Archived High School Unit (special education)
Making Connections:
Lifestyles and Traditions of World Cultures
Author: Lucy Andrus
Dates: Spring 2002 Semester
Written here for: Students with developmental disabilities, but also applicable to
students in general education

Conceptual Basis of the Unit:

The theme of this semester-long unit revolves around the exploration of the lifestyles
and traditions of diverse peoples and their cultures in comparison to our own, particularly
those with whom students have ancestral connections. Using the students' living skills
curriculum as a basis, the students will be exposed to the ways in which other people around
the world practice the same living skills but in diverse ways. The students will understand
that every person, no matter what their background, must learn to develop and practice the
competencies necessary for creating and living a productive and satisfying life, from the practical
to the aesthetic. As we explore the lifestyles of other cultures, the students will see similarities
among all people as well as develop an appreciation for the diverse ways in which we go
about the tasks of daily life. In the process, the students will also come to understand and
appreciate the universal pursuit of the aesthetic in everyday living, and the universal application
by all artmakers of the basic art elements and principles in "taking and making special"
(Ellen Dissanayake).  

Unit Goals (historical, cultural, artistic, developmental):

  • Increase awareness of and appreciation for the diversity of people, cultures,
    and traditions in the world

  • Develop appreciation for shared human endeavor and understanding of
    the ways in which people are the same as well as different

  • Increase awareness and understanding of personal cultural heritage

  • Enhance living skills through exploration of diverse lifestyles and practices

  • Develop personal aesthetic sensibilities, and appreciation for the
    universality of the arts and aesthetic expression

  • Develop self-confidence and self-esteem through competency with a
    variety of art media and materials for self-expression, fine motor skill
    development, and problem-solving

  • Improve expressive language and higher order thinking skills

Lessons in the Unit:

1. Hearts and Hands Quilt    establishing sense of group cohesion
         and setting the tone for our work to come

2. African Textile Design: Finger Spinning and Weaving    overview of African culture,
         and learning how others address the need and develop the living skills to clothe themselves

3. African Textile Processes: Adire Eleso and Adinkra Print   continuing the overview,
         and exploration of clothing design and manufacture by creating/decorating dashikis
         and cloth for head wraps

4. Celebration of African Culture   exploring African artifacts and their functional uses
         in everyday living, and wearing the clothing we've designed to attend a celebration
         of what we've learned through music, dance, and food

5. Journey Back in Time and Culture: Medieval Europe   overview of Medieval culture,
         focus on role of the Church in everyday life and ways in which we express beliefs; creation of 
         acetate stained glass windows
6. Medieval Magic, Myth and Protection Through Personal Adornment   continue overview, focus on
         ways in which we adorn and identify ourselves; creation of symbolic pendants based on Celtic design and 
         the Runic alphabet 

7. Lords, Ladies and Knights   overview of Medieval nobility and creation of coats of arms
         used in shields and other personal accessories; ways in which we are identified by others

8. Medieval Fair and Feast   shopping and celebrating in the Middle Ages: re-enacting
         a Medieval marketplace and fair, followed by a feast attended by everyone wearing
         their creations