Units of Work

The Day of the Dead

Samuel - Thomas Intermediate |

Samuel-Thomas, The Day of the Dead, Mexico, festivals, celebrations, multicultural, cultures, observation, drawing, graphics, design, pattern, skulls, skeletons

This unit proposes ways in which educational strategies might be devised to promote an awareness of different cultures through the delivery of Art and Design lessons.

A critical studies component, based on an analysis of 'The Day of the Dead' celebrations in Mexico, forms the cornerstone of the development of this work. The main aim throughout the unit is to encourage pupils to empathise with peoples of different cultures and to emphasise that they live in a multicultural global society. They are also realise that art is not only concerned with practical or purely aesthetic products, but also with the exploration of cultures, meaning, and many important contemporary social issues.

The unit begins by viewing a selection of coloured photocopied postcards, book or slides which highlight Mexican art and artifacts and also the kind of objects which can be bought during 'The Day of Dead' celebrations e.g. sugar skulls and skeletons, papeir maché skulls and skeletons etc. The teacher should encourage the pupils to make notes at this point and to draw them into a discussion concerning the work being shown. Pupils could then write about and illustrate a piece of work describing the yearly celebrations in Mexico, whilst attempting to find similarities in their own cultural celebrations.

The next stage of the unit is to make careful observational drawings of a skeleton and a selection of bones in pencil or charcoal. When the drawings are complete they should be traced, photocopied and combined with appropriate Mexican words to form a design. Pupils should be encouraged to explore their ideas thoroughly at this stage, by enlarging or reducing interesting areas of their work, adding words, tearing images, experimenting with colour, pattern and texture etc. When a design is decided upon they could produce alternative colour schemes, focusing on the most appropriate choice for the work being produced. The design should then be utilised to create a suitable piece of graphics to adorn a book cover on' The Day of the Dead', or a pattern for a paper tie or scarf which could be worn by someone attending the celebrations.

  • Ideas for homework could be to:

  • a) Make a 3D skull and decorate it in a manner similar to those seen in the exemplar material at the beginning of the unit.
  • b) Make a 3D model of a skeletonThe skeleton must be involved in some kind of activity e.ganswering the phone, sun bathing, playing a musical instrument, queuing for a school lunch, etc.

More ideas about art connections:

  • Two of the most useful, informative books on this subject are: a) 'The Skeleton at the Feast' - Elizabeth Carmichael and Chloe Sayer (1991) b) 'Arts and Crafts of Mexico' - Chloe Sayer (1990)

  • Why not search in's Arts Book Shop for more books about Mexico and The Day of The Dead?

A design for a tie produced by pupil aged 11 inspired by 'The Day of the Dead' project. A must for any big social event. (Click here to see a larger version.)

An example of a book cover design inspired by this project. (Click here to see a larger version.)

Skeleton for day of the Dead festival, Mexico, British Museum.

Skeleton with flowering branches, detail, Mexico, British Museum.

Skelton Angel and devil drinking, detail, Mexico, British Museum.

Examples of Mexican art, paper, pencils, charcoal, tracing paper, photocopier, Mexican words, adhesive, paint, brushes, mark making tools, felt pens and coloured pencils.