Elementary Education: Day of the Dead Workshop

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One of the many benefits of going to school in Chicago is the plethora of not-for-profits that host FREE (or low cost) events and workshops for educators. I was recently invited to attend “Educator’s Night” at the National Museum of Mexican Art. I can’t quite explain the nerdy excitement that bubbled in me at the chance to learn about another culture while expanding my teaching knowledge base.

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The night focused largely on the upcoming Day of the Dead. We were given a tour of their annual exhibit, complete with a great explanation of the tradition and symbols of Ofrendas. The exhibit was gorgeous and also included a great number of modern Ofrendas, which I had never seen before. I was moved quite a bit by the idea of annually celebrating the dead and would like to head back down to Pilsen again to view this exhibit before it goes away for the year.

After the tour of the exhibit, we were brought to the museum’s art studio, where we were given huge packets of information on how to incorporate the Day of the Dead in a classroom. The packet also included templates and instructions for helping students create Ofrendas of their own. I saw an immediate connection for me with my arts background, and I hope I can incorporate this new knowledge in a future classroom. How amazing would it be for students to write and create a Day of the Dead shadow puppet play incorporating the terminology and traditional symbols?

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I would be remiss as an educator to talk about my trip to the museum without briefly touching on what’s happening in Alabama. A law was very recently passed that parents who are illegal immigrants must register with their student’s schools so that data can be collected to determine how many illegal immigrants are being served. This law (understandably) scared parents and over 2,000 students have now completely disappeared from their schools. Schools are now holding meetings to reassure parents that their students are completely safe, as it is the students right to receive an education.

I have been trying to think about this from the perspective of the teachers in those schools. If this were happening in my classroom, no matter what reassurance the schools might be offering, I would be completely terrified for my student’s well being. Schools are safe havens for students, and I can’t imagine how much this must be weighing on that feeling of safety for everybody. I am hopeful that this issue will be resolved quickly, for the sake of the communities surrounding each of the schools.

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One of the major reasons I chose Columbia was because of it’s focus on urban teaching. It’s essential to me to understand how to positively impact a diverse student base. The situation in Alabama was discussed in our Educational Psychology course. I’m glad to be attending a school where potentially hot button issues are discussed with intelligence, clarity, and grace. I’ll be following this story as it continues and will try to bring other current education topics to this blog as much as possible.

Have a great week!