Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lesson Plan for Dia de Los Muertos
As promised, I am about to start posting lesson plans from my Sunday School curricula here. I hope you like them and share some of your own.

Today's lesson is on Mexico's Day of the Dead and is suitable for preschool and elementary school aged kids.

As this class is in a Unitarian Universalist context, the opening and closing may or may not be relevant to you, teaching about Day of the Dead out of a UU context.

If it is not, skip to the meat of the lesson further below. Enjoy!

Stay tuned for more lesson plans as I can get them posted!

Gathering: Where we get all the non-focused energy dispelled and we settle down.

Time to Sing! Sung to the tune Do Re Mi (from the Sound of Music)

One: Each Person is important
Two: Be Kind in all you do
Three: We help each other learn 
Four: And search for what is true
Five: All people need a say
Six: Work for a peaceful world
Seven The web of life’s the way
That will bring us back to me and UU!

 (repeat until all are singing and you feel you can stop and have their attention)

Where we create sacred space in which to learn and share.

Light Chalice
and say chalice lighting:
(Sung to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star)

Flaming Chalice burning bright

Now you share with us your light
May we always learn to share
With all people everywhere
Flaming Chalice burning bright
Now you share with us your light

Joys and Sorrows:
Where we talk about our previous week and share good and bad things that have happened to us.

Get Down to Business:
Where we explain today’s theme or tell today’s story and start activities.

Materials needed:
  1. Calavera stencil (easily printable from the internet)
  2. Black Sharpie (for adults to trace stencil in advance)
  3. Tracing paper
  4. Colorful Markers
  5. Tape (for hanging them)
  6. Salt Dough (recipes here)
  7. Readings (below) and books (Clatter Bash! or similar age-appropriate book about the holiday)
  8. Build an altar with calaveras, pictures of ancestors, ashes/urns, mementos of loved ones, statue/picture of Santisma Muerte.

(PREP: Adults should have traced stencils in advance for kids to color in while stories are being read).
Did you know that in many cultures around the world, they believe that this time of year is the best time to communicate with the dead (dead relatives, friends- also called ancestors)? While some people think of seeing dead people, or ghosts, is scary- many others do not and welcome the chance to speak with people that they loved who have passed on.
Today we are going to explore one of those cultures- Mexico’s Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos (pronounced DEE-uh Day Los MWER-tose)
(Show kids altar- look, don’t touch! While you read words below)

Don't be afraid of El Dia de los Muertos - the Day of the Dead. This is a happy holiday! 
This ancient holiday began as a day of thanks for the harvest. It became a time put aside to remember our ancestors and people we love who have died. This is called ancestor veneration.
On the first day, relatives put flowers on graveyards or in vases with cards. Then they create an alter somewhere in the house. These alters are not places of worship. They serve the same purpose as a scrapbook or a photo album. Pictures of the departed, along with favorite loved objects and other mementoes are placed on the altar. The rest of this day is spent making the favorite foods of this person (or persons.) 
On the second day, families have big celebrations at their homes. They serve the food they made the day before. They eat candies shaped like skeletons. Friends stop by and people dance and sing. This is a very happy holiday.
Today, we are going to make two kinds of Calaveras- decorated skulls – flat ones to hang in our windows like stained glass decorations and sculpted ones to decorate our tables and altars!

(Go back to table and pass out salt dough for skull making to kids- show them how to make a skull shape and let them know next week we will be decorating real sugar skulls!)
On the third day of the Day of the Dead celebration, the holiday expands to the whole town. There may be parades and floats and costumed characters. Coffins are carried that have real people in them dressed in skeleton outfits.
(Read Clatter Bash! while they work- especially the end where it explains what is seen on the pages. Perhaps go back and flip through the pages to see if they can spot cultural items mentioned on final pages.)
Pass out stenciled tracing paper and markers for final calavera coloring activity.
Summation: Breaking down message, wrapping it all up.
Let’s hang our Calaveras in the windows and let the light shine through them!
What is ancestor veneration? What’s one way you can venerate your ancestors in your life?
I am going to give you a sheet for you to ask questions of your parents and/or grandparents (see below), and I would like them to talk to you as they fill out the answers. Be sure to bring it back next week so we can share!
Chalice extinguishing and closing words circle:
We extinguish the chalices here

That they may glow gently in our hearts
May it light your path
As you leave this place
May it guide your way
Until we are together again.

Day of the Dead Take home questions

Who are my ancestors? What are their names?

Where are they from? How did our family come to this place? How long has our family lived here?

Tell one interesting story about an ancestor.


  1. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!!
    This is so wonderful. My daughter (5) has been very fascinated with Dia De Los Muertos for 3 years now. We have a good festival here with traditional dance and a bit more tradition, but it's not enough. this will be perfect for us.
    I'm looking forward to the rest of your series.

  2. Thnk you, this is wonderful. I've been trying to juggle the Halloween experience with the more spiritual Pagan celebration and I need things to tip the balance.

  3. The Marigold Project's website says they are looking for Dia de los Muertos lesson plans. You might be able to help them out.


Comments are welcome but moderated. Please be respectful when leaving a comment.