Ways To Celebrate Día De Los Muertos in the ClassroomBrooks
Día de los Muertos, also known as the Day of the Dead, is a vibrant and culturally rich Mexican holiday that honors and remembers deceased loved ones. Celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, this tradition is deeply rooted in pre-Hispanic indigenous customs and Catholicism brought to the country by Spanish conquerors.
It is a time for families and communities to come together, share stories, and pay homage to those who have passed on. With different celebrations and rituals, this time of the year fills the streets and homes with color, hope, food, and love.
Incorporating the day’s festivities into the classroom can be a wonderful way to introduce students to a different culture, promote empathy, and encourage creativity. You can also create a safe and inclusive environment that appreciates diversity and extends your students’ perspectives. These meaningful ways to celebrate Día de los Muertos in the classroom will allow students to embrace the beauty and significance of one of Mexico’s cultural traditions.
Cultural Background and History
Start by providing your students with a comprehensive understanding of the Day’s cultural background and history. Share the celebration’s origin, connection to indigenous beliefs, and how it evolved with Catholic influences.
Consider using videos, storytelling, or interactive activities to engage students and make the learning experience enjoyable. Learning about other cultures will help students better understand the world’s reality to create a more positive environment.
Building an altar, or “ofrenda,” is a central aspect of Día de los Muertos because it represents the love and memories of the family. Encourage students to create small ofrendas in the classroom to work on their creativity and critical thinking.
Supply different decorative elements like the traditional papel picado (intricate paper cut-outs), marigold flowers (cempasúchitl), candles, and incense. Each student can bring a photo or a memento of a departed loved one to place on the altar to promote a personal connection to the celebration.
Art and Crafts
Día de los Muertos is popular for its vibrant and intricate art, like Calavera (skull) masks and decorative sugar skulls. Organize an art and crafts session where students can design and decorate their calavera masks using modeling clay and create sugar skulls using fondant and candies.
Encourage your students to personalize their creations with colors, patterns, and designs that represent the unique qualities of the person they are honoring. Writing down the name of their loved one on the skull’s forehead before placing it on the altar is essential to extend its meaning.
Introduce students to literature related to Día de los Muertos, especially ones with multiple images, easy-to-understand stories, and simple activities. Read these books out loud in the classroom or assign them as independent reading tasks for students to practice reading, comprehension, and critical thinking.
Engage in discussions to explore the themes of celebration, family, and the idea of the afterlife portrayed in the stories. A complete Spanish curriculum will include diverse and engaging literature to keep your students interested in learning the language and the culture.
Food is an integral part of Día de los Muertos, and it’s one of the main foundations of Mexican culture because it represents tradition and love. Organize a potluck where students can bring traditional Mexican dishes like pan de muerto (bread of the dead) or tamales to share with other students.
Use this opportunity to discuss the meaning of each dish and how to enjoy them during the celebration. Traditional food for this celebration is often sweet, sometimes spicy, and filling, providing a wide range of options.
Music and Dance
Mexican music and dance are crucial during this time because they cultivate celebration and connection. Consider arranging a music and dance workshop where students can learn traditional folk dances like La Danza de los Viejitos (The Dance of the Little Old Men) or La Danza de los Tecuanes (The Dance of the Jaguars).
Alternatively, play mariachi music or other traditional Mexican songs to set the mood during classroom activities. Songs in Spanish will strengthen language learning, especially when students already have some knowledge and can understand certain words.
Celebrating Día de los Muertos in the Classroom will encourage your students to engage in a cultural exchange by sharing their family’s traditions. Create a safe and respectful space where they can express their feelings and share memories, allowing them to gain insight into different perspectives on loss and remembrance.
Engage students in community outreach projects, demonstrating the spirit of giving and remembrance. These projects could include organizing a visit to a local cemetery to clean and decorate graves or creating handmade cards to give to residents in nursing homes or hospices.
The more involvement a student can get with another culture; the easier it will be to understand the different characteristics of the world.
Invite guest speakers to share their personal experiences to provide a unique insight into Día de los Muertos. Doing so will foster a real-world connection to the celebration and enrich students’ understanding of its significance.
Invite a member of a student’s family to talk more about this tradition if they have a direct connection to this celebration. Having someone related to one of the students in the classroom share their stories will create a more engaging and inviting environment.
Reflection and Appreciation
Conclude learning about this celebration with a reflection session where students can share their experiences and express their appreciation for the rich Mexican heritage. Encourage them to discuss how the celebration impacted their understanding of life, afterlife beliefs, and the value of family bonds.
Traditions are a big part of every country’s culture, and understanding the differences without forcing any personal changes will help students develop their critical and analytical thinking skills.
Celebrating Día de los Muertos in the classroom offers a unique opportunity for students to embrace cultural diversity, empathy, and creativity. Incorporating these ways to commemorate this Mexican tradition can inspire a deeper appreciation for life, family, and remembrance. As students come together to honor loved ones, they learn that love and memories can transcend time and space, uniting everyone in the beautiful tapestry of humanity.