Louisiana Voices Educator's Guide  
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Study Guide Summary  
Outline of the Study Guide  
Study Unit I Defining Terms  
Study Unit II Fieldwork Basics  
Study Unit III Discovering the Obvious: Our Lives as "The Folk"  
Study Unit IV The State of Our Lives: Being a Louisiana Neighbor  
Study Unit V Oral Traditions--Swapping Stories  
Study Unit VI Louisiana's Musical Landscape  
Study Unit VII Material Culture-The Stuff of Life  
Study Unit VIII The Worlds of Work and Play  
Study Unit IX The Seasonal Round and Life Cycles  
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Unit IX Outline:


Part 1: The Seasonal Round

Lesson 1: Birthday Calendars

Lesson 2: Constructing Personal Calendars

Lesson 3: Folklife Around the Year

Part 2: The Cycle of Life (this page)

Lesson 1: Birth and Early Childhood

Part 2, Lesson 2: Rites of Passage

Part 2, Lesson 3: Elders' Ways








Unit IX
The Seasonal Round and The Cycle of Life

Part 2 The Cycle of Life

I can remember right here in this [funeral home] a daughter came to do her mother’s hair, and I went to help her. There were many times I would do hair on my own--to help tie bows and to be sure everything was right. . . . I did whatever was necessary. . . . I was just a community member. You know people just like you would say, “How do you do that?” And I’d say, “Well, you have friends, and they get sick and they die. And these are our friends, too. We’ve grown up with them; we’ve known them all our lives; we know their families; we know their children.” And so we felt like we were being as helpful as if a neighbor went into the house to tend to people. Even though it was our livelihood, we didn’t try to make it just our livelihood. We tried to give back to the community.

--Gene McKneely, Tangipahoa Parish


Part 2 Introduction

Throughout the cycle of life, we mark our lives with rites of passage unique to many of the various folk groups we belong to. In religious and civil ceremonies, initiations into clubs and onto jobs, gatherings of family and friends, privately and publicly, we use traditions to ease us through life changes. The rituals that we participate in throughout our lives are the theater and drama of everyday life. Some passages we slip through without noticing since contemporary culture presents fewer formal rites of passage today. This unit for students in grade 8 and above helps students recognize moments of importance in people's lives and asks them to find meaning in the stages of their own and others' lives. They learn that all cultures have rites of passage for similar stages in the cycle of life.

We find fewer and fewer formal rites of passage in contemporary American culture, which some journalists and scholars find disturbing, pondering whether today's teenagers might be better off if they had to endure a common rite of passage. Paradoxically, change is part and parcel of folklife; traditions undergo change and variation whenever they are enacted. Even as we lose some rites of passage, we create new ones. Look at greeting card and party supply stores for evidence of emerging traditions: "over the hill" birthdays like 40, 50, 60; divorce announcements; job promotion and retirement congratulations. Some rites of passage such as first communion or marriage are deeply religious; others such as getting a driver's license or diploma are entirely civil.

It's still the same old story--love, courtship, and marriage--yet each story is unique. Students' examination of courtship and marriage in their own communities and in others offers opportunities to connect with family members and neighbors. Civil or religious, Roman Catholic or Protestant, Islamic or Buddhist, Cajun or Czech, Louisiana weddings are festive, fun, and provide windows into family and community folklife.

Elders in the United States may not be regarded with the reverence reserved for older people in other societies, but they have a lot to offer young people--and vice versa. Intergenerational projects invigorate both elders and students. Students continue their examination of the cycle of life by plotting milestones from birth to death, marriage to retirement. Children grow up, parents become grandparents. Elders carry many stories, customs, beliefs, songs, and bits of advice that resonate with young people--perhaps because they are not the students' parents. By sharing their own life stories with older people, students illuminate contemporary life for them. Despite dramatic changes in 21th century life, common ground connects the generations. Perhaps a student will gain new appreciation for an older person, or a grandfather can understand more of what his grandson knows through folklife fieldwork. This unit provides many points of entry that can lead students to deeper awareness of community values, elders' worldviews, and their own future possibilities.


Unit IX Resources

Unit IX Outline


National Endowment for

            the Arts.

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