rural Areas,” Lisa Donovan and Maren

Brown state that “Rural communities are finding innovative

ways to use the arts to catalyze activity in rural areas,

build community, highlight community-wide issues, and

generate a sense of place.” The paper suggests that creating

arts networks, comprised of schools and community

organizations, can help to strengthen not only the arts

opportunities in the schools but serve the overall needs

of the community. Beyond networks, pedagogy can be

examined to determine which process is best to promote

a deep connection and commitment to the catalyst

of change in a community. One such methodology has

been around for some time and is gaining steam in rural

environments: place- and community-based education.

Place-based education has been embraced by some

rural communities as a way to connect students with

their local surroundings in order to help them practice

the skills necessary for global understanding and

perspective. The Center for Place-Based Learning and

Community Engagement describes the philosophy as

“an immersive learning experience that places students

in local heritage, cultures, landscapes, opportunities and

experiences and uses these as a foundation for the study

of language arts, mathematics, social studies, science

and other subjects across the curriculum.” Place-based

learning offers students opportunities to feel relevant

and take ownership of their role in their communities.

This method, combined with the idea that the future of

the economy relies on students who understand innovation,

connects closely to the curriculum I have been designing

for my students since I began teaching. Lessons

that have relevance in the community, that help them

solve real-world problems and serve a goal larger than

themselves are among those that most appeal to me.

Opportunities to integrate place-based teaching into

the broader curriculum are many. Lessons within this

approach combine attributes of collaboration, the utilization

of teaching space outside of the classroom, and

the empowerment of students as connected and engaged

community change-makers. Successful place-based education

not only teaches one about the area in which they

live but establishes a relationship between student and

community. This relationship is the catalyst for change

needed in struggling rural communities.

The following guide offers options for teachers and

community organizations to utilize place-based methods

in their teaching and community experiences. The

guide offers art-related place-based lessons, ideas about

the pedagogy of place and community-based education,

museum and community organization involvement,

and ideas for students to feel as empowered community

members. These notions strive to bring education out

of the confines of the school walls and connect to the

broader population in the hopes that this engagement

will make positive change in a rural community.

Is local too limiting?

Considerations for rural schools

The focus of place-based learning for a rural school

requires broader consideration about the unique educational

needs of the students being served.

A key theme for further debate is the tension between

a locally versus a globally oriented education – does

the former risk encouraging provincialism and xenophobia?

For many school populations, a singular

focus on the immediate community risks limiting a

student’s understanding of and exposure to diversity

and global culture.

Learning opportunities should not only be diverse,

but should encourage diversity.

The following are some considerations for rural


• Where cultural diversity lacks, encourage students

to make connections to cultures other than their

own. Learning about one’s own place is made more

robust by comparing and contrasting

to another’s.

• Encourage bilingual learning – not only by providing

a welcoming space for English language learners

to utilize their native language, but for native English

speakers to learn another language.

• When collecting teaching resources, be sure to

represent a wide range of voices; those from diverse

races, genders, socio-economic classes, ages, etc.

• Be willing to address inequality. Remember that the

study of place should include contemporary issues

and your students should recognize their part in the

history of their community.

• Recognize any lack of diversity and use it as a discussion

point. Encourage students to take action in

ways that might improve their communities, especially

when it relates to diversity.

• Encourage students to extend the same curiosity being

used to connect with their own “place” to places

beyond their homes. Remind them that what is now

their home may one day change and one’s place may

evolve, move, or grow.





Sociology is at the heart of successful place-based

pedagogy. The African proverb “it takes a village to raise

a child” takes on more relevance when teaching and

learning enters the larger community. The idea also works

quite well in reverse. A complete place-based education

not only teaches students about their fellow past, present,

and future community members, but encourages their

engagement and commitment to the people in their

community. Utilizing a village of engaged citizens in a

collaborative spirit improves the lives of all involved. Collaboration

isn’t an easy task and relies on all stake-holders

to be fully on-board.

The following ideas provide opportunities for students to

be enriched by the people in their communities and for

the communities to be enriched by their students through

collaborative efforts.



Museum Collaboration

Parasites at the National Museum of Scotland was designed with help from secondary students in Scotland.

The Monarch of the Glen

(1851, Sir Edwin Landseer)

traveled to rural and remote

areas of Scotland for wide

viewing access. The important

painting traveled to

schools, prisons, and community


A substantial component of my research while in

Scotland involved seeking out and interviewing

various professionals from many arts and community

related fields. I found the people of Scotland

to be very generous with their time and was lucky

to speak with lecturers, teachers, administrators,

professors, museum educators, students, pupils, and

even strangers on the bus – all of whom offered their

own wisdom which collectively filled my Fulbright

notebook. Sarah Cowie, the Learning Officer at both

the National Museum of Scotland and National War

Museum, sat down with me to discuss her role in

community engagement for the National Museums.

Her job is to essentially get as many pupils through

the doors of the museums as possible.

The National Museum of Scotland is massive. It

houses collections ranging from dinosaurs to modern

technology, and its curated exhibits throughout the

sprawling site is truly a spectacle for the imagination.

My favorite thing about Scotland’s free national

museums and galleries is how accessible they are. My

family and I often found ourselves stopping in on a

whim to enjoy one or two exhibits as we were passing

by – the lack of commitment compared to museums

with ticket prices of $25+ is really freeing. You

will find a large diversity of visitors at the National

Museum and it would seem as though getting people

through the doors isn’t an issue at all.

Cowie’s job, however, is to see which pupils and

schools are accessing the museum and its resources

and which ones aren’t. She says that, on average,

45,000 pupils and their teachers enter the doors each

year. Of those, 1/4 enter to participate in pre-booked

workshops while the rest do self-led or teacher-led

visits. Primary students typically come in to learn

about topics relevant to their grade level, such as

Romans, Vikings, dinosaurs, or ancient Egypt, while

secondary students are typically exposed to topics

relevant to their exams, engaged in STEM research

and work with specialists and researchers. Schools

within Edinburgh typically use public transportation

to travel to the museum, however there is funding

available through various organizations that help to

alleviate any burden on parents and schools.

While the museum is well attended and schools

within Edinburgh are using its resources, connecting

with areas outside of Edinburgh is a priority for the

museum as well. I was surprised and impressed to

learn about the many creative engagement initiatives

for pupils from remote areas. Work is being done

to introduce families to the many partner museums

around the country that offer learning experiences for

school-aged children. Additionally, digital resources

such as video conferencing sessions, Google hangouts,

and educational resources via google street view are

made available to pupils and are proving successful.

The museum’s programming is proving to be innovative

in their approach to engage and connect with students.

A great example is the current special exhibit,

Parasites: Battle for Survival, an interactive, family

friendly exhibition that explores Scottish involvement

in the identification and treatment of tropical disease

and highlights the research currently taking place

in Scotland. With a view to engage young visitors in

STEM subjects, the exhibition’s creators have collaborated

with secondary school pupils to trial designs,

games and text. I find this to be a genius approach to

community and school engagement as I see no better

way to connect with pupils than to trust them with

the involvement and design of the exhibit itself.

Museums in rural areas typically do not have the

funding that national museums have, however their

location and intimacy provide ample opportunity for

collaboration. With support and commitment, rural

museums and the community they serve can work

together for shared positive outcomes. Collaborating

with museums is a huge resource for place-based

education and should be explored by schools and

museum administration alike.



General Sir David Baird Discovering the Body of Sultan Tippoo

Sahib after having Captured Seringapatam, on the 4th May, 1799

(1839) Sir David Wilkie

Border Reiver statue by Thomas J Clapperton and young person

posing for a photograph meant to alter the storyline.

The National Galleries of

Scotland in Galashiels

I met Robin Baillie, senior outreach officer for the

National Galleries of Scotland, at the Portrait Gallery and

was thrilled to learn about the work he does to support

the population outside of Edinburgh. Robin is truly the

poster child for museum education and community

outreach. He explained some of his prior work at the

Galleries, including community art-making exhibitions,

film-making, and a multitude of projects that encourage

people to tell their stories and connect with their environments

and localities. Robin is someone who works

tirelessly to ensure that rural populations are engaged

with the work in the National Galleries, and I found it

inspiring to tag along on one of his current projects with

an organization called Works+ in town of Galashiels.

Works+ consists of Grant Pringle, Scott Wright, and

Mark Timmis – three individuals who are working diligently

to provide opportunities for young people who

have not experienced typical academic or vocational

success at this stage of their lives. The Works+ website

describes their process:

We aim to get each young person into employment

appropriate to their skills and attributes, or

back into education to complete their learning

and enhance their qualifications, or into training

which develops new skills and confidence to

enter the employment market.

Their program consists of 10-week projects with participants

drawn across the Scottish Borders. Young people

experience increased confidence, improved social skills,

and an increased sense of general wellbeing. They

complete the programs more able to find and sustain

employment, further education or training. Mark states

eloquently that their purpose is not to create a CV

and resume, usher them to an interview and then pat

themselves on the back. Their goal is to “fill the young

people’s vessels” by providing real experiences for them

to draw upon. They take the participants out of their

perceived confines – they plant trees, scale mountains,

create sand paintings on the beach, practice interview

methods using robot design – all with the intention of

encouraging them to feel accomplishment and pride.

Mark states:

It’s all about letting young people succeed at

things. Art helps to celebrate success. They

create a piece. It stands. It is. It comes to an end.

It can be put up on a wall and people can have a

conversation about it. There’s a reaction to it.

These pivotal experiences spark the confidence and

motivation to further one’s education or career. Their

methods are a shining example of holistic teaching – it

is clear that these educators care deeply for the young

people they work with.

After chatting with Mark about the great work they

are doing at Works+, I caught the tail end of Robin’s

discussion with the participants about a National

Galleries painting, General Sir David Baird Discovering

the Body of Sultan Tippoo Sahib after having Captured

Seringapatam, on the 4th May, 1799. Robin and the

group discussed the historical relevance of the painting

and how every conflict has two sides to the story. The

impassioned group used their discussion points to draw

parallels to local historical stories.

The group descended upon the center of Galashiels to

create a photograph with this concept in mind. They

chose the Border Reiver statue by Thomas J Clapperton

as their subject matter (Clapperton is the sculptor who

created the familiar Robert the Bruce sculpture at Edinburgh

Castle). They discussed the story of these raiders

and how, again, there may be many voices unheard in

the telling of history. Young people mounted a carved

pistol onto a long stake and positioned it in various

ways to alter the story of the sculpted rider. Out of the

three participants that day, only one had an interest in

art, however all were engaged and willing to collaborate

in their own ways. I was surprised at the level of commitment

and willingness to step outside of their comfort

zones. It isn’t easy to create a piece of conceptual art in

the center of a town, especially for a young person with

little art training. I left Galashiels feeling utmost respect

for Robin and the guys at Works+ and was so grateful

to see a prime example of place-based education and

museum collaboration.

Projects like this are the reason that Works+ can boast

a significantly higher success rate compared to other

programs with the same goals. While the ultimate goal

of Works+ is to carve a path to success for the young

people, Robin’s motivations go deeper than that. He

states that he does not like the phrase “Make a difference”

but that is exactly what he is doing. I’d like to

think that most museum educators regularly drive an

hour to deliver a university lecture on art history and

a guided art-making tour to three youths from a rural

area, but I know that just isn’t the case.

Robin’s work bridges the gap between community

member and museum visitor and lets a young person

from a rural area know that the work in a museum is

indeed for them, not just for a wealthy art patron from

the city. He understands the value of art in a person’s life

and believes in its ability to inspire, motivate, and create

joy. Robin’s work with these young people will stay in

my memory for some time and I will continue to be

inspired and motivated by it.




Digital Didactic placards

Group: Secondary or Primary

Museum exhibitions are very carefully and thoughtfully

designed. Their placement, the flow of imagery, the displays – all

curated to engage and invite. One can stop at any piece within a

collection and learn fundamental information from the museum

placard. This trivia introduces the viewer to the topic, offers a

brief description and invokes curiosity. Seeing that many permanent

museum exhibits introduce the same topics that school

pupils study in their academics, I wonder how we could be

utilizing our primary pupil’s connection to the material in a way

that is immersive and participatory.


To connect students who are educated in remote areas with the artifacts

and artwork found in museums. To encourage students to be engaged

with the content in museums and to feel a sense of ownership for their

part in the museum’s mission.

Students will:

• Choose a topic relevant to academic studies which connects with content

found in museum

• Work with museum professionals to establish key facts that might be

presented on a didactic placard about an exhibition

• Become live or recorded museum guides through the use of an iPad or

video device in order to introduce key facts about display to museum



Essential Questions:

How can schools work with

museums to engage students who

live in remote areas?

Key Vocabulary:

Didactic Placards


Historic Environment Scotland,

the lead public body set up to

investigate, care for and promote

Scotland’s historic environment

carried out a very successful

community/school engagement

project that follows this exact


Museum educator and class teacher will work together to choose a museum

exhibit which relates to a topic of study within the school curriculum.

Students will learn about the exhibit and discuss what museum visitors

might be curious about as they are viewing. The class will formulate

questions and answers related to the topic and exhibit.

Students will work with museum staff to become remote museum exhibition


There are many options to carry out this task; some might include:

Video Guides - Students record a video that explains the exhibit to viewers.

This video might be presented alongside the exhibition on a tablet.

Remote Scheduled Digital Guides - Students establish a time/day to be

remotely present for museum visitors to ask questions. For instance, for

a half-hour on a Friday afternoon, a tablet is available next to the display

for visitors to seek answers to formulated questions. Students are ready to

answer during this time period.

Students should prepare their information in multiple languages giving

consideration to the diversity of museum patrons.

The Doune Castle Junior Guides will

take you on a tour of the castle, bringing

it to life with stories from the past.

Image:: https://www.historicenvironment.scot/


A Consideration for Rural Museums

• A museum patron enters the section of a museum

devoted to Vikings. She views the first relics and wishes

to learn a bit more about what he is experiencing. She

wonders what era the pieces are from, what their purpose

was, and a bit about the history of the people who

made them.

• In a remote school miles away, primary students are

learning about Vikings in their class. Their teacher has

equipped them with information, stories, and trivia that

they eagerly take home to share with their parents.

• The museum works closely with the remote school to

curate a specific time that the students can be available

to teach museum patrons about Vikings. Using video

conferencing, students in the class become live digital

iPad with students as guides for museum exhibition.

museum guides, explaining the current exhibit to the


• The students are invested in the content and feel empowered

as involved collaborators: true community

connection and engagement.

The level of engagement can be designed to meet the

needs of the museum and class. Perhaps one half hour a

week would be devoted to a live video conference available

at the museum on a tablet, or perhaps the students

record video snippets to be played at any time.

There are multiple opportunities to carry out a very simple,

yet effective idea. Get the young learners involved in

the process, they will feel invested and connected. Simple.




Industrial Design - Collaborative Design


Work collaboratively with senior citizens to design products which improve the

daily tasks of elderly people.

Students will:

• Use exercises in empathy to establish a base understanding of how peoples’ abilities


• Collaborate with senior citizens and use discussion to learn about their daily


• Collaboratively brainstorm ideas for products which solve the discussed problems.

• Sketch ideas, create models and prototypes


Students are introduced to the assignment by being guided through empathy exercises.

Classmates exchange shoes, wear foggy safety goggles, gloves with Popsicle

sticks taped to the thumb portion to limit use of hands and ear plugs in order

to understand what it is like to live with impairments. The class discusses what

they assume common ailments of the aging population might be.

The class travels to the local senior center to meet with a group of seniors who

have been introduced to the project separately. The groups are involved in social


Each senior citizen is paired with one or two students to begin a guided discussion.

Students prepare interview questions before the meeting to determine what

issues the seniors might face on a daily basis.

The pairs go through the design process to brainstorm products to aid in the

problems that were discussed.

Students create sketches of the products and present their ideas to the seniors. Once the

groups have decided which product would be most suitable, a model and/or prototype

is created.

Students present the final design to the entire group and seek feedback.

The project can be completed in any time-frame, however 2 weeks is advised

depending on travel arrangements to and from the senior centers.


Group: Secondary (can be adapted for primary)

Essential Questions:

How can students use empathy

to strengthen their

design skills?

How does collaboration

strengthen the design


What products can be designed

to improve the daily

tasks of senior citizens?

Key Vocabulary:

Industrial Design




drafting materials

found objects

sculpture-making supplies


Read: This article from Fast


Image Search: examples

of industrial design that

would be appealing to your


My rural school is less than 5 miles from our local senior

center. This allows for easy intergenerational collaboration.

This design project took place over 2-3 weeks and

proved to be a success for both the students and the older

community members.

The goal of the project was to learn how to work with a

client of a different age to either redesign a product or come

up with a whole new solution to a problem that the person

has with a product that is used on a daily basis. The students

had been practicing the design process throughout

the semester long class to come up with solutions to their

own design problems. Up until the intergenerational collaboration,

they were only expected to design for themselves

or for imaginary clients. The thought of a real client was

daunting, and the fact that the client would be an elderly

person who wasn’t their grandparent, frightened them.

I knew it was important for the students to gain some

empathy towards elderly people or people with disabilities

in order for a successful collaboration. Before they

met with the members of the senior center we took a class

period to discuss products geared toward the elderly. We

discussed walkers and how people often put tennis balls

on the bottoms to improve the design. The class enjoyed

talking about cell phones and how their own grandparents

have a hard time using the phones that are even marketed

for an older age group. After sensing the hesitation to work

with the seniors I allowed them to experience a generic

version of some of the problems that elderly people face.

The students wore foam ear plugs, fogged safety goggles,

and a contraption on their hands that limited the use of

their thumbs, made out of gloves and Popsicle sticks. They

even exchanged shoes with a classmate and were asked to

keep their backs at an angle as they walked. Although the

exercise was a fun way of explaining my point, the students

understood that menial tasks become very difficult with

even small impairments.

During their meeting, planned interviews were conducted

between the students and adults and the groups cleverly

came up with the design problem that they wished to work

on together. One group set out to take on the problem of

using a walking cane in slippery weather conditions while

another group tackled the small tag on a plastic milk container

that one pulls on to open a new bottle. The students

asked specific questions about the complications that the

adults had with these products and came up with a broad

design problem instead of a limiting redesign option. They

thought about many possible solutions to their initial specific

problem as well as solutions to other problems that came

about through the design process. The interactions between

the different generations were interesting to observe. Many

of the adults were asking for advice from the teenagers and at

the same time keeping them focused and on task.

When the brainstorming was completed, the students

worked on two dimensional models of their design ideas

and presented them to the adults. The entire group came

together to analyze the designs and make sure that every

possible problem was thought of. The students were then

asked to create a model or working prototype depending

on the product. One group was able to design and create a

glove for a senior with severe disabilities that affected the

mobility in his hands. The glove had Velcro fixed in targeted

locations and matched on several accessories such

as a paintbrush, toothbrush, and eating utensils. The glove

allowed the user to attach the accessories so that when hand

fatigue set in, the utensil wouldn’t fall to the ground.

Although some groups were not able to create working

prototypes, the project proved to be a success in many

ways. The adults had a vehicle for voicing the problems

that they face on a daily basis and were able to feel as

though the students cared about the products that were

being sold to them. The students gained an appreciation

for the simple things that they take for granted in their

daily endeavors. One student remarked, “I don’t spend

a lot of time with my grandparents so when I thought

about problems that elderly people have I figured it really

wasn’t a big deal. After talking with my group member

and seeing how he struggles with simple tasks, I now

appreciate the difficulties that exist.”

This project offers intergenerational collaboration; something

that typically doesn’t happen naturally. Place-based schools

can and should consider intergenerational collaboration to

be the norm and not the exception in curriculum design.

The ClearRx prescription system. AP PHOTO/GREGORY BULL


Beyond the School Walls

Classroom teachers do the best they can, often using their

own funds, to create a space that is welcoming, nurturing

and conducive to learning. While each teacher has her

own idea of what an effective classroom looks like, many

teachers forget that the classroom need not be limited to

the room within the school’s walls. In Scotland, outdoor

education has really gained steam and schools are doing a

good job getting the students outdoors as much as possible.

There can be a common misconception as to what outdoor

education entails. For some, merely recreating the indoor

classroom outside of the school is the approach taken while

others go far beyond this idea to use place, it’s geology,

geography, and history as a learning tool in itself.

Successful place-based education utilizes a wide variety of

learning spaces and integrates these spaces into the process

with relevance. The following idea and lessons encourage

teachers to look beyond the classroom walls for inspiration,

connection and practical learning environments.



Outdoor Education

Outdoor Education is not just merely creating a classroom outside of school walls.

In 8 th grade, I along with my classmates had the opportunity

to apply for Project Adventure, a program that

would begin as we entered high school the following

year. My sister had been a part of the program during

her freshman year and since I did everything she did, I

applied and was also accepted.

The Project Adventure team consisted of a small group

of teachers who curated their academic courses in line

with the program ideals. Students represented a portion

of the 9th grade population and went through their

schedule as a cohort. Though our curriculum prepared

us for the NYS Regents exams, it had a heavy project-based

focus and was the perfect example of outof-the-box

learning. If alumni opinion of the program

serves as any indicator, Project Adventure proved to be

very successful, meaningful, and memorable.

Project Adventure, Inc. advertises multiple programs for

youth, college/universities, sports teams, & professionals

on their website however none of these descriptions

match my memory of what it looked like in1996 at Roy C.

Ketcham High School. In essence, Project Adventure was

an interdisciplinary, project-based program that encouraged

risk-taking, cooperation, team work, self esteem,

trust-development, and leadership all while aiming to

instill a sense of adventure. More so than that, it was an

early example of place-based, outdoor learning that provided

a solid balance between an innovative curriculum

and one designed for standardized examinations.

As I’ve been moving deeper into the world of placebased

education, I realize that I have a solid understanding

of its efficacy rooted deep in my own memory. My

9th grade teachers were masters in establishing a connection

to place and using it to engage students and empower

leadership and curiosity. Project Adventure took

us swimming in caves, mining for gypsum, hiking our

local mountains, writing poetry on the Hudson River,

kayaking and testing water, learning about our local social

history, learning about our ancestors, cross country

skiing, climbing ropes courses, and these are only some

of the lessons that occurred outside of class.

I am so grateful to have had teachers who were willing

to make relevant, engaging connections to questions

found on exams and truly feel as though I would not be

the person I am today if I hadn’t participated in Project

Adventure. In asking my old classmates what their memories

of Project Adventure are, one, a current middle

school teacher, replied, “I feel like teachers today couldn’t

get away with half the fun stuff they let us do then!!!” It is

sad and disheartening to know that in most schools, this

is true. I do, however notice a trend of the acceptance and

acknowledgment of outdoor education’s value. In Scotland,

environmental, outdoor education is buzzing and

educators are keen to not only teach in one’s local environment

but to teach about one’s local environment. My

hope is that this trend continues and educators in schools

that haven’t already done so, follow suit.



Priorsford Maps Peebles

Priorsford Primary is a small school in the Scottish

Borders - about 30 miles south of Edinburgh. Though it

wouldn’t be considered rural by most definitions, there

is a strong community presence at the school that one

would typically find in a more remote location. When

you enter the school, you notice the strong sense of

camaraderie right away. This congeniality is important

in a school like Priorsford since working together is

integral to providing robust opportunities for the students.

Despite being in a semi-affluent area, Priorsford

does not employ an art specialist. Pupils at Priorsford

rely on their primary classroom teacher to integrate art

into their learning as best they can. Strong leadership

and visionary qualities of the head teacher encourage

teacher collaboration to make use of each faculty member’s

strengths. In this way, P4 teacher Teresa Pickburn,

a classroom teacher who excels in the arts does her best

to help out teachers who are less comfortable with art

as best she can. Working with Teresa was a good fit for

my residency and I was pleased that our initial meeting

ended with the decision to collaborate on a project.

With a request to fill a large space on the wall with a

mural, Ms. Pickburn designed a gridded illustration of

Peeble’s landmarks that would display all of the places

the children connect with regularly, including the town

swimming pool, the local parks, and the river that runs

through it all. She and her class explored the town’s landmarks

via photographs and discussion when a scheduled

walk through the town was thwarted by a winter storm.

Pupils used photographs to guide their drawings and

they each chose a landmark that they connected most

with. While the illustrated components of our wall mural

were in the works, small groups of students ventured

into the town to photograph details of these landmarks.

These could encompass any bit of interest that captured

the pupil’s attention. For example, the stone work that

made up the castle or the residents of the nursing home

whom the children read to each Friday. The photographs

were used as additional details in the final map in the

way of flaps and pop-ups and added an interactive quality

to the two dimensional work.

For a project like this to be truly place-based it relies on

the teacher and students to be immersed in the location

that they are illustrating. Merely drawing a building

doesn’t offer an avenue for engagement or connection. It

is through the discussion, encouraged curiosity, exploration

of details, and shared stories that the students begin

to feel connected with the map they are creating for their

own small town.





Finding inspiration (with photography)


Photography - Documenting Place


To create a collection of photographs that describe the essence of a place and to

encourage community participation/discussion about the location.

Students will:

• Photograph objects, buildings, people, landscapes, and scenes within a chosen


• Curate the photographs into a “gum pack” display, printing the photographs on

paper the size of a stick of gum.

• Seek community input about each photograph as written word and include the

writing in the display.


To begin the assignment, the class will discuss how each of us might view our

hometowns differently and how photography allows the artist to capture a scene

through their own unique perspectives.

Students will be given an out-of-class assignment to photograph a location of

their choosing. They should be encouraged to photograph any details they are interested

in or curious about. They can be people, objects, buildings, landscapes, etc.

The photographs will be collected for public viewing.

Students should seek information about each photograph from friends, teachers,

community members, family, and strangers. This may be done by exhibiting the

photographs in print form or by setting up a shareable community website to

contribute thoughts about the photographs.

Community-sourced submissions can be done using website such as the one

described here: https://www.karigiordano.com/post/crowd-sourced-community-history-archive

Why gum-pack?

Printing photographs small allows for more printing options at a reasonable

cost. A pack of gum is often shared; be it with friends or strangers and connotes

friendly discourse.


Group: Secondary (can be adapted for primary)

Essential Questions:

In the age of social media

and instant social review of

images, how can students

encourage deep connection

to a photograph and to the

people who view it.


digital camera

inkjet or laserjet printer

pen or marker

To encourage diversity in

your submissions, students

should share bilingual

instructions about how to

submit one’s thoughts about

any relevant photograph.

Students should seek out

submissions from all parts

of the community, not

just those which are most


All written contributions

will be compiled and

exhibited along with the

photographs. The collaborative

prints/writing will be

packaged and shared as the

students wish.

The last time I lived in a city I was in art school, had

no need for reading glasses and wasn’t yet a mother.

Life looked very different. I have been living in rural

Western Massachusetts since then and have gotten

accustomed to life in the Berkshires. I appreciate a

lot of things about where I live: the natural beauty,

the familial surroundings and the lack of traffic from

Monday through Thursday. I have a neighbor who

uses his snow blower to help us out of our driveway

in storms and in turn we bake him cookies. The

towns that surround me are quaint and there are a

lot of good people there. In the school that I teach in,

many of my students have been together in the same

building since they were 2 months old and they will

stay together, in the same building until they graduate.

Their experience in school, like in the towns they

are growing up in is starkly different than their peers

living in other areas. Living in a rural town inherently

means one is exposed to less. Quite literally, the daily

visual stimuli is considerably reduced, for better or

worse (depending on who you ask).

Even after a short amount of time temporarily living

in Edinburgh, I feel the intense difference

between living in an urban area and living in the

Berkshires. Like my previous experience living in

a city, I walked everywhere in Edinburgh. I had

replaced my 35 minute drive to work (45+ during

tourist season) with a brisk 15 minute trek to drop

the children off and another mile or so to my office

or meeting space. During these walks I listened to

TED talks or audio books or took my headphones

off to hear conversations around me. I looked up

at the architecture, considered the thousands of

restaurants, and avoided being hit by buses. My

eyes were never not moving around, searching

for something new to see and my imagination is

working right alongside them making up stories

or creating a history of the scene laying before me.

An abandoned glove might become a story about

a restless dog owner who in taking his glove off to

dispose of his dog’s leavings let it fall to the ground

as the dog pulled him along to chase after a beautiful

looking poodle. There was inspiration all

around me all of the time. If I had an open schedule

I could drop into a museum (which were mostly all

free of charge) or check out a centuries-old building,

or greet a stranger at a crosswalk. The daily

commute alone was a shining example of the world

of difference in living in a rural vs. urban area.

Though my ride to work at home is often beautiful,

it is relatively the same each day. Sometimes the fog

would drift in and the small mountains would look

rather majestic, but it is a scene I have witnessed

many times in the past 14 years. There’s a monotony

to rural life that although often welcomed (and

romanticized by movies about people leaving the big

city and finding love in the simple life) can be a limiting

factor to what one is exposed to. Like my drive to

work, students ride on buses or cars on the same few

roads each day. They view beautiful landscapes or visions

of quaint town life through the blur of a moving

window. I believe it to be quite a challenge to notice

and appreciate subtly inspiring details of a voyage

while moving 40 miles per hour. So I dare to suggest

that students in rural areas, or at the very least, students

who live in non-walkable areas are exposed to

less stimuli and thus less creative motivation.

Teaching art (or any subject) in rural communities

bears the additional responsibility of guiding students

through the process of finding inspiration in the most

cleverly hidden spots. Visual stimulation is far more

limited in the country and students might have to work a

little harder to break the monotony of rural living.



Map Design from a local’s perspective

Group: Secondary or Primary


To design a map from a local’s perspective designed to curate information typically

not found on a traditional tourism map.

Students will:

• Analyze maps and their varying form and functions.

• Choose a local place and design a map for a chosen purpose: i.e. to

introduce a local’s perspective, to curate a treasure hunt, to outline hidden

spots, etc.

• Produce and share their map with the community.


To being the project, the class will look at images of artist maps. These maps

should vary in their form and function. Many artist maps can be found with a

simple internet search or use the link to the right.

Following this discussion, students will find examples of different types of

maps that can be found in their hometowns and discuss simple questions

about them: What are they used for? Who uses them? What might be missing?

Students will then choose a location (a full town, a specific neighborhood,

street, etc) and make a list of what is known about that place, what is special?

This list will help them to decide what function their maps should have.

Students will design and create a map with a specific intention and practical


To do so, the class will be guided through vector image-making tools in Adobe

Illustrator or illustration techniques using drawing or painting mediums.

A sample of options for map applications:

– Treasure hunt or scavenger hunt: help tourists to find hidden spots, street art,

the best food, places to spread cheer, the cutest pets, etc.

– Map created to remind bored rural teenagers what there is to do in town

(sometimes they forget)

– Mapped locations of a community members’ most memorable moments

– Map showing a full cardiovascular work-out with strength-training options.

Essential Questions:

How do map designers curate

information and locations in

their designs, specifically intended

for tourism?

How can the visual language

of a map be used for a different

artistic function than it is

typically intended?


This project can be created using

drawing/painting materials

or by using industry standard

graphic design software such

as Adobe Illustrator


Students will view maps created

by artists found online

as well as maps found in their

own home towns.

Some maps found here:




Students might be inspired

by photographs of the places

they choose as well as internet


A map of smells in New York by Kate McLean

An English graphic designer McLean has focused her passion for cartography on making sensory maps, charting the dynamics

of what we smell, and to a lesser extent, touch, taste, and see. McLean uses various visualization formats to map her

data, which she gathers alone or with the help of collaborators.

Close-up of “London”

by Gareth Wood aka Fuller

Fuller drafts impressionistic

“mind maps” of places where

he has lived. “I’m making a

collection of cartographic love

letters,” he says. This hyper-detailed,

ink-drawn map is of

central London. It contains the

personal experiences of the

artist, hidden stories, curiosities

and factoids. The piece

was started in 2005, archived

in 2007, and drawing resumed

in 2015. This jump creates a

change in style and technique.

It highlights the progress within

the metropolis and the artist




Students as Empowered Creatives

Many struggling rural communities face the fact that they

are educating children who may not be able to nor want to

stay in the towns of which they were raised. In some cases,

the price of home-ownership does not meet the average

wage expectations or the market may not support a wide

variety of industrial jobs. For others, their small town

might not offer enough in terms of recreation and cultural

offerings. For whatever reason, rural areas are experiencing

a decline in the population of young citizens which

has many negative effects. Family-owned businesses aren’t

able to continue on, schools close, cultural institutions

aren’t sustainable, and the aging population creates an

imbalance of cultural offerings.

Schools in these areas have an added challenge: to empower

students to be as community-minded as they

would expect their parents and grandparents to be. Placebased

education provides the platform for students to

create the progress they wish to see. Many rural students

complain about limited recreational offerings or of their

feeling that cultural institutions aren’t inviting to youth

or don’t provide offerings which speak to their age and

interests. These place-based ideas encourage students to

take on the role of community creative and to ensure that

the recreational opportunities speaks to them.

David Sobel and Gregory Smith discuss place and community

based education in their writing and state, “No

school should be an island, but rather a peninsula – off to

itself a bit, but connected to the wider worlds of first the

community, then the region, the state, and finally the big

wide world.” They suggest that in an era where screens

have taken up the focus of communication, place and

community-based education teaches students how to

reconnect with their communities in meaningful ways.

This connection is the driving force of why place-based

education can be the method used to employ change in

struggling rural communities. Students who are better

connected with their communities become engaged in

their futures.

With the right tools and leadership, an engaged student

can feel empowered to create change and become a force

within a community of any size.




Pop Up Experiences

The Color Factory

Color Factory is a collaborative interactive exhibit

that debuted in San Francisco in August 2017. What

was intended as a month-long run unexpectedly

flourished as a celebration of color and creativity

that lasted for another eight sold-out months.

Flash Mob - Improv Everywhere

On a cold Saturday in New York City, the world’s

largest train terminal came to a sudden halt. Over

200 Improv Everywhere Agents froze in place at

the exact same second for five minutes in the Main

Concourse of Grand Central Terminal.

Pop-Up Art Experiences have gained a lot

of momentum and attention in the past 10

years. They are sporadic, spontaneous and

regarded as a new expression of connectivity,

especially for a younger audience. These outlets

for displaying and performing work are

a great way for students to become creative

pioneers in their own communities.

The process is simple, yet a lot of effort is

required to achieve success. Many online

sources list the steps to curate a pop-up and I

have outlined them here:

1. Create a concept

Students may wish to showcase the work they have

been doing in class or they may wish to create a thematic

instillation. They should consider the desired

location and audience in their planning.

2. Negotiate Space

Venue owners with vacant spaces are typically very

receptive to working out favorable rents and terms for

pop-up art galleries and shops. After all, the space is

not currently bringing in any money, and a pop-up

event often showcases the space well, which can help

the landlord attract a permanent tenant.

3. Install Work

4. Promote, Celebrate, and Enjoy

Pop-Up exhibit of lost and found items.

Monica Bill Barnes & Company

has re-imagined the museum tour,

creating a physical way for audiences

to relate to the finest art in the

world. Participants join the company

in the early morning, before

public hours, traveling through

the museum, performing choreographed

exercises in the galleries.

The Museum Workout disrupts the

normally contained museum environment,

invigorating participants

by creating a physical relationship

to the art of the ages.




Open air art exhibit - Non-political lawn signs


To encourage art exhibition locations that are unexpected and offer connection

to community.

Students will:

• Consider typical use of a lawn sign and how its use is primarily for political

or commercial advertising.

• Discuss how connotation of an object that is typically used for one

purpose might affect initial reactions when the function is changed. i.e.

when a lawn sign is no longer used for political purposes.

• Create a painting intended for a group exhibit in a location of the class’


• Install exhibit

Activities/Sequence: The class will discuss art exhibitions and how viewers

place value on the art that they see based on where they are seeing it.

How does a viewer react to a piece of art that they view in a gallery vs. one

they view on the street?

The class will discuss alternative ways to exhibit art so that it might accessibly

and easily be viewed by community members. Outdoor exhibits will

be discussed as an option and the teacher will encourage students to think

about how this approach might help community connect with student art.

Students will discuss outdoor art exhibits and the fact that many are

sculptural work meant to withstand the elements. They will challenge

their ideas of how long a piece of art should last and consider how it might

deteriorate if left outside.

The class will discuss theme ideas for a group exhibit as well as location choices.

They will be asked how their theme choice might change based on the

location of installation.

Students will use acrylic paint to create their individual pieces on the front

and/or back of a piece of corrugated plastic.

Care will be taken to install the metal stakes into the plastic and then into

the ground. Students will participate in the design of the exhibition.

Group: Secondary or Primary

Essential Questions:

Must art be viewed only in a gallery

or museum for it to be considered


How does the reaction to an object

typically intended for commercial use

change when used for something else?

Key Vocabulary:




acrylic paint and brushes

corrugated plastic boards

lawn sign stakes or stands

Health and Safety:

Take care in using metal lawn stakes

as they can be sharp

Consider upcoming weather in planning

installation dates. The acrylic

paint can handle a fair amount of rain

and snow, but the lawn signs do not

enjoy wind.


Students will analyze and discuss

work of relevant nature

Outdoor Exhibits: Storm King - Hudson

Valley, NY

Street Artists: Shepard Fairey, Banksy

Jennifer Bolande: creates billboards

showing the scenes that are being


For many students, the cycle of art class is thus: 1. learn

about art, 2. make art, 3. look at art on wall, 4. repeat.

Student work adorns the walls of every school, a silent

rebellion from art teachers breaking supercilious fire

codes. Students, teachers, and occasional school visitors

view the artwork for a short time before it comes down

to be replaced by another batch of student work. Displaying

work is an important part of a student’s art education.

It promotes a sense of pride in one’s work and

provides an important motivational tool. It also serves

as an avenue for art appreciation, visual inspiration, and

constructive criticism for art students and the entire

school community. In essence, a blank school wall begs

to be decorated with student creativity and expression.

It is an expectation and a norm. Student art, however,

begs to break the boundaries of the institutions they

were created within.

Many artists cleverly explore exhibition options that

break the monotony of the museum or gallery wall.

Street artists have notoriously used any spot that suits

them for their work. Arguably the most well-known

street artist, Banksy has created his work on streets

around the world including on Israel’s highly controversial

West Bank barrier.

Artists such as Jennifer Bolande create artwork which are

only displayed in creative locations but utilize innovative

materials as well. Bolande designs billboards which display

imagery of the very scene that the billboard hides.

Her approach not only beautifies an area meant for advertising

but it makes one question their notion of where art

should and shouldn’t be found.

Similar to billboards, lawn signs are commonly known to

communicate political candidates or are used in general

advertising. Around election time, lawn signs might serve

as a flag of sorts, with people posting their allegiance to

political affiliations. So what happens when a medium

known to others for one purpose in a completely different

way? What happens, for instance, if work that is typically

found on the wall of a school is suddenly discovered

pitched into the ground in an outdoor exhibit?

Lawn signs, being mere pieces of corrugated plastic

connected to the earth with a wire stake are the perfect

canvas for a temporary outdoor exhibit of student work.

Before even creating their paintings students might consider

the medium and how a viewer’s connotation of a

lawn sign might affect their impression of the final piece.

Placed together, a group of painted lawn signs creates a

perfectly curated art exhibit and the best part is that they

can be placed anywhere there is earth.

From top,

Banksy, West Bank barrier mural

Jennifer Bolande, Visible Distance / Second

Sight, 2017. Site specific project, produced

by Desert X, in Palm Springs, CA




A successful school and student social enterprise engages and empowers students to be effective change-makers within

their community and offers an opportunity to learn the many skills that go along with entrepreneurship.

Social enterprise in schools are often groups of students working together to create a business which aims to tackle a

social issue.

Students might:

• Run a café and use the profits to buy food for a homeless shelter

• Make products using ethical materials and use the profits to support a community project

• Reuse and sell old prom dresses to raise money for people who can’t afford such luxuries

• Create and sell ceramic bowls to raise money for food shelters

• Write, design, and sell a magazine to raise funds for literacy

• Establish an after-school knitting club to help isolated elderly people connect with others

• Design and program computer games and sell tickets to arcades to raise money for community technology

• Photograph families and sell prints to raise money for homelessness

There is a wealth of information about creating social enterprises with students

online and I have included an in-depth resource below.

Full Resource Guide Available:

The British Council, Real Ideas Organisation (RIO) and Social Enterprise

Academy (SEA) have teamed up to launch Social Enterprise in Schools, a

resource pack helping teachers to deliver activities and lessons on social



Mount Everett High School’s Culinary Program

Broughton High School

is an urban secondary

school in the north

of Edinburgh

educating roughly

1,059 pupils.

I learned about

Broughton’s Social

Enterprise group

when interviewing

staff members about

the place-based learning

that is happening at the

school. They were excited to share that students

are not only working together through service-oriented

learning but they are providing experiences for community


BRO Enterprise is a co-curricular student organization,

social enterprise and cooperative. The enterprise aims to

look at ways to tackle social isolation and loneliness in the

community by bringing people together to enjoy a cup of

tea and a cake, and to have fun together through crafts and

interactive reading activities The group curates Friday afternoon

cafés and “bookbairnes” open to the public. Running

on a monthly schedule, students offer homemade/homegrown

food and products based on a theme or topic. One

such theme described to me included nature-inspired food

and products utilizing plants grown in the school’s garden.

[Broughton’s garden is also well-used within the curriculum by

a large population of teachers. The school employs a part time

gardener which helps to ensure the successful implementation of

this learning tool.]

Through BRO Enterprise, learners have real opportunities

to become effective contributors and responsible, caring

citizens who feel empowered to bring about change

within their community. Students are developing skills

for work and life in addition to building confidence and

creativity. They plan and lead the interactive workshops,

create the activities and resources, and manage the running

of the café.

BRO Enterprise utilizes resources from Social Enterprise

Academy, a society which combines economic activity

with community benefit, led by dynamic, social entrepreneurs.

This organization provides resources for all

types of social enterprises, including those operating in

schools, and is a great starting point to learn more about

how social enterprise can be created by students.


A social enterprise is a dynamic business with a

social purpose, it invests its profits for community


The sector includes co-operatives, credit unions,

housing associations, development trusts, social

firms and community businesses.

Social enterprises operate across a diverse range

of areas including: fair trade, recycling, catering

and hospitality, renewable energy, health, social

care, leisure, community transport, housing and


There are currently over 5,600 Social Enterprises

operating in Scotland, employing 81,357 full-time

equivalent employees (Census 2017, Social Enterprise

in Scotland).




School-based social enterprises have explicit social

and/or environmental aims and their profits

are used to help achieve these. These can either

be local issues or issues linked to a community in

another country.


They have a clear trading activity and are directly

involved in producing goods or providing services

to a market identified by the pupils.


They are driven and run by pupils with support

from teachers and parents. Pupils should spread

the awareness of their social enterprise across the

school and the community.


School-based social enterprises aspire to make a

positive and responsive change to peoples’ lives.

Social Enterprise Academy




I’ve been covering the many benefits to be gained from

integrating place-based considerations to the art or

core curriculum. One that I am increasingly interested

in is the possibility that students who are engaged with

their communities will be encouraged to do their part

in developing their local creative economy. The space

between school and community holds so much possibility

for the enrichment of both, yet they too often remain

stubbornly separate. Bridging this gap may be a key in

allowing both to fully thrive in many rural communities.

Throughout my fellowship in Scotland I had been looking

at how schools can enrich their arts to make these

connections and improve both schools and communities.

As I neared the end of my fellowship, I looked to

synthesize the results of my experiences and reach conclusions

and practical trajectories to further this work.

Rural Craft Guides:

FACE and the Heritage Crafts Association have developed

step-by-step guides for teachers about six rural crafts.The

activities are easy to deliver, fun and curriculum linked.


Additional Resources:


One avenue my research increasingly steered me towards

is the inclusion of craft and folk art into both the

art and academic curricula.

Folk Art

Folk art is widely viewed as art that is rooted in traditions

that come from community and culture – expressing

cultural identity by conveying shared community values

and aesthetics.

The International Museum of Folk Art describes it as such:

“There are many different ways to think about folk art.

In fact, there is no one definition of folk art. In collecting

and displaying folk art, the museum considers

various concepts.

Generally, folk art is ART that:

• may be decorative or utilitarian

• may be used every day or reserved for high ceremonies

• is handmade; it may include handmade elements, as

well as new, synthetic, or recycled components

• may be made for use within a community of practice

or it may be produced for sale as a form of income and


• may be learned formally or informally; folk art may

also be self-taught

• may include intangible forms of expressive culture like

dance, song, poetry, and food

• is traditional; it reflects shared cultural aesthetics and

social issues.

• is recognized that, as traditions are dynamic, traditional

folk art may change over time and may include

innovations in tradition.

• is of, by, and for the people; all people, inclusive of

class, status, culture, community, ethnicity, gender,

and religion”.

Students who are lucky enough to live in places defined

by rich cultural heritage might naturally

be exposed to folk art, while others with less

distinctive history draw from broader influences.

Ceilidh dances, for example, are taught in

primary schools in Scotland as part of physical

education courses – a great example of incorporating

folk art as place-based integration. The

students learn and practice a skill which has

been handed down from generation to generation.

This skill exposes them to cultural nuances

and deeply connects them to their heritage.

Teaching folk art provides a natural bridge to

the cultural significance and history of a place;

be it a student’s home or far beyond.


The etymology of the term “craft” is a discussion point

in itself and one that brings with it varying viewpoints

and perspectives. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the

Renaissance saw a distinction between art and craft as the

status of painters and sculptors (who were previously regarded

as craftsmen) was upgraded to “artist”. Complicated

further, distinctive meanings of terms like decorative and

applied arts adds to the confusion. While the discussion

of art vs. craft interests me, I will leave this distinction to

those who simply know more about it than I do. For my

purposes here, I understand the term craft to be an activity

involving skill in making things by hand.

For most of our history, making things by hand was the

norm and the techniques were passed from one generation

to the next. Many of these skills are in real danger of

dying out as technical knowledge is possessed by craftspeople

who are becoming older and retiring from their

work. In an age where screens devour the hours in a day,

there are fewer people rising up to take their place in the

chain of folk artists and craftspeople. The UK Heritage

Craft Association even has a list of roughly 100 endangered

and extinct crafts, including clock making, chair

caning, and surprisingly, letterpress printing.

Teaching craft offers many of the same benefits of any

visual art method, however, I wonder if it might speak

to students in an alternative way than traditional gallery-exhibition

art. Craft involves practice and the goal

of a formal product. It lacks social status and the perceived

intellectual component that accompanies many

art forms. Craft exists outside of the artist and connects

each maker with a larger community of makers.

“Craft is a way of doing things involving deliberateness

and attention to detail and representing

the accumulation of skill over time. Craft

invites a life in which the objects that surround

us speak to us of what is important.”

~ Miguel Gómez-Ibáñez, president, North Bennet Street

School, Boston

Just as design offers an integral set of skills which are

necessary for a robust art curriculum, craft offers many

of the same skills, often more aligned with environmental

causes. Craft encourages students to return to

basics, to practice techniques that their ancestors were

practicing from all over the world. Craft invites students

to use their hands to make something and be proud of

that object when they are finished. Further development

of these skills can open economic doors for the students

that pursue their craft as a business, thereby strengthening

the creative economy and providing additional

incentive to carry on their local traditions.



Kari Giordano | giordano.kari@gmail.com | karigiordano.com

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