A note to teachers:
When my students (nine and ten year olds) decided to create this page on the many cultures of Texas and to include numerous aspects of these cultures, I knew it would be impossible to do full justice to each culture. For example, there is no way we could possibly touch on all aspects of African-American culture in Texas. Omissions in facts of history or facets of folk life are not meant to devalue the importance of a group's heritage. This page (created by and for elementary age students) is an overview of the many culture groups responsible for making our land what it is today: rich with tradition and heritage that enhance all of our lives.
As the students became involved in this project I observed that they were learning more about other heritages and seeing the world as a much larger place then just their small corner, a very small community in South Texas. Without realizing it, my students have become aware of each other's heritage and the importance of all groups in our history. Isn't that every teacher's dream?
To start the project I had them brainstorm a list of what they wanted to see in this page and then arranged two field trips for them. We visited the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio, Texas twice before we ever started our page. On the first trip, the docents in the museum gave them a strong overview on cultures of Texas. Even more importantly, they taught how those cultures relate to the rest of the United States. I will always be very grateful to these very kind and patient adults. On the second visit, the students spent time photographing the exhibits and asking specific questions about the different groups. They also selected their own resource materials from the bookstore located in the Institute. All of these books are cited in our citation page. If you are interested in doing an in-depth study of cultures, refer to the book titles.
After some time working on the page, my students discovered areas of focus on which they had little or no information. My job as a coach was to link them with people across our community and the United States who could provide them with expertise beyond my ability. One of their favorites was Zane Anderson, an architect from Bristol, Rhode Island. They also sent interview questions to a woman in Richardson, Texas who is an active member of the Texas Norwegian Society and to the curator of a museum in Austin, Texas. Another excellent source of information was the Texas Historical Commission. They helped us develop the African-American section by providing us with a valuable resource, AFRICAN AMERICANS IN TEXAS: HISTORICAL & CULTURAL LEGACIES. This brochure is available free of charge from the commission. Additionally, one of the team members attended the Texas Folk Life Festival and others received information and some original papercuttings from an art teacher in Bryan, Texas. As you can tell they spent a great deal of time researching this page.
You may note that there are few pages on the web from which elementary students can learn about different aspects of other cultures. As a teacher, I hope that this page will help expose other young students facets of different cultures and excite them about our country's heritage.