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Letter to Teachers

Dear Elementary School Principal,


My 4/5 class in Madison is taking a four-day Dane County Cultural Tour this March. We want to connect with other classes who are studying local and Wisconsin history, geography, and culture. Please forward to, or make hard copies for, all fourth grade teachers in your building.




Mark Wagler

Randall School

Madison, Wisconsin



Dear Fourth Grade Teacher,


From March 4 to 7, my multiage class of 4th and 5th graders will take a cultural tour of Dane County. Traveling by school bus through rural areas, villages, and small cities, we will seek out and document traditional artistic expressions, folklife, occupations, and recreations. Before and after our big trip, we will take smaller one-day trips in Madison.


We invite your class to join us in any of the following ways:


* visit the web site where we will be posting our photos and written descriptions (Go to on "Dane County Cultural Tour");


* receive occasional email from our class, alerting you that new web pages have been put up, or telling you of our progress on our tour;


*give us a few suggestions of places we could visit or people we might interview in your community;


* publish on our web site a page or more of what your class has learned about your part of Dane County;


* invite us to your community and go with us on a fieldtrip to document some local tradition.


Details about our trip, and our possible collaboration, are given below. Feel free to contact me via email ( or call me at school (XXX.XXX.XXXX) or home (XXX.XXX.XXXX).


We'll be delighted to hear from you!


Mark Wagler

Fourth and Fifth Grade Teacher

Randall Elementary School

Madison, Wisconsin









What should we know about your part of Dane County? When we take our trip, who and what should we see in your community?




We are looking for different forms of local, community-based culture, especially things passed on in families and among neighbors, and especially things that are still actively practiced today!


* Do you know people in your town who still know traditional arts or crafts (any good quilters, wood carvers, rug weavers, storytellers, cooks, etc.)? Does anyone play music or sing songs that they learned from family or other community members?


* What are the important occupations in your area? Of those, which are the ones that may have been passed down in the family or learned in part from other community members (farming, cheesemaking, butchering, auctioneering)? Which occupations are part of the tradition and history of your community (railroad, tobacco, mining)?


* Do you have traditional recreations that are special to your town, activities related to your natural resources (hunting, fishing, skiing), or games associated with ethnic groups or local interest (Sheepshead, euchre, duckpin bowling, tractor pulls)? Do you have any homemade toys or parlor games?


* Are there special celebrations in your town (school or church festivals, hunting dinners, fishing contests)? Special places that your community or family has stories about? Are there certain foods that are important in your area?




We are currently developing our itinerary. Your suggestions might bring us to your town!


Monday, March 4, NW Dane County, from Mazomanie to De Forest where we'll spend the night;


Tuesday, March 5, NE Dane County, villages and cities such as Sun Prairie, Marshall, Cottage Grove, and Deerfield where we'll spend the night;


Wednesday, March 6, SE Dane County, villages and cities such as Rockdale, Stoughton, Brooklyn, Paoli, and Belleville;


Thursday, March 7, SW Dane County, with Mt. Horeb, Blue Mounds, and Black Earth.




* We have already taken a weekend trip with our parents to neighboring Iowa County where we visited a dairy farm and danced at Folklore  Village;


* We documented vendors at the Wednesday Dane County Farmers' Market;


* We observed and heard about Hmong foodways, needlework, music, and traditional healing practices and ceremonies at the Bayview Community Center;


* We intend to take a few more trips to document diverse Madison cultures--and invite guests from throughout the county to be interviewed in our classroom.




Within a few days, our first web pages will be up--a short description of our project, and photos and descriptions of potholders made by each student in our class using visual symbols to represent our family cultures.


Keep coming back to see additional pages as they become ready: the Farmers' Market, Hmong traditions at Bayview Community Center, and of course the pages we create on our 4-day trip. Send us your email address and we'll let you know each time a new section is put up on the  web.


Learn more about Wisconsin folk artists at the “Wisconsin Folks” website (go to and click on the “Wisconsin Folks” icon). Some of the musicians and crafts people on this site live in Dane County. The project director of “Wisconsin Folks”, Anne Pryor, Folk Arts Education Specialist at the Wisconsin Arts Board, is also a consultant for our Dane County Cultural Tour.




Does your class want to write a few pages or take some photos about culture in your local community? Would you enjoy seeing this work up on the web? Ruth Olson, Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures, is coordinating our web site which is posted on their server. If you want the Center to put your work up with ours--you don't have to design your web pages!--follow these basic guidelines:


*Focus on local, community-based culture, especially things passed on in families and among neighbors, and especially things that are still actively practiced today;


* Write to Ruth (, or call her at 262-8180, about your project;


* Have a parent or other volunteer keyboard the student writing and submit the digitized materials to Ruth on a disk or as an email attachment;


* You may either send in digitized images (jpegs), or photo prints, or slides--the Center can scan your images for you if you don't have access to a scanner;


* Ask Ruth for release forms that need to be signed by students and also by adults who are interviewed (this allows us to put things on the web for educational purposes). The Center is sensitive to privacy concerns; students will be identified by first name only, or if you prefer, not at all.