This school year has been challenging for all of us, for sure, so when it was my turn to write a blog I definitely needed to think outside the box. We have all been so busy with curbside checkout, boxing up sets of books to be taken to the classrooms for the students, as well as supplying materials to any of our students learning from a distance. I am also a “distant” Language Arts teacher for second graders and am responsible for making the daily slide show for them to keep up with their “in school” classmates.This has definietly been a year like no other that I have not ever experienced in my 48 total years in education, both as a classroom teacher for 10 and maker media specialist for 38. A couple of phrases that kept repeating in my mind was that “this is not forever” and the “show must go on.” So when the art teacher approached me and we collaborated in planning a celebration for the Mexican holiday Dia de lost Muertos, The Day of the Dead, we felt this was our chance to make it happen….even during a pademic. One of the traditions in celebrating this day is to erect an ofrenda (altar), as a place of honor for the departed souls of our relatives. Sometimes people put out the dead person’s favorite foods and drinks, as well as candles and incense to lead the “spirit” back. When they return for their yearly visit, they will find things on the altar that they remember-a photograph, a well-loved article of clothing, a hat, or perhaps a favorite shawl.
As soon as all the students in the lower school completed their study of this Mexican holiday, an ofrenda was constructed in our Lower School Media Center. It featured the art work from students in grades Kindergarten to Grade Four, including any students learning from a distance. The offerings included food, fruits, flowers,and photographs to honor the dead. In Kindergarten the students used the resist technique to paint their lively versions of the skeleton and a fiesta. Grade One students learned about the esqueletos (sketletons), sculpting them with pipe cleaners, Model Magic and paper. This art activity also complemented the curriculum alignment of their body unit. Students in Grade Two sculpted calaveras (skulls) and decorated them to represent the sugar skulls. They also cut the calaveras our of colored paper and collaged the facial feaures to create masks. In third grade, the students made coil pots, which served as candle holders for their handmade beeswax candles. They also made small esqueletos (skeletons) with clay to add to the ofrenda. Artists in Grade Four used clay, paints, markers, and ink to create their own interpretations of the sugar skulls.
Our Spanish teachers also were involved by teaching the children the history of the holiday and giving the children in first and second grade the instructions to make paper Cempasuchil (marigold flower) to decorate the ofrenda. Real flowers actuallly would be used by Mexican- Americans families celebrating this day. In fourth grade the students colored their calaveras.
Making sure all the senses would be experiencing this holiday, our SAGE Dining Room provided a treat at lunchtime, too. All the students even tasted the Pan de los Muertos or “bread of the dead”, a sweet bread made especially for this holiday. Sometimes the loaves are even shaped like people and decorated with bright pink sugar. Traditionally, the dough is made without sugar, fat, or salt.
Below are the colorful results of this total collaborative endeavor. Every student was scheduled with their Spanish teachers and Art teacher to walk by the altar and see their work on display. They did an excellent job of practicing social distancing and not touching anything. Hand sanitizer was readily available just in case, too.Their excitement was so evident, especially since it was the first time they had been in the library since last March. I could see their happy faces, even under their face coverings and I know every time I walk by this colorful display, I smile under my mask….even during Covid!