4th grade students learned about Dias de los Muertos and made small clay skulls. I did my best to teach the students that Day of the Dead is not "Mexican Halloween", it's a celebration of the memories of deceased loved ones. We talked about some of the traditions and some got to see the poster set I ordered with all sorts of cool Days of the Dead images. (They didn't come in until the project was almost finished.) I read that "calaca" means skull or skeleton so I hope I used the right word.
We used air dry clay since we don't have access to a kiln. Each student got a lump of clay, shaped it like a skull, made eye sockets with a sharpened pencil, and added a nose hole(s) and teeth with a toothpick. We used VERY sophisticated clay tools! (I couldn't find ANY left from the last teacher so I bought plastic cutlery and toothpicks until my supply order came in.) I showed the students how to score and slip in case they wanted to attach anything to their skulls. Some made baseball hats or bows to attach. The second class period was spent painting designs on the skulls with acrylic paint and tiny brushes.
Art is Fun was a good resource for this project. They have simple skull pictures to help people draw and looking at the shapes helped my students. I showed the website again on day 2 because I love the colorful skull artwork. I also showed a number of websites with photos of sugar skulls for painting inspiration.
This is the first time I have done a "holiday" project. I have two students who do not participate in holiday celebrations, say the pledge of allegiance, etc. due to their religion but I didn't think this would be a problem. One of the siblings had my class the first week and I got an email from their mom the next day making sure I knew that they don't "do" holidays. I responded to the email and explained that I presented the lesson as learning about another culture and folk art instead of celebrating the holiday but I never heard back from her if it was ok for them to do the project. I BCC'ed my principal in my response to the email and he said if I didn't hear back, assume it's ok. The other sibling came to Art the next week and told me he couldn't do the project and since I never heard back from the mom, I didn't have an alternate lesson ready and just had to have him read his AR book in the office as suggested by my principal. If I do this project again next year, I will be prepared with a back up plan. My back up plan is to have copies of skull images from an anatomy book so that way the students would still be learning the same hand building/sculpting skills but there is no way it could be against their religion!
This project was a huge hit with my students! The 5th and 6th grade students asked if they could make the skulls, too, but I had different projects planned for them.
I need to remember to take my black sheet to school. The combination of black construction paper with a sheen and me hurrying to photograph the skulls at the end of class so they could go home that day made it difficult to get nice photos!