Day of the Dead: Sugar Skull Symmetry


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Day of the Dead—Dia de los Muertos—is a Mexican holiday celebrated from October 31st through November 1st. Although it is tied to Christian holidays of All Hollows’ Eve, Hallowmas and All Souls’ Day, it has roots extending back to an Aztec festival of the goddess Mictecacihuatl. This is a holiday about celebrating one’s ancestors and lavish altars called ofrendas are created to help family and friends remember their loved ones. Because of the skull imagery, my students had to be reminded that this holiday has nothing to do with Halloween. So, I made sure they understood that no spiders, ghosts or witches could appear on this project. (Yes, many sighs of disappointment could be heard.) The colors also had to be bright and cheerful since this is a celebration of life.


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My students did a variation on the sugar skull, a popular item sold during this annual celebration. The calavera (Spanish for “skull”) is made from either sugar or clay. I selected the sugar skull image for a project because the concept of symmetry fits in perfectly! As a class we discussed the celebration of Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead and reviewed the goals for our project. Students then drew out their designs on paper after seeing some samples. They used markers to color them in once I met with them to talk about their design. I used specialty hole punches in the shapes of circles and various flower shapes for the kids to arrange along the outside of their papers. I used black but next year I may allow other papers in dark shades such as purple be used as well.

There is so much you can do with this project. Marigolds are the symbolic flower of this holiday and you could even do ocarinas (i.e., clay whistles) with older students.


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