The Spanish teachers in Marist’s Modern & Classical Languages Department wanted their students to participate in this immersive experience during the fall term because of their emphasis on Mexican culture related to the annual Día de los Muertos celebrations. To prepare for the exhibit, Spanish students made traditional arts and crafts, read Mexican legends, and researched the symbolism attached to the various components of Día de los Muertos. Students also explored the history behind the celebration and learned of the indigenous origins of the day and how it connects with All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.
All Spanish students, from Level 1 through Advanced Placement classes, participated in cultural lessons with several phases of learning about both the arts related to Día de los Muertos and Mexican folk art in general. All students contributed to the design of the theater for the exhibit.
Spanish 1 and 2 students constructed Mexican paper flowers that are often present at funerals, birthday parties, and other family gatherings. Vibrant and almost always in large quantities, the flores are seen everywhere on clothing accessories, altar adornments, and cemetery pathways. Level 2 students also created papel picado which is made from tissue paper or crepe paper and is used as decorations for joyous events throughout the year.
Spanish 3 and Spanish 3 honors students worked on several art projects that included reverse glass paintings, Otomi drawings, and Amate bark art. Spanish 4 students wrote calaveras, which are satirical poems that are designed to poke fun at the living. The purpose of the poems is to remind all social classes that mortality is inevitable, and everyone ends up in the same place.
Spanish AP students developed brochures about each piece of art on display. The brochures provided in-depth information about the artwork.
When Spanish students visited the exhibit with their respective classes, they spent time participating in several activities in and around the theater. In addition to exploring the art, they also were able to experience aspects of Mexican culture through virtual reality. They were able to “visit” different important places throughout Mexico and immerse themselves in Día de los Muertos celebrations.
Another component of the experience was a viaje virtual, a self-guided cultural investigation of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, their works, and La Casa Azúl (the residence where Frida Kahlo lived for most of her life which is now the Frida Kahlo Museum). These investigations included four-dimensional walks through the city, biographical information about the artists, and information about each of the works that were hung in the theater.
All Spanish classes, as well as some art and history classes, were able to visit the exhibit along with many Marist faculty and staff. Participants were effusive in their praise about the experience.
Marist student Jenna Woodward ’22 said, “Trying the virtual reality to travel to museums dedicated to the artists and to cemeteries decorated for Day of the Dead was a great way to virtually visit the places that we have been learning about. The altar for Day of the Dead and the scenery created by the classes with the flowers, artwork, and candlelight made it feel authentic, like you were walking into Mexico for our class that day.”
For Spanish Teacher Mrs. Erica Buchanan, the immersive experience for Spanish students was a really fun and engaging way to focus on Mexican culture in Term 1. She shared, “Seeing the works of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in an art exhibit style during class, along with working on traditional crafts for Día de los Muertos, was an effective way to pull together all the Spanish levels for one joint experience.”
Mrs. Kelly Mandy, co-chair of Marist's Global and Humane Studies (GHS) Task Force and science teacher, said, “The members of the Spanish department, GHS Task Force, and the technology department did amazing work on using the Immersive Theater to its fullest. Surrounded by the student-created decorations, music, candlelight, and artwork, it truly felt like you were stepping into another country when you walked into the theater. And with the virtual reality component, you were truly able to become completely immersed. This exhibit embodied the purpose of the Goizueta Center
and Marist's STEAM 2.0 initiative
which is to promote empathy through innovative and cross-curricular teaching. I am looking forward to students being able to have more experiences such as this one in the future.”
Coming soon, Marist’s German teachers and their classes are putting together a Christmas market experience, which will include decorations as well as virtual reality components. Through virtual reality, participants will be able to explore markets and significant places in Germany as well as watch 360° videos about the Christmas markets.