Unit IV The State of
Our Lives: Being a Louisiana Neighbor
The long leaf pine needles used to be plentiful in this area, and we [Koasati] never had any problem getting them. It's not at all like today, when all of the land is posted and the best trees have been clearcut by the timber companies, who re-forest with a shorter leafed tree. Today to get the needles you have to drive a really long way to find the trees, and even then you risk snakes by going deep into the woods. If you want to buy your needles, it's very expensive.
--Loris Langley, Allen Parish
English Language Arts, Social Studies
Purpose of Lesson
How do geography and ecology influence a region's folklife? Students will investigate this question and consider how an outsider might view their own region in this lesson. The natural world, even in urban settings, influences how we view life, what materials are available for crafts, what occupations we choose, how our homes look. Eighth graders will be able to tackle more sophisticated investigation, analysis, and mapping.
Lesson Objectives/Louisiana Content Standards, Benchmarks, and Foundation Skills
1. Students relate folklife to geography and ecology.
2. Students explore the concept of "insider" and "outsider" views of a region.
3. Students study maps, geography, and ecology in relation to the folklife of their region and in comparison with other regions.
4. Students make the connection between occupations, businesses, and economics and the folklife of a region.
2-5 class periods
Regional maps with land forms, place names. See Lesson 1 for instructions on creating Sense of Place Portfolios or Digital Portfolios. Students making food labels will need construction paper and oil pastels. You may want to laminate print-outs of vintage yam labels. For the postcard activity, use large index cards.
If your students will be doing fieldwork, you may need digital cameras, audio recorders, or video recorders in addition to notepads and pencils as well as appropriate fieldwork forms. Print out and duplicate any worksheets or rubrics that you will be using.
If your students will be doing fieldwork or the mapping lesson, you may want to use the Atlas: The Louisiana Statewide GIS online maps.
Background Information for the Teacher
Based on your curriculum goals, choose some of the cultural perspectives listed in the box below to frame students' investigations, or allow them to choose topics that interest them. By dividing into groups, the class could cover all the perspectives. Students can use the Cultural Perspectives handout.
Accumulate appropriate maps and resources on the geography and ecology of your region and the state; consider what cultural perspectives from the boxed list above fit best in your curriculum; compare the region where you grew up with where you live today. Read some of the Louisiana Folklife Articles in Internet Resources and Unit IV Resources and print out appropriate excerpts, and bookmark along with online maps and other resources students will be using. Print out and laminate some vintage Louisiana Yam and Sweet Potato Labels for students. Remind students to file materials they find or develop in their Sense of Place Portfolio or Digital Portfolio folders, and if you have created a portfolio checklist, to check off the completed items. Students can also self-evaluate the quality and completeness of their portfolios during or at the end of this lesson by using the Student Portfolio Rubric to evaluate their own work. If using Venn diagrams, Venn Diagram shows how to use them for comparisons.
4th Grade Activities
1. Begin a discussion about the geography and ecology of your community and parish. Ask students what land forms and landmarks are significant to them. Why? They may not have considered this question before and need prompting. What do they see on the way to school, for example? What are sources of pollution? What plants and animals live there? Ask a student to record answers. Begin a class master list of local land forms and landmarks. Different people will find different landmarks important (see Unit IV Lesson 3).
2. With students look at local and regional maps to study elevation, waterways, roads, settlement patterns, and official place names in your region. Ask students to compare your region with other regions by looking at maps for elevation, waterways, population density, place names, roadways, and so on. They may use the Map Facts Worksheet to organize findings. Use wall maps, maps in books or CD-Roms, and various online maps from Technology Connections above.
3. Using the local Yellow Pages, begin a discussion of what businesses and occupations are prominent in your community. How do they relate to local geography and ecology? Ask students to find other regional markers in the Yellow Pages, such as restaurants or religious institutions. You will find businesses unique to your region, for example catfish farms, cattle auctions, or French Quarter tours. You will also find businesses with regional names such as Delta Mini Marts, Acadian Maid Bread, or Crescent City Tires. Students might read From Evangeline Hot Sauce to Cajun Ice: Signs of Ethnicity in South Louisiana, by Barry Ancelet. Use Adaptation Strategies to adapt this adult-oriented resource to your students' reading level, if necessary. Make a class master list of regional businesses and regional institution names to hang in the classroom. Student teams might compete to collect the most names through observation and research.
4. Like other businesses, agricultural and food products are important markers of place, geography, and ecology. In North Louisiana, Ruston is famous for peaches. Opelousas is the state's yam national and international distribution center. McIlhenny Tabasco Sauce from Avery Island is famous worldwide. Ask students to build on their research of regional occupations by identifying local crops and foods marketed regionally, nationally, or internationally. Brainstorm a list of such products with the class. Show students laminated printouts of colorful vintage Louisiana Yam and Sweet Potato Labels from shipping crates. Ask students to analyze the labels closely. What artwork details symbolize Louisiana or farmers, for example? Ask students to design their own Louisiana product labels using construction paper and oil pastels, which have vibrant color. Students can display their labels in the classroom or the school cafeteria. A trip to the grocery might turn up locally produced foods such as rice, molasses, hot sauce, greens, or field peas. Students could compare the design of contemporary products with the 1940s yam labels. Have students research the planting and harvesting of crops around Louisiana and add agricultural and food products to a local map or to the large map created in Lesson 1. They should identify an agricultural or food product for at least 10 parishes.
5. Ask students to add images from the Creole State Exhibit, computer clip art, or drawings to a local map or to the large maps, if they created one in Lesson 1 illustrating regional folklife related to geography and ecology. Use the Cultural Perspectives handout. Students should add downloaded images to their Sense of Place Portfolio or Digital Portfolio folders they created in Lesson 1. The Cultural Landscape Foundation website is a good resource. Select Cultural Landscapes Defined, then Ethnograpic landscapes, then #8 to see the Cane River area viewed as an ethnographic landscape for Creoles.
6. Discuss how cultural insiders and outsiders view cultural regions, groups, and traditions. Folklorists and other social scientists use the terms emic (insider) and etic (outsider). What would an outsider notice in your community? What would an insider tell a visitor that would not be obvious at first glance? Ask students to design postcards on large index cards of local geography, ecology, or folklife traditions for tourists to buy as souvenirs. Ask students to evaluate a partner's postcard by saying. "Your postcard gives the insider's view because _______________" or "Your postcard does not give the insider's view because _______________."
7. Ask students to choose a region of the state and fill in the blanks on the Tell Me Why Worksheet with facts that they have learned through the activities in this lesson. For the last line, they must think about the three facts together to come to a conclusion. Have students work in small groups to explain and justify their conclusions. Then ask all students to choose one conclusion presented in their group and write why they do or don't agree on page 2 of the worksheet.
8. See other articles on Louisiana's Regional and Cultural Groups. If you want students to use these resources and they are written above their reading level, use Adaptation Strategies to build lessons around them.
4th Grade Explorations and Extensions
1. Study street and place names on a local or regional map. Classify categories of names such as geography or landmarks (Red River Valley, or Monument St.); local, state, or nationally known people (Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.); or other convention (Main Street). Use computer software to graph results. Read Noms de Bayou: French Place Names in North Louisiana.
2. Identify some of the many Native American place names around the state. Examples include Atchafalaya Basin, Caddo Parish, Mississippi River, and Bayou Dorcheat. Read the article Louisiana's Native Americans: An Overview to learn about Native American place names.
3. Through fieldwork collect stories of natural disasters such as hurricanes, droughts, or floods in your community by interviewing family members and other adults. Ask older people about the Flood of 1927. Add such tales to your regional culture exchange with another class. Study Unit II before organizing fieldwork so that students plan well and use permission forms so they may publish their findings.
4. Search for environmental information and activities by linking to websites listed in Technology Connections above.
5. Invite a local farmer, rancher, 4-H leader, or county extension agent to class or interview someone in your community who is involved with producing or marketing agricultural or food products. The class should use the Written Release Form and adapt the Folklife Interview Form from Unit II and conduct an in-class interview. Or organize a class field trip to the local county cooperative extension office. Find your parish office through the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service.
8th Grade Activities
1. Follow Steps 1-3 of 4th Grade Activities above.
2. Ask students to conduct fieldwork to interview older people in your region about the physical and ecological changes they have witnessed in the area. Have changes affected their jobs, lives, sense of place? Students might record an interviewee's sense of place then draw a map that illustrates findings or write a diary entry by someone the same age as students in an earlier time regarding the local environment. What records have people left on the land? Study Unit II before organizing fieldwork so that students plan well and use permission forms so they may publish their findings. Helpful resources include the video Haunted Waters-Fragile Lands: Oh, What Tales to Tell! and the online article Noms de Bayou.
3. With students look at the Atchafalaya Basin Annual Cycle. What aspects apply to your region? From information gathered from their fieldwork and research in the library and on the Internet, ask students to work in teams or individually to create a chart of the annual cycle of seasonal activities such as hunting and fishing or of seasonal climate changes in your region. Discuss how these seasonal changes might affect our sense of place. See Unit IX Part 1 Lessons 2 and 3 for activities related to the seasonal round in your region and across the state.
4. Research how technology has affected the geography and ecology of your region and other regions of the state. Consider how changes have influenced regional folklife over generations. Students may read Stalking the Mother Forest: Voices Beneath the Canopy (Select "Summer 1995," then scroll down) for a portrait of how folk groups intimately relate with and know their landscape, geography, and ecology. Ask them to write an essay, illustrating it with drawings or images from the Creole State Exhibit.
5. Globalization affects Louisiana crops and foods, which are marketed internationally. Product labels are a marker of place affected by globalization. For example, yam farmers once pitched their products via brightly colored labels with local symbols such as farm houses, French words, and even drawings of family members. Show students laminated printouts of vintage Louisiana Yam and Sweet Potato Labels. Labels can be acquired from commercial companies listed in Technology Connections above or from the Yambilee Festival in Opelousas. They are also available as postcards. Today, yams go into large mesh bags with generic labels. Likewise, the varieties of yams that farmers grow have changed. Scientists working in laboratories at state agricultural facilities and universities refine crop breeds for a number of reasons: uniformity of size, resistance to pests or fungus, yield per acre, durability for shipping. After brainstorming a list of Louisiana commercial crops and foods, ask students to be product detectives and comb the shelves of local groceries for things produced in Louisiana. For a few dollars, students can purchase an array of goods such as rice, canned fruits and vegetables, and condiments from hot sauce to jam. What clues to sense of place do student identify in the artwork and language on the labels of their grocery store finds? Ask students to compare vintage yam labels with contemporary food labels and discuss reasons for change, such as globalization, aesthetic styles, and nutritional trends. Ask students to choose an advertising assignment for a Louisiana food product. They may draw a label using construction paper and oil pastels or write a 30-second radio or television ad. Ask them to study elements of labels and ads before designing their own: product names, slogans, images, use of language, music, jingles, logos. Students should display their artwork and share their ads in class. They may play recordings of their ads or read them aloud.
Technology Option: The commercial website Label Collector displays vintage food labels from all parts of the U.S. Ask students to find different regional labels for the same product and list design elements that demonstrate a distinct sense of place for at least five labels. They can use Venn Diagrams to compare and contrast labels.
6. From the prominent port of New Orleans, up the Mississippi River, across the bayous, and along the rivers of North Louisiana, waterways abound in the state. What is the prominent body of water in your community? In what ways do people interact with it, for example, through occupations, recreation, agriculture, drinking water? Are there legends, stories, customs, or beliefs about this waterway? Trace the path of a local waterway to the ocean. What goes into the water from the land it passes through? Is it industrial, urban, agricultural, or forest? How does the folklife such as occupations, beliefs, customs, or celebrations along the waterway change as it passes through different places? What are pollution sources? Prepare a poster or computer graphic with a map and explanatory notes to show the journey to the sea.
8th Grade Explorations and Extensions
1. Study past businesses and economics of your community or region in relation to geography or changing ecology.
2. Investigate settlement patterns of ethnic, religious, and economic groups from an earlier time. Use printed or online maps. Compare with the present using maps, Venn diagrams, graphs, or essays. Remember to review Louisiana's Traditional Cultures: An Overview. Find older maps in the online Louisiana State Museum Map Database.
3. Study a local geographic or ecological feature in depth and choose one of the cultural perspectives from the boxed list in the lesson introduction to pursue in relation to that feature, for example, occupations on waterways or seasonal changes in foodways.
4. Study about the basics of Louisiana's seafood fisheries, including the importance of habitat, identification of key seafood species, productivity of a saltwater marsh, Louisiana's ranking as a seafood producer, and the causes and solutions to coastal wetland habitat loss.