Spanish students celebrate Día de los muertos

Morgan Womack, Co-Editor-In-Chief

Spanish teacher Penney Johnson paints half of junior Kadyn Schultz’ face as a sugar skull.
Spanish students created this altar, or ofrenda, honoring Stan Lee. They created and utilized traditional Mexican symbols like marigold flowers which represent the fragility of life.
Spanish students decorated pod 8 in the days leading up to the celebration.

Students celebrated Día de los Muertos on Friday, Nov. 1 with a festival organized by the Spanish teachers.


Throughout the day, Spanish students participated in activities centered around the Mexican culture. Some brought Mexican food to share in Spanish teacher Lauren Hamberg’s room. Spanish teacher Penney Johnson painted students’ faces to look like sugar skulls and teachers played the movie “Coco” which is about cultural Mexican traditions surrounding the afterlife.


“There’s so many important concepts within the holiday that really reflect the Mexican culture as far as their ideas about memories and their ancestors and how traditions are passed on,” Johnson said. “I really enjoyed that part of the culture so I incorporated the other classes and everyone had sort of a job.”


Each class helped decorate pod 8. They created paper marigolds and other decorations to build an ofrenda honoring Stan Lee. The teachers also held a door decorating contest and students will vote on a winner next week.


Teachers noticed students had a positive reaction to this year’s event.


“I think that they’ve been really excited,” Hamberg said. “I think actually participating in the door decorating contests and building the altar and making the flowers, they have to do research and I think independent research and giving students that autonomy over their own learning in that way has been really cool, because kiddos have dived into many different aspects that I don’t think we would have been able to get it into their brains on a classroom basis.”


Johnson wanted to give all Spanish classes the opportunity to celebrate and experience a different culture.


“For years I’ve been celebrating with just my classes during the time of Day of the Dead and teaching all the classes about what the significance of the holiday is for the Mexican culture,” Johnson said. “It turned into something really fun for my class and in the spirit of collaboration with my colleagues, I wanted to include and incorporate more students since mine really enjoyed it.”


Hamberg thinks it’s important to show students aspects of a culture different than their own as well.


 “We are so lucky to live in Grand Haven but I think it also isolates us,” Hamberg said. “One of my favorite parts about the job is that we can expand our boundaries and turn kiddos into global citizens before they even leave these four walls.”