Hands-On Learning Materials

The Consortium’s Outreach Program offers several exhibits and culture boxes that are available for teachers to borrow.

10606281_939415716086674_7459173795595833489_nDay of the Dead Exhibits

During the Mexican holiday of Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, families pay respect to their departed loved ones, whose spirits are believed to return on this day. Offerings of marigolds, candles, sugar skulls, fruit, and pan de muerto are placed on an alter around the deceased’s grave. Families may also put photographs and their loved one’s favorite food on the alter. The day is spent eating, drinking, and celebrating those who have passed. The Day of the Dead is held November 1, but alters may be constructed and visited before or after, typically between October 28 and November 4.  

Request a Day of the Dead exhibit for your school or organization.

The alter above was created by Spanish I and II students at Riverside High School in Durham, North Carolina. The alters below were created by Spanish students at SandHoke Early College High School in Raeford (left) and ESL students at E.K. Powe Elementary in Durham (right).

DoD Sandhoke Early College - alter close    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Day of the Dead Curriculum Materials

Sharon Mújica, former director of the UNC-Duke Consortium’s Outreach Program, created a number of materials which are available through the Learn NC site.  You can read about Ms. Mújica’s reflections on this holiday in this article from the Daily Tar Heel.

The Mexican Day of the Dead: Learn about El Día de los Muertos as it is celebrated in Mexico and the history behind this important holiday.

Classroom Activity: Making an Altar for the Day of the Dead: Engage with your students (K-12) to create a traditional alter.

Recipe: Pan de Muerto (All Souls’ Bread): Share a piece of traditional “Bread of the Dead” with your students.

Day of the Dead Slideshow: See pictures of the Day of the Dead traditions in Mexico.

Days of the Dead (Powerpoint presentation): Explain the history, traditions, and modern celebrations of the Days of the Dead in Mexico with this PowerPoint Presentation containing colorful pictures and text.


16 de Septiembre Mexican Independence Day Materials

16 de Septiembre Mexican Independence Day: de Septiembre Mexican Independence Day: Learn about 16 de Septiembre as it is celebrated in Mexico and the history behind this important holiday.

Classroom Activity: Interviews about Mexican Independence Day Customs and Traditions: Contact the local Hispanic cultural or resource center and have students interview families and discuss how this day is celebrated.

Recipes: Chiles en Nogada (Chiles in Walnut Sauce), Arroz Rojo (Red Rice), Arroz Blanco (White Rice and Arroz Verde (Green Rice): Re-create traditional dishes for your students.

16 de Septiembre Film Guide for Cinco de Mayo: Contextualize the two most celebrated days in the modern Mexican calendar: the 16th of September and the 5th of May. Instructions on how to borrow the video can also be found in this link.


The Quinceañera Celebration

The Quinceañera Celebration: Learn about the Quinceañera Celebration as it is celebrated in Mexico and thhe history behind this tradition.

Classroom Activity: Preparing for a Quinceañera: Gather materials needed for a quinceañera celebration with your students.

Recipe: Pastel de Tres Leches (Quinceañera Cake): Share a piece of traditional quinceañera cake with your students.

The Quinceañera Celebration Film Guide for La Fiesta Quinceañera: Follow a young Mexican-American woman through the preparation and celebration of her quinceañera. Instructions on how to borrow the video can also be found in this link.


The Equionox at Chichén Itzá

The Equionox at Chichén Itzá Learn about the Equionox at Chichén Itzá as it is celebrated in Mexico and history behind this phenomenon.

Classroom Activities: Reconstructing an Ancient Mesoamerican City and Conducting a Game of Pok-a-tok: Engage students by creating a painting of a Mesoamerican scene and play a hacky-sack version of the Maya ritual ballgame known as Pok-a-tok.

Recipes: Pavo en Escabeche (Turkey in Escabeche), Huevos Mortuleños (Eggs Motul-style), Strawberry Atole, Calabaza en Tacha (Pumpkin in Syrup) and Mango Mousse: Re-create these traditional dishes for your students.

The Equionox at Chichén Itzá Film Guide for Ingredients of Travel in Chichén ItzáExplore questions that have arisen from tourism at the ancient Mayan city of Chichén Itzá in the Yucatán. Instructions on how to borrow the video can also be found in this link.

Culture Boxes

How do the Maya of the Yucatan Peninsula clean their pots and pans? What clothes do Mixtec women wear? Do Zapotec children play the same kinds of games as children from the U.S.?

Students can explore these questions and others by using one of our culture boxes. Each box contains items from Mesoamerican cultures that are commonly used in everyday life, along with brief descriptions about the use or meaning of each item. Students are encouraged to guess what each item represents and what it is used for.

See our Culture Box Guidelines and an example of a Culture Box.

Request a Culture Box for your school or organization.

Available Culture Boxes:

Yucatec Maya




Copyright 2015 | The Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University