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Students create ‘Dia De Los Muertos’ ofrendas to honor the dead

Ana Thoman’s Spanish II class learn the traditions of Latin American countries
After researching the traditions of Latin America, student Jusper Julius B. Aligaen submits a digital ofrenda. Through this project, students are developing a better understanding of the traditional holidays celebrated by Spanish-speaking countries. “The Day of the Dead is very important to me,” Aligaen said. “It is the time for me to remember those who made me who I am now, especially my uncle who passed away. I want to keep his memory alive.” Photo Credit: Ana Cristina Thomann

Dia de los Muertos is a holiday that is celebrated in many Spanish-speaking countries that welcomes the ones that have passed away back to the land of the living. 

Having completed research on this Latin American tradition, students in Ana Cristina Thomann’s Spanish II Honors class created their own ofrenda displays to honor their loved ones. 

The ofrenda project is a way for students to learn about the traditions of some Spanish speakers,” Thomann said. “Not all Spanish speakers celebrate the Day of the Dead, but it gives students the opportunity to honor family members, friends, or people they look up to during this time of year.”

Students needed to identify the four elements of a traditional ofrenda and incorporate them into their deliverables.

“The ofrenda for the Day of the Dead should always have fire, water, earth, and wind,” Thomann said. “Students research those elements and they’re supposed to identify things about their ancestors, and try to incorporate them into the ofrenda.”

Students could create a physical or digital ofrenda depending on their preferences, but also include traditional elements, such as personal belongings that relate to their loved one.

“They could make the actual ofrenda at home by using a table and putting all of the elements that they researched around it,” Thomann said. “Most students, of course, don’t necessarily identify with this cultural tradition so they’re doing digital ofrendas which means that they’re just using pictures online and putting them together to resemble an ofrenda.”

The projects will be graded based on how well the student incorporated the four elements as well as the organization of information.

“Trying to put all of the elements in my ofrenda was challenging,” sophomore Sierra Prescia said. “I made sure to add candles to represent the fire element, salt for the earth, and other items to represent wind and water. Organizing the ofrenda was also a challenge because, with a physical ofrenda, it’s easier to place things around, but a digital ofrenda makes it harder to place the pictures in the right spots.”

Having her students complete the project, Thomann is hoping that they connect to one another, instead of focusing on the academic aspect.

“Ofrendas are a very personal thing to share with each other,” Thomann said. “I want them to get away from academics and connect on a personal level. We are all very similar in the way we connect with our ancestors or people who we just look up to. That is what I hope my students will learn.”

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