Read all about Dia de Los Muertos @Beta Lower School!
Aiko Gonzalez, 5th grade Instructional Aide, Art teacher and general Jack of all Trades, created an amazing unit on Dia de los Muertos in which Beta’s 5th grade students learned about the history of the celebration, created ofrendas, sugar skulls and ended with a celebration with Chocolate and Pan Dulce. This multifaceted unit was an opportunity for students to leave and share about their own and their classmates identities and culture. Check out what Ms. Gonzales and some of her students had to say about the unit.
A recent interview with Ms. Gonzalez and three 5th grade students:
(Denisse Navaro, Ca’Mya and Ca’Mariya Bridges)
What was your goal for Dia de Los Muertos?
Aiko Gonzalez: “The original goal was to share the cultural importance of Dia de los Muertos. We had two weeks where I introduced the theme and explored the unit. We played the intro of Coco, talked about what they celebrated in the film and from there I had to gage what they knew or didn't know about this celebration. Being Latinx and sharing this part of my culture was important. We learned about why we have ofrendas and explored this theme. I wanted to make broader connections that not only focused on Latinx culture, so we mapped out different countries that have similar practices. They learned about key things put in the altar like pan de muerto, water, salts, and the marigold flower. A lot of kids made connections with colonization and how some practices merged and spread throughout different countries. It was really cool to hear how they connected this.”
Did anything surprise you?
Aiko Gonzalez: “Initially, I had some students not be too excited about learning this since it didn't pertain to their cultural background. We had not given each other time to honor and learn about each others differences. When this came up on our preview day, we did a circle and talked about cultural differences and engaged with each other. Once I pulled this circle, I made sure that all students understood that you didn’t need to identify as Latinx or speak Spanish to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos. One we had this talk, there was a huge positive shift!”
What was your favorite moment during the event?
Aiko Gonzalez: “I think it was decorating the sugar skulls! I got to see them get very creative and talked about the traditional ways of decorating the skull. It was really interesting to see their own designs and them not eating it- this was a win..they really wanted to eat it. I will also say that it was beautiful to see everyone in the community come together. Parents, teachers, students all came together to make this happen.”
What did you learn about Dia de Los Muertos?
Denisse: “I learned that for dia de los muertos a lot of people draw skulls on their faces and set up altars for their loved ones that passed away. They also make pan de muerto and place this on the altar.
Ca’Mariya: “I learned that they make sweet bread called pan de muerto that is used for the altars."
Ca’Mya: “I learned that it’s about honoring the people who have died. You get to make an altar where you can place things that they liked when they were alive.”
How did it make you feel to learn about this tradition?
Denisse: “ I celebrated it and made me feel excited that we got to share something that we have done in my culture for generations.”
Ca’Mya: “Now I know more about a different culture! They use the orange flowers for their dead and it’s really cool to see many things in the altar.
Ca’Mariya: “ I feel a little more educated on a culture I had not known about before. I’m really glad Ms. Gonzalez taught us about it!”
What did you like about it?
Denisse: “ I liked that we had a lot of activities for dia de los muertos. We made an altar and placed many things on it. I had a lot of fun remembering my grandfather that passed away 3 years ago. It was also really cool that other kids got to learn about a tradition that pertains to my culture. We didn’t get to do this in my other school.”
Ca’Mariya: “ The food! We had a lot of hot chocolate and sweet bread.”