Overview: This lesson uses the festival of Dia de los Muertos to connect historical thinking through art

GRADES: 6-8  |  CONTENT AREA: Social Studies |  FINE ARTS AREA: Visual Arts



As we approach the end of October, we’re also getting closer to a day with historical significance in a variety of cultures.  October 31st is celebrated as Halloween here in the United States. But, it is also part of the Dia de los Muertos festival in many Latin American countries.  This can be a day of controversy depending on your district or school.

Sometimes we’re tentative about utilizing this cultural day in the arts areas because of said controversy.  Certainly, this is understandable!  If nervous about using the historical context surrounding October 31st, I HIGHLY encourage you to check out this information from Nancy Walkup. She does an excellent job of sharing the cultural background. In addition to, its significance to the arts and some alternatives to the traditional approach.

Today, we’re taking a look at the day from multiple perspectives in social studies. And, combining that with the use of paper mache mask-making to create a Nagual Mask. This connects the mask wearer with a natural element or symbol.  Intended for the middle grades, this is a multi-day lesson which also includes an artist’s statement that weaves the historical analysis and context into the understanding of the mask being created.  If you’re looking for a way to embrace this holiday while simultaneously exploring the cultural aspects, this lesson is a great start!

How do YOU approach Halloween with your students?  Do you avoid it or use it as a learning experience?  Share with us in the comments below!