Day of the Dead

Third graders learned about the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). We watched this short video and learned how Day of the Dead is not a scary holiday and it is separate from Halloween. Day of the Dead is holiday for remembering and honoring those who have passed. It is a festive, joyous time of celebration. Dia de los Muertos originated centuries ago in Mexico, where it is still widely celebrated to this day. The holiday is a blend of pre-Hispanic indigenous beliefs and Spanish Catholic beliefs.

The image of the Catrina has come to be a prominent symbol of Day of the Dead. Students chose to either create a celebratory Catrina image or create a skeleton image in honor of a loved one who has passed away after they created their own ‘sugar skull‘ design.

MMSD Arts Standards:

Standard One: A.Visual Memory and Knowledge
Students will know and remember information and ideas about the art and design around them and throughout the world.
Standard One: B. Art and Design History, Citizenship, and Environment Students will understand the value and significance of the visual arts, media and design in relation to history, citizenship, the environment, and social development.
Standard Seven: Interpreting Interprets the visual experience with a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas. Students will be able to: Identify subject matter and feeling found in art. Identify the narrative qualities of artwork, i.e. cultural meaning and illustrations. Create artwork with various subject matter, symbols, and emotional content.

Standard Eight: Understands the function and structure of the visual arts in relation to human history and cultures. Students will understand and be able to: View styles and techniques of a limited number of artists, and/or cultures past and present.
Ms. B and I were inspired by Day of the Dead and were Catrinas for Halloween. Did you stop by for hot chocolate and candy?
b and i

Augusta Savage


“I have created nothing really beautiful, really lasting, but if I can inspire one of these youngsters to develop the talent I know they possess, then my monument will be in their work.”—T. R. Poston, “Augusta Savage,” Metropolitan Magazine, Jan. 1935, n.p.

Augusta Savage is an African American woman who worked as a sculpture artist during the Harlem Renaissance. She began by digging in the clay and mud on the farm she grew up on in Green Cove Springs, Florida. She would sit in the mud and create animals from the clay. She would leave them dry all over. Her father, who thought they were a waste of time, would smash them. August didn’t let that stop her. She moved to New York and made a name for herself. Students learned about Augusta Savage and her story through the book In Her Hands.

SavageSide note: Please don’t buy books from places like Amazon. Amazon contributes money to the education ‘reform’ movement nationwide. Example: Chicago. Please support your LOCAL bookstore! Indie bookstores are local. In Madison, try Room of One’s Own or Rainbow Bookstore. Here is a website to help you find your local bookstore:

Huegel second and third graders created their own animals inspired by Augusta Savage’s work.


Ms. Mincberg came to me and asked if I would create a lesson to enhance her social studies unit about learning about different cultures. I was going to do basket making in the spring but moved it to the fall to enhance this unit. Baskets are so important to so many different cultures for so many different reasons.

First we learned about sweet grass baskets from Sierra Leone and their history from Sierra Leone through slavery and into our current southern culture today. We also learned about the Navajo and how baskets carry stories with them. We looked at the Hmong culture and various European cultures to see how baskets are used in other cultures as well.

As far as techniques for making baskets, there is the coil technique and the weaving technique. There are many variations and styles on both of them but every basket comes down to those two basic techniques. Some students finished their coil baskets (made of yarn and clothesline) early and either made more or tried to make a woven basket with magazines and glue.


IMG_5192 IMG_5191 IMG_5190 IMG_5189 IMG_5142 IMG_5141 IMG_5116When I began this project, I had no idea what I started! So many students loved this project, that I lost over 50 plastic needles in the course of a month because they would take home more materials and ‘borrow’ needles to work at home. I’m pretty sure coil baskets ended up being a popular holiday gift in the Randall community!

There is a huge component to this lesson that I did not plan for and photos can not capture and that is how much persistence and patience Randall fourth graders showed through this lesson. The beginning of the coil baskets is not an easy thing for fourth graders. We discussed, at length, what persistence and patience means not just in basket making but in test taking and school work. It was really amazing to watch my students grow and learn through the creation of baskets. Sometimes, the lesson is better written by my students than me.

3rd Grade Hmong projects

3rd graders first learned the word batik. We looked at a block of wax and discussed how it is melted down to draw with. The a tjanting needle is dipped in the hot wax to be used as the drawing tool. The artist then draws on fabric, not paper.

When the hot wax has dried, the fabric is dipped into dye. When the fabric is dry, the wax is removed and what is left is a beautiful design.

3rd graders first came up with their own Hmong designs using some of the symbols we see in traditional Hmong batik art. Instead of hot wax, they used crayons and instead of dye they used liquid watercolors (with glitter which drew a huge *gasp* from the collective whole that is the 3rd grade).

After they were finished with their own ‘batik’ work, they drew out a family story inspired by the Hmong story cloths. Below is an example by Youa Lor.

Combining two traditional Hmong art techniques into one created some beautiful artwork!

You can see all of these and more at the Children’s Museum throughout the month of November!

Twilight Night and Gallery Opening Night — 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, November 7
Free admission to the whole museum!

Twilight Art Night offers the opportunity to meet some of the artists whose work is on display, and to learn more about how public art was incorporated into the building.

Enjoy free admission on Twilight Wednesday, the first Wednesday of the month, from 5-8 p.m.


Children’s Day in Japan – May 5th

K/1 students learned about an entire day devoted to children. They could hardly believe it!

“Every May 5, it is Kodomo no Hi or “Children’s Day” in Japan. Families fly koinobori banners in the shape of a carp (a type of fish) for each child in their house. In Japanese folklore, the carp is a symbol of determination and vigor, overcoming all obstacles to swim upstream. Samurai warrior figurines and samurai kabuto helmets are also displayed in homes to inspire strength and bravery.

Children indulge in kashiwa-mochi, sticky rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves, and other sweets. Around the country there are many events for children and families. Children take center stage in traditional Japanese plays. Thousands of children compete in the “Kids’ Olympics” held at the National Kasumigaoka Stadium in Tokyo. Children also use the day to thank and show respect for the teachers, parents, and relatives who care for them.” (source)

We began by reviewing the art words, ‘pattern’ and ‘line.’ We brainstormed as many different lines as we could think of.

And created some beautiful paper.

And then created our own fish kites to celebrate Children’s Day.

We ended our celebration by listening to a new song:

Preview: Ivory Coast

The 5th grade classrooms and 4/5 classroom have started a new project learning about the Ivory Coast.  Some of our students remember a friend moving there last year!

There are more than 60 ethnic groups which means there are a lot of different cultures of people who live in the Ivory Coast but a lot of them participate in a special festival every year in November called Fêtes des Masques.  Numerous small villages in the region hold contests to determine the best dancers and to pay homage to forest spirits who are embodied in the elaborate masks.  Do the dance competitions sound familiar?  The Baoulé, the Dan (or Yacouba) and the Senoufo – all known for their wooden carvings.

No one produces a wider variety of masks than the people of the Ivory Coast. Masks are used to represent the souls of deceased people, lesser dieties, or even caricatures of animals. The ownership of masks is restricted to certain powerful individuals or to families. Only specifically designated, specially trained individuals are permitted to wear the masks.

Ivory Coast people believe it is dangerous for others to wear ceremonial masks because each mask has a soul, or life force, and when a person’s face comes in contact with the inside of the mask that person is transformed into the entity the mask represents.

Create your own mask online here.

Check out some great dance music (djembe) from the Ivory Coast here!

Check out a dance competition here!