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NVUSD Students Develop Sociocultural Competence Experiencing Día de los Muertos
Posted 11/3/22

In observance of Día de los Muertos, students throughout the district read books, learned about artistic design, designed works of art, learned ballet florklórico, performed ballet folklórico, and set up Ofrendas. We invite you to read about and enjoy pictures of our students’ learning and artistic expression in a festive atmosphere. You can also view student contributions to the first Napa Día de los Muertos celebration in downtown Napa this Saturday, November 5, from 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm. 




One of the 3 pillars of dual language education is sociocultural competence. To help foster this as a dual language school, students at NVLA learned about and created works of art in the celebration of Día de los Muertos. 

In Teresita Ayala’s classroom, students read different books about Día de los Muertos and how it's a time to remember our loved ones that have passed, and her students brought pictures of their loved ones to display on their classroom ofrenda.  

In Maestra Nummelin's class, students learned about the artistic design of papel picado, cutting along fold lines to create patterns of symmetry in their own unique pieces that were strung together to decorate the classroom. Students learned about papel picado as a symbol of wind and as an important addition to the celebratory atmosphere during Día de los Muertos. 

Students watched a video about Día de los Muertos and did papel picado (una calavera) in Maestra Vega’s.  

Fourth-grade students made papel picado banners for the Napa Día de los Muertos on Saturday, November 5th, in downtown Napa. Many learned ballet folklórico and will be performing on Saturday.  Fourth-grade students read about Día de los Muertos,  brought in items to set up an ofrenda, created papel picado, and colored in their Calaveras on paper. 


students celebrate at NVLA

Pueblo Vista Magnet School 


Pueblo Vista is also a Dual Language Immersion elementary school that leveraged Día de los Muertos as a teachable moment to help kids develop their sociocultural competence.

According to principal Helen Roca, Maestra Montelongo is a visiting teacher from Mexico who shared with the students of Pueblo Vista the traditions of Día de los Muertos in Mexico. She worked collaboratively with the staff to create an ofrenda where Pueblo Vista families could participate. This provided students the opportunity to learn about the meaning of the ofrenda (each level). Students also created thier “Calaverita” with card paper (pictured below) and learned about “Alebrijes” that are part of the traditions on this day.


Pueblo Vista students celebrate


Willow Elementary School


Willow Elementary is a TK-5 Artful Learning School where students experience their academic learning through art. The Napa Dia de Los Muertos event allowed students to connect on a more personal level to their unit concept of "relationships."

After learning about the artist and author Carmen Lomas Garza (The Birthday Party), students were inspired by the papel picado that can be seen in her painting and decided to create papel picado of their own. Our first graders found joy in this activity and even invited their teachers to participate by creating colorful papel picado (which also connects to their learning of lines and shapes). Papel picado is used on ofrendas (alters) during Dia de los Muertos as a symbol of the “union between life and death” and “wind.” It was a wonderful opportunity to bring our community together, create our own Willow Ofrenda, and make connections to the relationships that we create and how they affect our everyday lives. 


Irene M. Snow Elementary School


At Snow Elementary School, a group of parents created a beautiful Día de los Muertos ofrenda in the multi-use room. The parents then gave a presentation to students about the history and components of the ofrenda (pictured below). 


Snow students learn


Unidos Middle School


During advisory at Unidos Middle School, students learned about Spanish culture by creating art to display at the Napa Día de los Muertos event in downtown Napa on November 5.

In Maestro Hernandez’s class, students painted Calaveras (skulls) in bright colors. Shelby, a seventh-grade student, shared that she did not know much about Día de los Muertos before starting the project but learned that “the skulls are a celebration of loved ones who have passed away.” Sitting next to Shelby, Aly said that she has always celebrated Día de los Muertos with her family and added that “the bright colors carry meaning; red represents blood, orange is the sun, and yellow represents the Mexican flower marigold which means death.” Both girls look forward to attending the event in downtown Napa to see their Calaveras on exhibit. Maestro Hernandez said that the skulls will be added with colorful flowers to a wooden casket that together will be an ofrenda on display in downtown Napa. 

In Maestra Knutson’s Advisory, students assembled a grid drawing using oil pastels of La Catrina, Mexico’s Lady of Death, popularized by the work of José Guadalupe Posada. First, students learned about La Catrina, as well as techniques for using oil pastels. Then, students drew their pieces of the grid. Next, they expanded pieces of the original drawing into a larger portion of the work. Like Maestro Henandez’s Advisory, Maestra Knutson said that her advisory will assemble all of the pieces of La Catrina for display in downtown Napa.


Unidos students celebrate


Valley Oak High School


According to Ryan Strole, XicanX Literature Teacher, the theme for this year's celebration of Día de los Muertos at Valley Oak was education and inclusion. Members of the community who may have observed the festivities in the past but not felt personally included were invited to bring ofrendas for their loved ones. On Monday the 31st, a table with colored popsicle sticks and a printer turned paper and wood into framed color pictures. Each advisory class brought  papel picado and our XicanX Literature class made velas out of beeswax in the traditional Oaxacan style and created "found" poetry to lay on the table. The ofrenda went up on Friday, October 28, and was decorated with calacas, catrinas, and painted calaveras.


New Tech High School


At New Tech High School, students and staff brought items and pictures for a school ofrenda (pictured below). They also made papel de picado to decorate their common area where the ofrenda is displayed. 


New Tech ofrenda


Napa High School


In the library, Layla and Leadership made an ofrenda where students displayed pictures of their beloved deceased ones to honor them. The quad was decorated with papel picado and flowers, and on Wednesday, November 2, students painted faces, and a Catrin/Catrina contest with prizes was held (pictured below). During the lunchtime festivities, students also performed two types of ballet folklórico. Arianna V perform El Zapateado from Veracruz, and Abril M. performed El Son de la Negra while Isaiah V. demonstrated his Lasso skills. Afterward, Andrea B sang La Llorona, we were hoping our mariachi club could play, and many were dressed in traditional Mexican clothing and face paint. 


Napa High Celebrates Día de los Muertos


Vintage High School

At Vintage, the Spanish Club, made up of students from different levels of Spanish classes, set up ofrendas and did other cultural crafts for an exhibit in the center of the World Languages building, continuing the tradition established by retired Spanish teacher Azalea Aguilar. Students were invited to enjoy the exhibit throughout the week–see photos below.


Vintage High School ofrenda