Folklife Curriculum

Hidden in Plain Sight

For years Pittsburgh has been known as the "Steel Capital of the World."  Many in the region speak of the massive mills, the coal-filled barges traveling the river, the fiery banks of coke ovens, and the soot that filled the sky, making noon appear to be midnight.  But what about the people who came to work in these industries?  What were they like?  What foods did they eat?  What clothes did they wear?  Did they speak different languages?

Even before these immigrants came to the region, there were those who settled in western Pennsylvania first: the Native Americans, Shawnee and Honniasont.  We can study their traditions to learn more about who they were. Then, we can examine the cultural traditions of those who came before Big Steel's heyday: English, Irish, Scots-Irish, German, and Pennsylvania Dutch peoples.  Next, we can look at those who arrived during the steel revolution (ca. 1850): primarily eastern and southern European immigrants, and African-Americans who migrated from the Southern United States to jobs in the North.  Finally, we can look at the traditions of those who have come to the region since steel has ceased to be the area's primary industry: Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans.  Western Pennsylvania is truly a melting pot, but often we do not see the cultural heritage that is right in front of us: these people and their traditions are sometimes hidden in plain sight.

In 1999, the Institute for Cultural Partnerships in Harrisburg designated the Cultural Conservation Division of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area as one of five Regional Folklife Centers in the state, an initiative supported by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.  The Rivers of Steel Regional Folklife Center facilitates cultural continuity, promotes inter-cultural awareness and respect, and encourages appreciation of the Heritage Area's cultural legacy through supporting tradition-bearers in strengthening their cultural heritage and in sharing their knowledge and skills.  This curriculum provides a new way for us to serve the Heritage Area.  It allows us to reach out more effectively to communities in our service area.

The Hidden in Plain Sight curriculum is meant to be an introduction to study of the wonderful cultural heritage of our region.  The following pages of information and activities are designed to assist teachers and educators in the conservation of our cultural traditions.  All activities have been designed to be adapted for classroom use.  The activities can be altered, as needed, for age, ability level, curriculum area, or for any other reason necessary to make them useful within the classroom.

The information is organized into subject areas, with each sorted into activities.  Pennsylvania Standards for each subject area are included in separate documents.  The information is in pdf format.  Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view these documents.  You have permission to print out the information and activities you want to use, and you may adapt anything to meet your needs.

Subject areas include:

Creative Writing - Standards

Customs and Traditions - Standards

Heritage and Ancestry - Standards

Important Dates and Events - Standards

Important People - Standards

Math Graphing - Standards

Our Ethnic Traditions: Music, Dance, Crafts, and Foods - Standards

Final Project: Windows on the World - Standards

To enhance your experience, please call 412-464-4020 ext. 45 or email to find ethnic artists who can do demonstrations of, or residencies in craft traditions, music, theater, or dance to accompany activities in this curriculum.



Our Rivers: Yesterday and Today

Our Rivers
The story of the Monongahela River is one of our nation’s history, our industrial revolutions and one of the men and women whose labors, previously and presently, earned the Monongahela River the title of “Ruhr” – The River of Sweat.

The Monogahela: River of Dreams, River of Sweat

The history of the hardest working river in America.