‘Day of the Dead’ at PREM: A Global Cultural Celebration - Grade 1

As Grade 1W began to explore our unit of cultural celebrations, we started with a pre-assessment to tune in and find out what prior knowledge the children had on global traditions. When creating a mind map of ‘Cultural Celebrations’ there was a clear pattern of interest from our students regarding ‘Day of the Dead’. From that information I reached out to A. Tona during a Forest School class who, from Mexico, was very excited to be able to share part of his culture with our Grade 1 community. Although teaching and discussing death can be a sensitive topic, with different perspectives across various cultures, we did our best to keep an open mind and let the children take the lead. What followed was a unique and authentic learning experience culminating, of course, with a Grade 1 community party. 

After reaching out to A. Tona, I continued to brainstorm with G1W and began to collaborate with G1S (A. Sonnie) & our G1 Art teacher (A. Kelly Ann). The students were excited to create their own Grade 1 ‘Day of the Dead’ celebration, so we did some research and found out what we would need. Then it was time to take action.

We were able to set the opportunity for the children to create a meaningful and sustainable altar, eventually located in the Junior School Quad. The children brought in pictures of loved ones that had passed away and an offering to put on the altar. We encouraged everyone to bring in something – it could also be a drawing of a pet or a teddy bear that was no longer with us. 

During the month of November the Grade 1 children worked diligently in Art class with A. Kelly Ann, creating many papel picados and their own ceramic sugar skulls. Using clay and a kiln they created and decorated their own sugar skulls to adorn our sustainable altar.

We were able to collaborate and create various decorations for our cultural celebration. There were various detailed colorings of sugar skulls, decorations that were made in Forest School, informational posters, poems, and a special baking session in the cooking sala to prepare traditional Mexican bread, called ‘Pan de Muertos.’

Finally, on Friday December 2nd, the day of our celebration, the children were able to showcase their learning and hard work to their families, teachers, peers and the wider Prem Junior School community. We had a wonderful turnout of supportive parents who donated sweet treats and helped face-paint some of the children eager to kick the party off by looking the part! 

With traditional Mexican music playing, the smell of incense burning and laughter from the children, this was a truly organic and culturally significant learning experience in which the children took the lead every step of the way. Grade 1’s curiosity, ideas and agency allowed them to create an experience for the wider community to come together to enjoy, celebrate and to learn from. Bien Hecho (‘well done’) Grade 1’s for PREM’s first ‘Day of The Dead’ celebration! 

A. Wendy 

Grade 1W