Students at Ross Lower School recently learned about El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Spanish class, and during the week of October 26, grades Early Childhood through 6 celebrated the Mexican holiday with traditional dances and rituals and visits to the cementario (cemetery) and mercado mexicano al aire libre (Mexican market) arranged outside the Leonard Building.
Day of the Dead focuses on honoring deceased loved ones, typically with beautiful altars covered with ofrendas (offerings) to summon the spirits of the dead. To prepare, students decorated calaveras (skulls) to honor their deceased loved ones, created tombstones for famous Latino figures, and made paper marigold flowers in Art class with teacher Nicole Berberena to decorate the graves.
Lower School Spanish teacher Barbara Gaias taught the students about the history of the holiday and traditions such as dressing up as skeletons and offering gifts of items the deceased enjoyed. Braving last week’s windy weather, each class held an observance in the graveyard or at the market.
The kindergarten and first grade students donned sombreros and had a great time performing the Mexican hat dance, and second and third graders learned the skeleton dance. Fourth graders lined up on the four tiers of the altar and gave presentations about the four elements, stages of life, and compass directions, and students in grades 5 and 6 read aloud biographies of famous Latinos, including Oscar de la Renta, and then arranged the grave markers in the cemetery.
“The Day of the Dead preparations and rituals are important learning experiences for the students that emphasize the cultural significance of the holiday and helps expand their vocabulary,” Señora Gaias said. “They did a beautiful job presenting on their studies in Spanish, and we all had a great time performing the traditional songs, dances and ceremonial culture.”