You know when you reply to e-mails that start, “Would anyone be interested in …”. You never know what you’re going to get involved in, but it’s usually a lot of hard work, a fair bit of stress and a great big dollop of mixed relief and pride at the end!
That just about sums up El Dia de los Muertos – Our Lady’s style. This interdisciplinary project was the brainwave of Mr Pegard from the Modern Languages Department and run between Art, RE, Modern Languages and myself.
Day of the Dead is a cheerful festival remembering those who have died, and inviting them along to a massive party. In Mexico, people create ofrendas, or altars, covered in flowers and the deceased’s favourite things, dress up as Catrinas, or skeletons in costumes from the 1900s, and eat sugar skulls and pan de muertos or special bread, along with the usual party food. Celebrations are often held in cemeteries, and last for two days with bands playing and even parades.
So how do you transfer all of that into an afternoon for 2nd year pupils?
Well, RE took care of the altar, with pupils bringing photos and mementos of loved ones, and colouring crosses; Art made clay skulls and decorations; Modern Languages explained the background to the festival, and then there was me. What’s the role for a Librarian in all this?
Well, as usual, a bit of everything: ideas for activities (e.g. making hats for Catrina, after Rhona Skea pointed her out to me); identifying problems (if you hang out with Home Economics teachers, you’ll learn a lot about hygiene rules); identifying solutions (go and talk to the Home Economics Department, guys!); my personal favourites of taking photographs, researching, writing the quiz, and reporting everything afterwards; and of course being the go-to girl for the fiddly but necessary team lists. Well, I suppose when you insist on doing lots of investigations involving teams, it’s not surprising other people notice.
The whole event was a blast and the pupils loved it. They decorated cakes with fondant icing skulls, designed and made hats for Catrina, said prayers in Spanish and completed a Dia de los Muertos / Hallowe’en / All Saints Day quiz. The two hours flew past, ran like clockwork and the classes disappeared with their cakes and their photos, leaving us to tidy up, review what we did, think about what we should do differently, and put it all away for the next ten months.