Day of the Dead Ofrenda
It's that time of year again, time for the skeletons to dance and skulls to be adorned! Day of the Dead (actually two days) is on November 1st and 2nd, so Mrs. Grabau (K-3 Art) and I have teamed up with Mrs. Buckmiller, our Spanish teacher to create a Dia de los Muertos ofrenda with our students!
An ofrenda is simply an offering table where you can create a colorful display to honor and celebrate the life of dead loved ones. Traditional decorations include skeletons (known as calacas), skulls (the kids beg to do sugar skulls but I am not ready to take that on), decorative paper flags (papel picado) as well as photos of who the ofrenda is for and some of their favorite foods and/or objects. Each grade level contributed to the ofrenda and it looks outstanding!
With my fourth grade students, I created skull prints using scratch foam. They started by sketching out their skulls in simple shapes and then filling them with decorative lines and shapes as well as addressing the background. We traced over our sketch with a sheet of foam underneath it to transfer the idea. Then removed the sheet of paper and traced over it directly on the foam to really make sure the various shapes and lines were indented. The students got to choose what color of ink they wanted to print with and on what color of paper. As you can see, they are beautiful and so creative!
My fifth graders created papel picado. We talked about symmetry and how to cut our symmetrical shapes from paper. For this particular activity, I gave my students four templates to choose from. Three of which I drew up based on other ideas I had seen before and one of them was found here but later I also found these ones too. I divided up the templates into three categories--easy, medium and hard. I let my students select their own ability level, though when the students who chose 'easy' finished early, I asked them to try a 'medium.' They simply folded a sheet of paper (their color choice) inside of the template and cut along the lines. They were all pretty pleased with their work and were surprised at how challenging it was to cut out some of the pieces. I love how they look all together!
My seventh graders did a couple of things for the ofrenda. For the entire month of October (and even at the end of September I think), whenever they finished an assignment early, I asked them to paint on some bones. Though they aren't ordinary bones, they are milk jug bones! I have seen milk jug skeletons around for quite awhile but had never made one myself. So I decided that as students finished up early, they would paint on a part of the skeleton in honor of Day of the Dead. I simply reminded them of the holiday, it's purpose and how it is a bright and colorful holiday. I encouraged them to layer paints and designs (yes, you are actually supposed to paint on top of someone else's painting this time!) and to play with color. I couldn't be happier with how they turned out! Once we finished assembling the first one, he was dubbed Senior Huesos (Mr. Bones) and he graced our presence in the art room until the ofrenda was assembled. We have a few others in the works, but so far Senior Huesos is repping the ofrenda alone. But I gotta say, Day of the Dead milk jug skeletons are the way to go!
My seventh graders also took on an assignment which satisfied a personal obsession. They made Day of the Dead dioramas! My absolute favorite booths at every art festival I attend, are Day of the Dead themed artwork with the boxes filled with elaborate scenes and details! I just adore the tiny scenes and all of the colors melding together! I shared this obsession with my students and some of them even agreed with me about how impressively cool they are. I showed them a PowerPoint I created about them and we discussed their various qualities of each diorama. We also discussed assemblage art and how they could use any number of items I had in the classroom as part of their scenes or bring in objects of their own. The students then chose to work either alone or with a group (no more than 4 per group); however, I reminded them that with a group, I expected more detail and more elaborate scenes than those working alone. We used air dry clay for our skeletons (in the future I will use model magic, as the air dry clay is brittle--it IS clay--and we keep losing limbs and will need lots of epoxy!) and a random assortment of materials for everything else! I can't help but smile every time I think about this project. While they aren't quite finished yet, they are simply amazing! I will be sure to post photos as soon as they finish!