Curricular Resources

FEAST: Folklore Education & Storytelling for Teachers

FEAST: Folklore Education & Storytelling for Teachers is a multimedia resource of oral traditions, family stories, folklore-based curricula, and annotated web resources created by Bank Street College graduate students and alumni in collaboration with the Graduate School and the Bank Street College Alumni Association. Contact Nina Jaffe, Project Coordinator, at to learn more.

Oral History and Family Lore: “There is Nothing Like Family”

These samples represent writings by teachers who have attended Bank Street College and have studied folklore as part of their degree program. These family stories also became part of what teachers used in their curriculum and as a basis for longer independent studies. The complete collection, fully indexed by title and subject, is on display at the Bank Street College Library. We hope you enjoy these resources and that they serve to broaden your own sense of history, tradition, and the possibilities of folklore in education.

  • Chie Mochizuki: Wedding Lore from Japan


    Spring 1991

    Amongst the many family stories that are well remembered and frequently told in my family, there is one about my maternal grandmother which I liked very much. When my grandmother was a young maiden, she lived in Haneda, the southern tip of Tokyo. It was well before World War II, and Haneda was more like a village rather than a town. The community was small, so everybody knew everybody else. My great grandmother was a landowner. She was a strong and fierce person. On the contrary, my grandmother was a quiet and shy person; she was always passive. However, unlike my great grandmother, she was an exceptionally beautiful woman. In Japan, such a girls tends to be called, with affection, by a name with a suffix, “-komachi” which means “a local beauty.”

    Since her beauty was a rare find, all the young men in Haneda wanted to have her as their wife. However, for fear of the reaction from my great grandmother, none of them dared to ask for my grandmother’s hand. They often guessed who would be the lucky one. Then, one day, a young man moved to Haneda from the far away country-side and married my grandmother. At the time a wedding was still a community event. A long procession was held. My grandmother, in a white kimono and a white cap on her head, marched solemnly beside my grandfather. It is said that all the villagers were disappointed and felt tricked, for their beauty was taken by a stranger. They also wondered what kind of a man my grandfather was. For a while, he was a local legend who swept the local beauty away from them.

    The story always ends with jeers and a big laugh that my grandmother didn’t leave any trace of her beauty in her daughters nor in her granddaughters. Whenever my mother tells this story, she looks like a young girl, smiling a little naughtily and feeling warmed by the episode. There is also a Japanese families saying that, when it suddenly starts to rain on a sunny day, foxes are having a wedding procession. Somehow, in my mind, the story of my grandmother’s wedding is associated not only with my mother’s voice and people’s laughter but also with the image of a fox’s wedding. In any case, this story is one way we remember my grandmother, who is now senile and has lost most of her memories, in a most vivid way.

  • Beth Pepper: A Yiddish Lullabye from Eastern Europe


    Spring 1998

    I recall a lullaby my grandmother sang to me. Whenever my eyes conceded to the tiredness of a young child’s day, I lay my head in her cushioned lap, allowing her wrinkled fingers to graze through my hair and warmly stroke my hand. In a rasped voice, weary from age, she soothed me:

    In the corner of the Temple
    The widowed daughter of Zion sits,
    Rocking her only son Yidele to sleep
    She sings a tender lullaby:

    “Under Yidele’s cradle
    Stands a snow-white kid,
    This kid has been to market.
    That will be calling:
    Trading raisings with almonds;
    So sleep now, Yidele, sleep.

    There will come a time when trains
    Will cover the earth;
    You’ll travel on iron roads
    And earn great wealth.

    But even when you become rich, Yidele,
    Remember this lullaby:
    Raisins with almonds;
    This will be your calling!
    You will trade everything,
    So sleep now, Yidele, sleep.”

    When I was six years old, I remember sitting beside my Grandfather on the front porch of my house. It was a sunny day, dusk in late spring, that time of day when the sun seems to blind you. A police officer walked up the driveway to tell us that my Grandmother had been hit by a car in the parking lot of a supermarket at the end of our block. We ran as fast as we could to the corner. My Grandfather was immediately guided to the ambulance while an officer sat with me in the back of a police car. I knelt on the seat and leaned against the window, watching as they lifted the stretcher into the ambulance. Softly, I soothed my self: “Unter Yideles VigeleΣ” as my Grandmother would.

    On the night that my sister returned from the hospital with her new son, she placed a sack of Rozhinkes mit mandlen beneath the baby’s bassinet. We had no idea where the custom had come from or whether it was superstition. The sack was placed there lovingly and remained there, regardless. And on the tape of bedtime songs that my sister often plays for him is Rozhinkes mit mandlen.

    These symbols marked my fiancé’s Aufruf as well (literally, going up, in Yiddish, or the calling to the Torah of the groom before the wedding.). After he read from the Torah, our friends and family showered us with tiny sacks of raisins and almonds, blessing us with a life built upon Jewish values and happiness. At our wedding, I could not think of a more appropriate song with which to escort my Grandmother down the aisle. As the doors to the sanctuary opened and she paused for a photograph, the violins began to play “In Dem bes-hamikdesh in a vinkl kheyderΣ” Her lullaby has touched so many moments in my life.

    This traditional Yiddish song has always been meaningful to me, neither for the words, its inherent message, nor the lulling melody, but simply because my Grandmother sang it with tenderness. Nonetheless, as I grow into an adult and envision the life ahead and children of my own, I reflect on the essence of the lullaby. Each milestone, like my wedding or the birth of my nephew, illuminates its meaning further. It speaks of bittersweet history, a vastly transforming future, and tradition at risk. Almost with dejection, it appeals for the mere remembrance of heritage amidst a rapidly changing world. The mother who sings to her Yidele, her little boy, reveals little faith in cultural continuity. Sadly certain that he will abandon the legacy of tradition for the riches of technological advancement, she warns him of his assimilated fate with the hope that he will at least remember this lullaby as a relic of a time and culture gone by. The intended message of course is very much dependent on the time and dynamics in which the song was written. Likewise, the personal theme rests on cumulative history and experience.

    For me, it is a reminder of how delicate and yet how powerful culture is. Even when tradition seems like stagnant embers of a burnt-out fire, it may suddenly reemerge and invigorate the spark between us and our ancestry. Through my observance of tradition, I unknowingly sustain a cultural legacy greater than the mere memory a lullaby.

  • Andrietta Sims: Childhood in North Carolina

    A Childhood Memory

    Spring 1997

    My curriculum focuses on houses around the world. In our study we are also looking at the people who live in these communities. I have attempted to make the curriculum more real by sharing stories with them about the different types of homes and places that I have been to, especially as a child. I also share with them the various games and songs that I learned while visiting these places. Other children and adults also share their stories about the homes they lived in or visited as well at the things they did as children.

    In our storytelling sessions/discussions (I use the term discussions since invariably the stories are interrupted by the children who relate to what I’m telling them or have a question.) I hope that the children will begin to notice or even discover the similarities in children’s lives both cross-culturally and cross-generationally.

    The group that I work with are 2nd and 3rd graders. I would begin a discussion by telling the children about my visits to grandfather’s house in South Carolina when I was a child.

    Every summer, my mother would pack up me and my sister to go visit my Grandfather in Summerton, North Carolina. I liked going to my granddaddy’s house cause it was like going back in time. It was like going on an adventure. He had no bathroom. We had to use the outhouse in the backyard. The outhouse was a small wooden shack and inside there was a wooden bench with two holes to sit on. It smelled something awful. At night we had to use a bedpan cause it was way too dark to go outside. The outhouse was in front of a field and anything that lived in that field could get into that shack. There wasn’t any running water either. We had to pump the water. Right on the back porch was a pump. You had to pump the water out. It wasn’t that easy either. I can still remember the sound of that pump. We did have electricity though. That was something. You see, everybody that lived on that road didn’t have electricity. My Grandfather, and my Great Grandmother, who lived in the Big House had electricity. And, every time it rained and there was thunder and lightning we had to turn off everything. I hated that because I wanted to watch TV. But instead, I would sit by the window, inventing some story in my head about being stuck out in that storm with no place to go.

    My granddaddy was a farmer. He grew all kinds of food like corn, peanuts, collard greens, peas, watermelon and anything else you could think of. He was also a hunter. He kept over 100 hunting dogs across the road in a large dog pen. He had bird dogs and hunting dogs. Sometimes I’d go sit in the pen to play with them. They barked like crazy, but I wasn’t scared of them. I loved them. No one else could come in that pen like that but my granddaddy. My grandfather was always either out in the fields or out hunting. Of course, I couldn’t go hunting, cause I was too young, and I didn’t go into the fields cause there were snakes out there.

    I spent most of my days playing in the road, making up games using rocks and sticks. I would play these games for hours. It was hot out there but I would still stay out there and play. Some days I would go visiting other people’s homes down the road. There were three other houses along that road. Just about everybody was related to me in some way. They were cousin this and cousin that. Like I said, my grandfather’s house was the only one with electricity. So whenever I went into someone else’s house it seemed awfully dark, even with the sun beaming in. They used oil lamps and candles for light when it got dark.

    This story tells something about life in the rural south and something about some of the homes that people lived in. It also explains something of how what was available to me shaped what I did, how I played, etc. I can use this same story to talk about and introduce some of the games that I played. Imbedded in these stories are traditions as well as beliefs on what children could and couldn’t do and what was considered appropriate behavior. Imbedded in these stories are my family and my relationships with them. These stories are intended to be a window into my experiences and another means by which to create meaningful curriculum for my students.

  • Nicole Shahida: Celebrating No-Ruz/The Persian New Year

    Celebrating No-Ruz: A Family Tradition


    My husband and I have celebrated No-Ruz (the Persian New Year) for the last ten years. In harmony with the rebirth of nature, this two-week celebration always begins on the first day of spring. It is a time to clean the environment, cleanse the self, make or buy new clothes and bake pastries. It is time to light bonfires, have parties and a time to throw away the bad deeds from the year just passed.

    It has only been in the last four years that the preparations for the No-Ruz have become a ritual in our home. It has become a ritual because we now have three children to share it with and they have become an important part of the festivities. In early March, on a Saturday or Sunday, we take the children to the local pet store where they each get to pick out their very own goldfish. These goldfish are just one of the many items which symbolize the Persian New Year celebration.

    When we arrive at the pet store the children race to the back of the store where the goldfish are waiting to be picked. Our children spend a long time first watching the fish and then carefully selecting the one they want. Usually they pick the goldfish with unusual markings or colors. On our ride home we talk about the meaning of the goldfish and how this tradition is an important part of our heritage.

    When we get home we place our new goldfish into a glass vase that has already been place at the haft-sinn (literally “seven dishes’ setting,” each one beginning with the Persian letter sinn). the seven dishes stand for the seven angelic heralds of life- rebirth, health, happiness, prosperity, joy, patience and beauty. They include: sabzeh, germinated sprouts; samanu, a wheat sprout; sib, apple; senjed, the sweet fruit of the lotus tree; seer, garlic; somaq; and serkeh, vinegar.

    To set up the Haft-Sinn or ceremonial setting I place a beautiful piece of antique Persian cloth on my sideboard in my dinning room. I have set out the “seven dishes” along with a copy of the Koran, a few coins and some painted eggs. There is also a mirror, a hyacinth plant and some candles. All of these items have symbolic meanings, representing rebirth and goodness. Now the children are able to bring the goldfish, which represents life to join the food items in the haft-sinn

    Another important ritual which is associated with the Persian New Year and that our children partake in is the growing of the germinated sprouts, which represent rebirth. In early March, we begin to grow the sprouts that also need to be placed at the haft-sinn. My two eldest children pour out a bag of lentils onto a large flat platter. They spread the seed out so that there are about two layers of lentils. Then they place a damp cloth over the seeds and place the platter in a cool protected area in our kitchen. It is their job to check the towel each day for about one week and make sure that it is always damp. After about one week they can remove the towel if they have started to see the lentils sprout. They are responsible for watering the sprouts every day so that they remain moist. It takes about two weeks for the lentils to grow about four-five inches tall which is about as tall as they will get. At this point we tie a colorful ribbon around the entire bunch and then place the platter alongside the other items in the Haft-Sinn.

    Celebrating the Persian New Year has become a very important tradition in our family because it is a link to our family’s heritage and helps our children connect with a way of life that is both faraway and very different from our own. It is also a connection that we have within our own family and also with the families in our extended Persian community. It will always be a part of our lives and hopefully our children will one day teach their children about the wonderful tradition of No-Ruz.

  • Alison Wylegala: Timodawa/A Polish Finger Play


    Spring 1991

    When first faced with the assignment to discuss a folklore tradition of my own family, I was sure I wouldn’t have anything to share. Certainly we celebrate holiday traditions, but such celebrations didn’t seem to quite fit the folklore bill. As we discussed the three ‘streams’ of folklore through, I realized that my family has enjoyed and passed on a folklore of its own. Through several generations, the Polish side of my family has passed on a traditional (though greatly altered) hand-play. My earliest (and just about only) memory of my grandfather is my running to him from across the room, jumping on his lap, holding out my hand, waiting for ‘Timodowa.’ Papa would stroke my palm with his ‘giant’ fingers, circling around and around, repeating the Polish story we called Timodowa (copy and translation attached). I can vaguely remember large family gatherings with cousins (as well as sisters) lined up at Papa’s knee, waiting their turn. My grandmother picked up with the before bedtime ritual after my grandfather died and after Nan’s death, we all moved on to my father’s lap, as he took on the Timodowa responsibilities. Often, my father would recall for us how his parents had put him to bed with ‘Timodowa.’

    Eventually, we all got too old (and too big) to sit on a lap and our Timodowa times stopped. Someone got around to asking what the rhyme was about, and we were surprised to learn that the gentle stroking motions were accompanied by a tale of maternal brutality. When the cousins got together, we often laughed about ‘Timodowa’ but the hand play itself feel out of practice for many years.

    The birth of my niece (the first grandchild for my parents) helped breathe new life into the ‘Timodowa’ tradition. It’s wonderful to see Annie perched on my father’s knee, nearly transfixed by her Popop’s hypnotic finger motions. As he grabs her little finger (chopping off the head of the last hungry child, according to the story) Annie laughs with great delight, just like her mother and aunts did.

    The other day my mother found Annie reciting ‘Timodowa’ (and pulling her own finger) alone in her crib-proof that she’s proud keeper of the ‘Timodowa’ tradition.

    An Old Polish Finger Game (Phonetic Version and very loosely translated)

    [Move your index finger in the palm of the child’s hand in a circular motion]

    Kaw-shee kaw-shee wapki We’re going to
    Poo-ya dzem daw bopchee Grandmother’s house
    Bobcha da nam mlich-kaw Grandmother will give us some milk.
    Ee ben-ji-mi peelee And we will drink it.
    Kaw-shee kaw-shee wapki We’re going to
    Mama ku-pee-wa yayuff Mama bought some eggs
    Ti-moo-dow-wha! She gave this one some
    Ti-moo-dow-wha! She gave this one some
    Ti-moo-dow-wha! She gave this one some
    Ti-moo-dow-wha! She gave this one some
    [Grasp the last little baby finger more firmly and pull up and away with great flourish while saying:]
    Ah ti-moo whe-pek aw-berr-vow-what! She pulled the head off this one.
  • FEAST Bibliography

FEAST Recommended Websites

These websites were selected by Bank Street graduate students in the course, EDUC 574 Folklore in the Classroom.

  • General Folklore and Storytelling Resources

    Encyclopedia Mythica: Folktale
    This site is an amazingly thorough encyclopedia on mythology, folklore, and legends from around the world. The mythology section is arranged by continent. The folklore section is divided into the following categories: Arthurian Legend, Folklore, Folktales, and Greek Heroic Legend.

    Exploring Everyday Folklore with Nina Jaffe
    This is a fantastic site for kids and adults to navigate. Nina Jaffe, instructor at Bank Street, discusses her careers as author, musician, and storyteller;defines the different kinds folklore; and describes how to identify and write about folklore in your own life. Kids can even publish their own folktales and folklore online. You can also hear Jaffe retell a folktale from one of her books.

    Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts
    This site has complete electronic texts (many with pictures!) of folklore, mythology, and legends from around the world. There are also links to sites with detailed information about Germanic geography, mythology, and culture, as well as resources for investigating specific fairy tales.

    The Folklore Society
    This is the site of one of the oldest organizations dedicated to folklore. It provides an excellent list of links to Web sites about different kinds of folklore both locally and worldwide.

    Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
    This site has excellent cultural education programs and materials for K-12 teachers. A few activity guides can be downloaded from the Web site, and more extensive educational kits including video and audio recordings, etc. are available for purchase. The site also lists current exhibits at the Center, as well as online exhibits, complete with curriculum guides.

  • Africa

    African Music Encyclopedia
    This site provides biographies of various African musicians. It includes a glossary of African music and a list of recommended books, linked to for purchases. It also has a long, useful list of links to Web sites of African music festivals, periodicals, newsgroups, stores, etc.

  • Asia

    Asia Society
    “The Asia Society is America’s leading institution dedicated to fostering understanding of Asia and communication between Americans and the peoples of Asia and the Pacific.” This site has information about upcoming events, as well as pictures and information from their extensive art exhibits.

    Indian Mythology
    This site serves as a resource for parents, educators, and individuals wanting to expand their knowledge base of Indian mythology and find creative ways to encourage interest in Indian culture through storytelling. It includes comprehensive stories, terminology index, discussion forum, image gallery, and an interactive quiz. It also encourages site visitors to contribute their own versions of stories of Hindu deities.

  • Europe

    Irish Literature, Mythology, Folklore, and Drama
    This is a fantastic source of information about Irish folklore, myths, legends, saints, literature etc. There are links to hundreds of related sites and the information is organized into the following categories: history, language, periodicals, literature, mythology, publishers, theater companies, folklore, fine arts, food, marketplaces, and free goodies.
    Country: Ireland

  • North America

    Alaska Native Heritage Center
    This site provides information about the technology, cultural traditions, social organization, and history of 5 of Alaska’s 11 native cultures. Their FAQ section has some fantastic links to other sites about Alaska and Alaska Native cultures. There are some wonderful photographs of their current exhibits under “Visit” and “What’s Happening at the Center.” There are also pictures of artwork and biographies of many Alaska Native artists under “Learn” and “Special Programs and Resources.”
    State: Alaska
    Culture, Ethnic Group, or Religion: Alaska Natives

    American Folklore
    “This folklore site contains retellings of American folktales, Native American myths and legends, tall tales, weather folklore, and ghost stories from each and every one of the 50 United States.” The “Student Resources” section is especially good, and you can even e-mail a folklore professor at UCLA.
    Country: United States

    The British Columbia Folklore Society
    This site defines folklore and provides good examples of different kinds of folklore from British Columbia. A link called “Local Legends” invites readers to submit tales from their regions. There is a multitude of links, some to specific legends and others to folklore Web sites around the world.
    Province: British Columbia, Canada

    Jose-Luis Orozco
    This Web site includes information on the following: a bibliography on Jose-Luis Orozco, show schedules, albums, stories, songbooks, CDs, cassettes, and DVDs, which are all in Spanish. The heritage and traditions of the Spanish-speaking world are brought to life through song.
    State: California
    Culture, Ethnic Group, or Religion: Latino

    The Library of Congress American Folklife Center
    This site contains an amazing array of ethnographic field collections, ranging from “California Gold: Northern California Folk Music From the Thirties” to “Quilts and Quiltmaking in America, 1978-1996.” The collections include audio and video recordings, drawings, photographs, and documents.
    Country: United States

    Native American Culture
    This Web site contains many Native American stories and legends, including several creation stories from tribes all over North America. There are also links to other Native American sites and photographs of folk art.
    Country: United States
    Culture, Ethnic Group, or Religion: Native Americans

    The New York Folklore Society
    The Society offers many programs and services, such as the Folk Archive Project, to preserve and foster folk traditions of all cultures in New York. The “Resources” section is especially helpful to gain an understanding of folklore. It also has a list of useful folklore, arts, and music organizations, and archives, libraries, and museums located in New York.
    State: New York

    Philadelphia Folklore Project
    This site has information about Philadelphia-area folk artists, recent folk life exhibits and events, and resources for educators, including teacher guides, publications, and curricula. It also provides biographies and photographs of respected folk artists from Philadelphia.
    City and State: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Whitman Mission National Historic Site
    This well-organized site provides valuable information for curricula relating to the Oregon Trail and Westward Expansion. Though some interesting biographies and historical accounts can be found on the “Whitman Mission Teacher’s Guide,” the most valuable enclave of information is present within the over 100-page “Oregon Trail Teacher’s Guide.” This guide prompts teachers with ideas relating to history, language arts, mapping, science and math.
    Country: United States

  • South America

    Content coming soon!

  • Australia & Oceania

    National Library of Australia
    The National Library of Australia’s site includes exhibits on Australian oral history, maps, music, performing arts, and historical photos documenting the cultural and ethnic history of Australia.
    Country: Australia

  • Subject/Content Areas PreK – 12

    This site is dedicated to the many different Cinderella stories from around the world. It includes Cinderella stories from France, Germany, Norway, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Georgia, Serbia, Russia, and more. It also includes links to sites on folklore compiled by other organizations or people.
    Subject: Fairy Tales

    Family Folklore: How to Collect Your Own Folklore
    This site is a practical resource for teachers planning a family folklore research project with students. It breaks down the steps of an investigation and includes topics and issues to consider before and during the process. This site also describes migration experiences of various cultural groups. It includes information about people, objects, and ideas from a wide range of cultures in the United States, Canada, Asia, Africa, Europe, the Pacific, and South America.
    Subject: Family Folklore

    Folk Music of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales & America
    This site has the history, audio recordings, and lyrics to many folk songs primarily from Europe and the United States. You can search by country or by category, such as love songs, sad songs, children’s songs, songs of war, etc. The “Folk Microencyclopedia” is also an excellent source of information about different folk songs and genres.
    Countries: England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, United States, Canada, and Australia
    Subject: Folk Music

    Storm Facts: Winter Weatherlore and Folklore Forecasts
    There are various folklore forecasts, such as, “If the first week in August is unusually warm, the coming winter will be snowy and long,” and weatherlore, such as, “The wider the brown (middle) band on a wooly bear caterpillar, the milder the Winter.”
    Subject: Weather Folklore