Monday, December 18, 2017

Mexican Culture and Art Lesson for Kids

As my high school students were making paper mache totem poles, I had my younger students paper mache balloons to make piñatas. They used tissue paper to decorate the dried spheres.  Piñata are though to originate in China as part of a Chinese new year celebration in which a ceramic ox full of seeds is broken in hopes of bringing good crops.  But the Aztecs had a similar ceremony in which a clay pot was broken to release things like nuts and colorful feathers as an offering to one of their gods. Once Christianity came to Mexico, the piñata tradition was continued, but as an object lesson. Seven cones on the piñata represented the seven deadly sins, and the blindfolded person with a stick represented the faith needed to overcome sin, and eventually release the blessings (prizes inside the piñata).

Our fun continued in a lesson about traditional Mexican toys including wooden tops, noise makers, and boleros, or the cup and ball games.  I hadstudents tie a jingle bell to one end of a string, and the end of a popsicle stick to the other. (A wooden bead is great too, but my students are all visually impaired so the sound of the bell is helpful). They used a little piece of tape to put a Dixie cup to the top of the string end of the stick. Then they used more tape to strengthen and decorate the stick and cup.  The goal of the game is to try to swing the ball/ bell out and catch it in the cup. One of my blind students had to work at it for about five minutes before getting it the first time, but he was so thrilled when he did.

One group had an extra class period with me and so we played mariachi music, which they interpreted visually. One student made a representational image of a horn, maraca, sunshine and flowers.

But most students took a more abstract approach, and used color and shape to convey the feel of the sounds.

Then they used the same types of cups, tape, and popsicle sticks that they used to make their ball and cup toys, to design their own maracas, filled with rice or dried beans of their choice.  These instruments were then used to play along to "Feliz Navidad."  I gave a brief language lesson so they ended up with some important phrases, making this a Social Studies, Foreign Language, Music and Art lesson. Four subjects in a couple of fun hours.  Yo soy una maestra feliz.

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