What is Folklife

It's about what we know how to do, what we create and accomplish.

It is our common wealth! 

It is what Americans own as a nation, what we choose to honor and keep in the Smithsonian our national attic.


The term "American Folklife" means the traditional expressive culture shared within the various groups in the United States: familial, ethnic, occupational, religious, regional; expressive culture includes a wide range of creative and symbolic forms such as custom, belief, technical skill, language, literature, art, architecture, music, play, dance, drama, ritual, pageantry, handicraft; these expressions are mainly learned orally, by imitation, or in performance, and are generally maintained without benefit of formal instruction or institutional direction.

  • Living traditions passed down over time and through space.
  • Since most folklore is passed down through generations, it is closely connected to community history.
  • Shared by a group of people who have something in common: ethnicity, family,region, occupation, religion, nationality, age, gender, social class, social clubs, school, etc. Everyone belongs to various groups; therefore, everyone has folklore of some sort.
  • Learned informally by word of mouth, observation, and/or imitation.
  • Made up of conservative elements (motifs) that stay the same through many transmissions, but folklore also changes in transmission (variants). In other words, folk traditions have longevity, but are dynamic and adaptable.
  • Usually anonymous in origin

TRANSDISCIPLINARITY means the future doesn't fit into a single discipline.

#STEM Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
#STEAM: Integrate  The  Arts! using Folklife, Folklore, Folkarts, Traditions & Culture

No one has to justify studying math, history, and science.

Finland has long been renowned for the quality of its education. They are now involved with Project - or phenomenon-based learning (PBL) which equips children with the skills necessary to flourish in the 21st Century. PBL and looks for a variety of ways of integrating it into the school's curriculum. Finnish school teach in a more collaborative way; to allow students to choose a topic relevant to them and base subjects around it. This is why we promote Folklorists and Folklife to spearhead projects in schools.