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

Lesson Details

Age Ranges
Fab-Modeling.1, Fab-Fabrication.1, Fab-Design.1, Fab-Modeling.2, Fab-Design.2, 3.SL.5, 2.SL.1a, 2.SL.4, 2.SL.5, 9-10.SL.1b, 9-10.SL.1c, 9-10.SL.1d, 9-10.SL.2, 9-10.SL.4, 9-10.SL.5, 9-10.SL.6, 9-10.SL.1

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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.


  1. Video presentation on raster imaging and vector editing is uploaded here.



  • The goal of this activity is to create a clean black and white line art drawing to use for the next step.