I was invited to Poteet Elementary on Tuesday by a wonderful Dual
Language teacher Ms. Millie Lawhon. She asked if the Pleasanton Express would be interested in a tour of her students “Black Light Dia de Los Muertos Museum.” Yes, we were very interested was my answer! My most favorite thing is to be invited to a classroom by a teacher to show off the works of her students. What an absolute treat it was to be able to see the PBL (Project Based Learning) in motion.
I was met by Dr. Carrasco and Ms. Lawhon who escorted me into a classroom that had been turned into black light museum with a beautiful and elaborate ofrenda (altar). All the children wore paper masks which looked like sugar skulls painted in bright neon colors which illuminated their faces. Each child took me to a reading station where they read descriptions and facts about Dia de Los Muertos. They were proud, joyous and excited to show off their dual language reading skills and the ofrenda that was creatively made and lovingly dedicated to the fathers of Poteet principals Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Murray.
Outside in the hallway were intricate altars the children had built to honor loved ones they had lost. I walked by one little boy who had a beautiful altar with a cowboy theme to it. I told him it was amazing and asked who the man was featured in his altar. He told me it was his father. I found out that his dad recently passed away due to COVID.
Dr. Carrasco and Ms. Lawhon both said how healing it was for the students to spend time with their parents or family when making the altars. They said so many of the children have lost a loved one recently during the pandemic. I was told that while working on the altars it is tradition to remember all the things that the deceased loved and to remember all the things that you loved about them. Also, tradition is to tell funny stories and recall fond memories. Showcasing the deceased’s favorite foods and past times is also a part of building the altar.
There were Day of the Dead fact sheets with drawings on the wall with important details written on them by students. Some of the facts were:
1. The Day of the Dead is not scary. It is a loving holiday.
2. The Day of the Dead is not Halloween.
3. People make altars for the people they lost and love. 4. The Day of the Dead is really fun!
Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, is a traditional Mexican holiday celebrated Nov. 2. On this day, it is believed that the souls of the dead return to visit their living family members. Many people celebrate this day by visiting the graves of deceased loved ones and setting up altars with their favorite foods, drink, and photos. The Day of the Dead is observed on Nov. 2 each year.
Next week, I will be writing a story about my visit to Poteet Elementary with photos of the children and their altars. I will also be writing about the dual language program and more about PBL. I was so thoroughly impressed with the teachers and students at Poteet Elementary. If you want to believe in the future of our children, go visit one of our local schools. I walked out of the Poteet Elementary today filled with joy and hope.
NOEL WILKERSON HOLMES is the Publisher and Managing Editor of the Pleasanton Express. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.