Articles – FJH Students Remember Their Pets in Day of the Dead Display
Fishers Jr. High Students wanted to learn more about Latin culture and at the same time remember deceased family pets. They accomplished this by creating artwork for a Day of the Dead display. The Day of the Dead, or El Dia de los Muertos, is a Mexican tradition with roots in Aztec and Christian beliefs that honor the memories of deceased loved ones with a celebration. Despite the name, the holiday occurs at the same time as Halloween but is an upbeat, celebratory holiday. Altars are created to pay homage to memories of dead loved ones through artwork, writings and food.
English teacher Kelly Watson decided to gather FJH students to develop a Day of the Dead display after attending the Day of Dead festivities at the Indianapolis Art Center several years ago. The students, also guided by Art teacher Julie Strawhacker and Spanish teacher Michelle Helmkamp, chose to design their altars around the theme of “Remembering FJH Pets.” Helmkamp says, “Usually people are honored but the loss of a pet was something that all the students had in common.” The students researched the history and traditions of the Day of the Dead celebrations. Their artwork reflects traditional customs and includes papier-mâché and sugar skulls as well as photo collages and a display of toys and memorabilia of their lost pets. Dogs, cats and other pets such as hamsters, ferrets and fish will be honored.
Through their research of the Day of the Dead tradition the students have not only discovered it’s not a creepy thing, but they have also learned more about the Latin culture and Spanish language. Stephanie Addelman, 8th grader, says, “My family will be adopting a baby boy from Guatemala and this was a great way to learn more about that culture.” Savannah Meslin, also an 8th grader, says, “I have had fun learning more about the Mexican culture.”
The students, who meet once a week after school, will be hard at work on this project until October. The altars will then be on display at the Indianapolis Art Center from October 9 – November 26. There is also a free Day of the Dead celebration at the Art Center on October 28 from 3-8 p.m.
The students, along with their teachers, are very proud of their Day of the Dead altars. Creating these altars has not only proven to be more than a fun art project, but a lesson in other cultures and a heartfelt memorial to beloved pets.