Culture in the Classroom


If you can’t tell, I love the Day of the Dead. I didn’t learn about the history of the day of the dead until I was in college, and it really blew my mind. I try to share this amazing holiday’s history with my students every year. This year my 4th, 6th, and 8th grades explored art projects themed around the day of the dead.

Last year I struggled with finding the words and guiding discussion around this holiday and still having time to work on our project! In college I was told that my projects should be multicultural but should always be respectful. Since I did not grow up with this holiday, I try to be as knowledgeable and factual as I can. This year I found some great videos that do an amazing job of explaining what the Day of the Dead is all about. They help me to present this project in a respectful way and it’s a lot more fun than watching the art teacher jib jab for 10 minutes!

Here are a few of the videos I have found:

Understanding Mexicans: Dia De Los Muertos


This video thoroughly explains the Day of the Dead from the perspective of someone who has experienced this holiday. Here’s a quote from Mayitzin’s YouTube page: ” The day of the Death is another excuse for the Mexicans to remember the past and miss it some times; to wonder and wish for a comfortable future; but most of all to share and celebrate their lives with the people they love the most, and it doesn’t matter if they are physically present or not.”

Feasts Documentary


This is an 18 minute clip from a BBC documentary on feasts. In this documentary the narrator visits a parades, dresses like La Catrina and interviews people who are celebrating in their homes. If you have the time to show this in your classroom, it is a great aide. I don’t have the time, so I attached it to my website for my students to watch on their time if they are interested in learning more.

Dia De Los Muertos animated short


This short film is a CGI students academy award gold medal winner.My students absolutely LOVE this video. even though it’s only 3 minutes long with no speaking, it perfectly captures the feeling of the Day of the Dead. I show this to my younger classes, by my older kids love it too.

How have you become more culturally aware in your classroom? Is there anything you have changed or included in your classroom to make your classroom more multicultural?


Mexican Folk Art Masks


I’m happy to say that it’s only October and I have my first sculpture project out of the way! Since sculpture tends to be synonymous with messy, sculpture tends to be a little daunting when you are art-on-a-cart. 

I’ve had the idea for these Day of the Dead inspired masks for a few years now, and I knew I had to do them early in order to have them hung by November 1st.

I bought multicultural face forms in the beginning of the year and got all my paper mache materials prepped and ready. I used table covers for a quick cleanup and table trays to keep any spills contained. Luckily, my eighth grade class was very receptive to the rules and made paper mache cleanup feel like a breeze! The eighth grade teacher was kind enough to allow me to re-arrage his classroom into small groups. The only trouble we ran into was going to the bathroom to wash hands. I still haven’t quite figured out the dynamics of bathroom breaks without having to clean up 20 minutes early ( and I’m not sure if I ever will!)

I asked my students to add five or six layers of paper mache and to alternate directions of their paper strips in between layers. It worked like a charm. All of the masks were sturdy and dry by the next day! We added two layers of white paint over the newspaper. We watched a short slideshow of sugar skulls, learned how to draw a human skull, and looked at packets of sugar skulls to get some ideas. We completed our sketches while our paint dried, and discussed how to use line, shape and pattern to create unity in an artwork. 

Here are our masks after they were painted. The multicultural face forms are wonderful because each mask has a different shape and form!



The next week we used our sketches to guide us through painting. I was so excited to let my students paint that I skipped ahead and did not ask them to sketch their designs on the masks before applying paint! The kids went ahead, using small flat brushes for shape and thick line, and small, pointed brushes for thin lines. First we added black paint for the eyes, nose and teeth. We then got to work on line and shape in color. I discovered lidded jello shot cups for storing paint (currently changing my life!) and gave the students paper plates for mixing colors. 

Here are my eighth graders working on their masks:



Despite being apprehensive about sculpture and skipping a step in excitement, their masks turned out wonderfully! The students and I are delighted with the results! They are currently on display in the hallway- we have gotten may great comments from the staff and the younger students. All my classes want to know when they will be learning about the Day of the Dead!

Here they are on display: 



Here are a few close-ups: