Spanish Students Create "Day of the Dead" Kites

Middle School Spanish classes study how Guatemalans celebrate the Day of the Dead.

Did you know that Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) isn’t only celebrated in Mexico? Middle School Spanish students are learning how other countries celebrate the beloved holiday by creating their own mini-Guatemalan kites.

To introduce students to the project, Spanish teachers Claudia Ramirez-Freytes, Maria McCarthy, and Cierra Gillard taught classes about The Giant Kite Festival, which takes place every year on Día de los Muertos (November 1) in Sumpango, Guatemala. The practice of flying kites for this holiday goes back several thousand years—it is believed that the kite (or barrilete) creates a connection of communication between the spirits of the dead and their families here on Earth.

In Sumpango, kite makers (barrileteros) work for months to prepare the kites (some as large as 20 meters) for the festival. The kites resemble giant paintings/murals but are made using layers of hand-cut, colored paper. They are then folded up and taken to the festival where they are fastened to large bamboo poles for display or for flying (click here for an example).

The Spanish classes worked with Middle School visual arts teacher Cindy Grissom to create small versions of the giant kites. First, they sketched images that they felt a personal connection with on heavy paper. Then, they glued tiny pieces of multi-colored tissue paper to give life to their drawings, and attached wooden sticks to the back to give the paper support.

“Students could choose to illustrate someone or something that they love, such as a person or an important social cause, or they could draw geometric shapes,” Mrs. Ramirez-Freytes said. “It gave them ownership over their projects to be able to choose something that holds significance to them personally.”

Grade 6 student Katherine Elles chose to decorate her kite with a drawing of a turkey. “It’s for two reasons,” she said. “One is because Thanksgiving is coming up, and the other is in memory of my grandfather, who was a turkey farmer before he passed away. It’s just a really cool project because it teaches us about another culture and also connects to us personally.”

The students will get to take their kites home to show their family and friends. In the meantime, be sure to click here to stay updated on the travels of the grade 8 students who are currently in Mexico! The students got to witness the Mexican Día de los Muertos celebrations first hand earlier this week.





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