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Monday Morning Ready09.22.2016
Jumpstart Your Week!

Twice a year, the village of Takayama in the Japanese Alps parades its treasures through town. Twenty-three carved wooden floats are covered in gold and lacquer. These ornate yatai date back more than 350 years to Japan's surreal, culturally rich Edo period. That's when the nation was closed to the outside world. In isolation, Japanese artists flexed their creativity. And they invented a few high-tech surprises, too.... < read more >
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
Grade 3-4

What kinds of festivals does your town have? Which of these festivals are held in the fall?

Grade 5-6

Cultures around the world celebrate the fall harvest in many different ways. Why do you think the people of Takayama decided to build wooden floats?

Grade 7-8

According to the article, Samurai rulers forbade the business class from flaunting its wealth. So the people poured their money into creating floats for their harvest festivals instead. The floats are very ornate. Do you think the floats could actually be seen as a way to do what the Samurai forbade-flaunt the people's wealth? Why or why not?

Grade 9-10

What do you think is the most important purpose of the floats the people of Takayama created for their harvest festivals-having an outlet for creative competition or a providing a showcase for new technology? Why?

LESSON PLAN
Create a Fall Festival Float

PROCESS:

  1. As a class, create a list of special events that are held in your area each year. Identify the purpose and encourage students to share their favorite parts of each. 
  2. Using that list as a starting point, challenge students to identify the most important traits of your town. For example, what are the main industries? What are the most newsworthy events in the town's history? What is the cultural background of the people who live in the area? 
  3. Inform students that they will use those ideas to create a "float" that represents their town. As an added challenge, their "floats" must be appropriate for a fall festival.
  4. Divide the class into small groups or pairs. Provide supplies, such as shoe boxes and art supplies, or have students bring them from home. Give students time to conceptualize and create their fall festival "floats."

ASSESSMENT: 

Invite each group or pair to present its float to the class. Instruct classmates to identify the key traits portrayed in each float. Challenge students to recognize at least one element that links each float to the fall season.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:    

Grades 3-4:
Have students complete the activity in small groups. Prior to conducting this activity, brainstorm ideas as a class for ways that students can link their floats to the fall season. Remind students that their floats should also include important traits of the area where they live. Give groups time to complete their floats. Compare and contrast the results.

Grades 5-6:
Have students complete the activity in small groups. Prior to conducting the activity, have the class identify three things related to the town that each float should include. You may also wish to brainstorm ideas as a class for ways that students can link their floats to the fall season. Give groups time to complete their floats. Compare and contrast the results.

Grades 7-8:
Have students complete the activity with a partner. Inform students that each float must include elements related to the industry, recreation, culture and history of your area. Remind students that all floats must also have a fall theme. Give partners time to complete their floats. Compare and contrast the results.

Grades 9-10:
Have students complete the activity with a partner. Inform students that their fall festival floats must include elements related the industry, recreation and culture of the area. Floats must also include at least one element that relates to the history of your town for each century from the time it was founded until now. If pairs seek an added challenge, they could find a way to incorporate some sort of simple, moveable object into their creations. Give pairs time to complete their floats. Compare and contrast the results. 

SMITHSONIAN RESOURCES
El Río: Do Your Own Exhibition
With this lesson from the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, students can create a museum exhibition that addresses the culture and environment in the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo Basin. The materials are adaptable to studies of other cultural-environmental relationships.

How Decorative Gourd Season Conquered Fall
Read this Smithsonian article to learn how strange-looking squash have become big business for farmers.

Japan: Images of a People
These lesson plans from the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access bring Japanese and American art into comparison, illuminating the cultural heritage of Japan. Students create Japanese painted screens.

These 12 New Museum Exhibitions Are Fall Must-Sees
Read this Smithsonian to learn why and where shrunken heads, punk rock and robots will make for an action-packed autumn.

Commemorations Across the Disciplines
In this lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, students will explore how cultures commemorate people and events. They will also learn how commemorations are created through music, painting, sculpture, photography, architecture and poetry.
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