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Hello Neighbor!

Traditional arts are passed down from one generation to the next within families and communities and are regarded by the community as part of their heritage. These activities can include music, dance, storytelling, crafts, skills, and celebrations. Communities can be defined in many ways, such as groups that share the same, language, geographic area, ethnic heritage, occupation, or way of life. A folk or traditional artist is a person who learned her/his art informally, by word of mouth, and through examples in the community. Hello Neighbor! is a way we can help share these community resources with classrooms in Idaho.

Why bring a folk or traditional artist to interact with Idaho students?

Since the folk and traditional arts are part of everyday life, it is both appropriate and enriching to bring artists from different groups to demonstrate skills and share their knowledge with students and faculty. These interactions help students develop:

  • new perspectives about themselves, their culture, and the culture of others
  • intergenerational communication skills
  • connections to other areas of study: Idaho history, music, language arts, social studies
Examples of Traditional Art Forms found in Idaho
  • Dance: Basque, Korean, Mexican, Greek, Bosnian, Native American, Indian, Turkish
  • Music: old-time fiddling, Basque button accordion and pandereta, Korean Ka Ya Gum,Gambian, Turkish and Japanese drumming, Mariachi music, Andean wind instruments
  • Song: Gospel, corridos, yodeling, Basque and Jewish choral music, the work songs of canoe paddlers or agricultural workers
  • Craft: saddles, beaded moccasins, embroidery, instrument making, Norwegian rosemaling, Mexican paper and wax flowers, chainsaw carving, Japanese folded paper, drum making, woven baskets, fishing rods and flies
  • Spoken word: stories, tall tales, jokes, proverbs, toasts, rhymes, cowboy, logger, or sheepherders poetry, Latino hip-hop

Students as Folklorists: observing carefully and listening deeply.

Through Hello Neighbor! students are encouraged to engage as folklorists, observing the artists’ artforms and engaging as interviewers -asking questions of the artist in order to “discover” what motivates and inspires their work.

Sample Questions for Students to ask Visiting Artists

These are suggested questions for your students to ask visiting folk artists. Please feel free to modify the wording of the questions as necessary for your students’ grade level.

Suggestion: Print the questions, attach each one to a small card, determine which students will ask the question in the designated sequence.

Discovery, 5 questions – “Let’s see how many we have time for?” Assign a student timekeeper. 

Discovery (10 minutes)

  1. Tell us about what you do or make?
  2. How old were you when you first learned your skill?
  3. Who taught you this skill?
  4. Why did you want to learn it?
  5. Do other people in your family or community practice this art form?

Demonstration/Observation -Artist shows/share their artform (20 minutes)

Expanding Knowledge Deeper thinking (20 minutes)

  1. Is your art a part of everyday life or is it reserved for special occasions?
  2. What materials do you need? Where do you get them?
  3. Do you need special tools, (costumes), (instruments)?
  4. How long does it take to do a typical project?…or learn a new song?
  5. How is your work similar to the work of others? Are there things that you all have in common?
  6. Do you have your own style, a unique sound, or a special technique?
  7. What do you love about what you do?
  8. Have you taught others how to do this traditional art? Why or why not?
  9. Are there other things you would like to add before we finish this conversation?
Hello Neighbor! Getting Started/Logistics
  • A classroom teacher reads the Hello Neighbor! webpages and decides to submit an online Letter of Interest..
    • Each request must be made by an individual classroom teacher.
    • Limit: Two Hello Neighbor! classroom visits per day.
    • Total number of Hello Neighbor! opportunities: no more than two days each year per school.
  • ICA staff receives the teacher request.
  • The ICA Folk Arts Director contacts an appropriate local folk artist then emails the teacher the artist’s contact information.
  • The teacher contacts the artist to arrange a date and time for the 50 minute Hello Neighbor! student/artist experience for their classroom, sharing some information about their class.
  • The teacher confirms the date with the artist and emails the date and time to the ICA staff steven.hatcher@arts.idaho.gov
  • Artist Honorarium: After the Hello Neighbor! classroom visit, the artist creates and mails or emails ICA staff an invoice noting the school, date of service and compensation request of $200 for one classroom visit or $300 total, for two sequential classroom visits in one day.
Hello Neighbor! Program Sequence


Folk artists are not teachers and therefore cannot ensure pupil comprehension. The educator must help students interpret the experience.

The classroom teacher could initiate a discussion with students to help them understand that folk/traditional arts are learned informally, in face-to-face interactions. People do not usually acquire their skills from a book but learn them from other people who are members of a particular folk group.

Be open-minded. The point of having a traditional artist visit the classroom is so that students can experience another way of life, another type of thinking, or another method of learning. Some ethnic groups, for example, might not interpret history in the same way as it is usually presented. Although textbooks state that Native Americans emigrated along the Bering Strait, a Native American folk artist might tell another story about how the tribe originated.

A word about stereotypes. It is important to emphasize that stereotypes can result from generalizations based on folk traditions, so it is important to stress that not everyone in a folk group practices the same traditions. Not all kids throw paper airplanes and not all Mexicans or Mexican-Americans make piñatas.


50 minutes total: 10 minutes  for Discovery Questions, 20 minutes for the Artist to demonstrate their artform, 20 minutes for Expanding Knowledge student questions.


Show what you know! A great way to embed understanding after the Hello Neighbor! experience is to have the students write a letter to the artist. Younger students could draw a picture and add a caption.

Prompt: Writes these questions on the board to guide the student reflection.

  1. Share (five) things that you learned, each in its own sentence.
  1. Describe to the artist how you will use this information in the future.
  1. Choose something different that you loved about the visit and why it was special to you.

The artist will love to receive the letters showing what the students learned, and so will we. Please photo copy and send a few examples of the student letters to the Idaho Commission on the Arts, attn: Ruth Piispanen, Arts Education Director, P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0008.

Where can we find folk and traditional artists?

The Idaho Commission on the Arts can help identify traditional artists living in your community. Let us know of your interest in hosting an artist to start the process. Once you and the artist have agreed to work together and set a date for a classroom demonstration and interview, the Commission will provide the artist with a small honorarium to compensate them for their time in your classroom.

I’m interested in this opportunity for my students!

Hello Neighbor Interest Letter

Tipsheets for Artists and Teachers

These PDF files offer helpful suggestions to make your visit a success.

Tipsheet for artists

Tipsheet for teachers