tarukantohku: Digital Design Rooted in Storytelling Tradition - SCOPES Digital Fabrication

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Jean-Luc Pierite
Jean-Luc Pierite
Jean-Luc currently is the International Procurement and Logistics Manager for The Fab Foundation. He is also a complementary Community Manager for fablabs.io. Outside of The Fab Foundation, Jean-Luc currently serves as President of the Board of Directors for the North… Read More


The purpose of this lesson is to promote collaboration between educational and cultural programming, specifically for the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana. The Tunica-Biloxi are a federally recognized tribe with population centers in Louisiana, Texas, and Illinois. Family members live across the United States and internationally.

Students are school-aged (ranging from 5-18). The Tunica-Biloxi Language & Culture Revitalization Program will provide access to certified language apprentices who will serve as traditional knowledge keepers. Each apprentice will provide his or her knowledge of required vocabulary or help students navigate the appropriate reference materials.

At the end of the lesson, the students will express themselves in their heritage language, and through designs informed by what they take away from traditional knowledge keepers.

This is presented as a full 3 hour session.

What You'll Need


  1. Computers
  2. Vinyl Cutter
  3. 3D Printer


  1. Paper (multi-color)
  2. Markers
  3. Pens / Pencils
  4. Paints and brushes
  5. Crayons
  6. Colored Pencils
  7. Vinyl
  8. Filament
  9. Giveaway item (to customize)


  1. GIMP
  2. Inkscape


The Instructions

Opening Circle (10 mins)

In this step, the group is called together to introduce themselves. We can also establish ground rules for effective communication through the process.

  1. Form a circle
  2. Each person has three seconds to introduce themselves (name, grade, interesting fact)
  3. Instructor asks students for ground rules


Song and Story presentation (10 mins)

The traditional knowledge keepers will present a related story and song on the topic.

  1. Instructor asks traditional knowledge keepers to present
  2. Traditional knowledge keepers will present a story and/or song to help ground the activity


Animals, Sounds, and Elements (10 mins)

Introducing vocabulary for ideation.


  1. Prior to the workshop, work with the traditional knowledge keepers and/or existing language programming to help identify vocabulary to use for the workshop.
  2. Flash cards can be made with a word list and graphics from Open Clipart.
  3. Example flash cards are provided in the lesson materials.


  1. The students are broken into groups of up to eight.
  2. Group selection should be lead by the instructor to guide the balance of age range.
  3. Centering animals particular to those on tribal lands and traditional indigenous territories, the instructor will distribute flash cards with animal names, sounds, and elemental powers.


Sketch your tarukantohku (10 mins)

Each student then draws on paper what their group's animal would look like. The instructor and traditional knowledge keepers will circulate among the groups and ask questions during this design process.

  1. On a 8.5″ x 11″ sheet, each student will draw what they individually think tarukantohku should look like.
  2. At the end of ten minutes, the instructor will tell all students to stop drawing.
  3. Do not move on to the next section until all drawing has stopped.


Composite sketch designed (20 mins)

The students will discuss amongst themselves what best qualities they would like to incorporate into a final sketch.

  1. Within their groups, each student will discuss their own designs and offer feedback for each other.
  2. The group will identify one note taker who will combine thoughts, crediting each student who offered them.
  3. The group will identify one artist to make a composite sketch based on the visual elements and notes.
  4. The artist will render tarukantohku as a black and white line drawing.


What do we call tarukantohku? (10 mins)

With the composite sketch done, traditional knowledge keepers work with students to come up with a descriptive name for tarukantohku. Instructor and traditional knowledge keepers will ask questions to help form the background of the students' creations.

  1. Traditional knowledge keepers will circulate among the groups and ask about the visual qualities and characteristics of their tarukantohku
  2. The group will review the vocabulary provided in Step 3
  3. The group will use a combination of the vocabulary provided and optionally words in available reference materials


Break (15 mins)

This is an opportunity to step back from learning. Time for bathroom breaks and water. A walk outside helps to recenter students' focus on their own ecosystem.

  1. The instructor stops the session.
  2. All students take a short break.
  3. A walk around the building or nearby green space can also happen, at this time.


Getting the design into the computer (10 mins)

Tools and processes are introduced in how we can capture a 2D image that can be transferred to a computer for editing.

  1. Instructor and traditional knowledge keepers assist in taking photos of the composite sketches.
  2. The instructor or traditional knowledge keeper models how to focus and shoot a good photo.
  3. Photos are uploaded to a share cloud drive or saved to an SD card. For the former, Internet access is required. For the latter, a computer with a card reader is required.


Raster Imaging (20 mins)

2D images captured from paper sketches are raster images. They need to be brought in to a raster editing software to be cleaned and edited. This section introduces vocabulary for beginning students. Instructor and traditional knowledge keepers will guide students through the software introduced to make a black and white image. Student groups are divided. While one subgroup has hands on time with the computer, the other can add color to the black and white sketches of their tarukantohku.


  • (Fab-Modeling.1): I can arrange and manipulate simple geometric elements, 2D shapes, and 3D solids using a variety of technologies.
  • (Fab-Fabrication.1): I can follow instructor guided steps that link a software to a machine to produce a simple physical artifact.
  • (Fab-Design.1): I can be responsible for various activities throughout a design process within a group under instructor guidance.
  • (Fab-Modeling.2): I can construct compound shapes and multi-part components ready for physical production using multiple representations.
  • (Fab-Design.2): I can participate in design reviews with prepared presentation materials as well as give and receive feedback from peers.
  • (3.SL.5): Create engaging audio recordings of stories or poems that demonstrate fluid reading at an understandable pace; add visual displays when appropriate to emphasize or enhance certain facts or details.
  • (2.SL.1a): Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., gaining the floor in respectful ways, listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).
  • (2.SL.4): Tell a story or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking audibly in coherent sentences.
  • (2.SL.5): Create audio recordings of stories or poems; add drawings or other visual displays to stories or recounts of experiences when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
  • (9-10.SL.1b): Work with peers to set rules for collegial discussions and decision-making (e.g., informal consensus, taking votes on key issues, presentation of alternate views), clear goals and deadlines, and individual roles as needed.
  • (9-10.SL.1c): Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.
  • (9-10.SL.1d): Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.
  • (9-10.SL.2): Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
  • (9-10.SL.4): Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.
  • (9-10.SL.5): Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.
  • (9-10.SL.6): Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grades 9-10 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)
  • (9-10.SL.1): Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Lesson Feedback

2 Reviews

  1. Fab Foundation April 23, 2019
  2. Sonya Pryor-Jones April 29, 2019
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