Following a ten year tradition, Graland fourth graders celebrated el Día de los Muertos this week in Spanish class by decorating sugar skulls with delicious frosting!
According to Graland Spanish teacher Kelly Viseur, “El Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is a holiday celebrated widely in Mexico and other Latin American countries where families honor their relatives who have passed. Families traditionally create altars in their homes and display specific items such as photos of the deceased, cempasúchil (marigolds), salt, water, special bread, and calaveras de azúcar (sugar skulls). However, the holiday is not necessarily solemn. Instead, families use November 1 and 2 to enjoy picnics, music, and happy memories of their loved ones.”
Every year before this fun sugar skull decorating activity takes place, Señora Viseur heads to the Graland cafeteria to make the calaveras de azúcar from scratch for her students. “Each year, I make the sugar skulls in the school cafeteria (to ensure they are nut-free), using three ingredients: sugar, water, and meringue powder. After creating the mixture, I press it into plastic molds and let them dry overnight. The best part? They are completely edible!” Señora Viseur said.
After decorating the sugar skulls in class, the Grade 4 students name their sugar skulls with a Spanish name and introduce them to their classmates using Spanish dialogue. Before the fun of decorating the sugar skulls, the fourth graders also watch a video about el Día de los Muertos in Mexico, read the book Pablo Recuerda (Pablo Remembers), and compare and contrast the holiday with their own family celebrations.
“At the beginning of fourth grade, when I ask the students about their hopes and dreams for Spanish class, the sugar skull tradition is always at the top of the list,” Señora Viseur said. “I’d like to think of it as a wonderful cultural connection. However, I suspect the pure sugar has a lot to do with the popularity!”
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.