Austin Students Employ 21st-Century Skills

Critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity aren’t just education buzzwords at Austin High School. In chatting with Mr. Brobeck after class today, he observed that students are working together and offering each other constructive criticism on this project more than he often sees in his art classes. Perhaps it’s because students, in being asked to reflect and express themselves about something as deeply personal as the loss of a loved one or a hero, take comfort in connecting with others in the class experiencing similar emotions?

Austin students collaborating on materials prep

Creativity is very evident among the Austin students. There is great variety in the people being honored with ofrendas and the imagery being used to honor them. Citlalli is researching traditional Mexican Día de los Muertos calavera imagery of José Guadalupe Posada.

Citlalli with her Posada-inspired ofrenda-in-progress

Logan had a memorable experience as kid when his mom took him to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and he discovered the work of Pablo Picasso.

Logan working on one element of his Cubist-style ofrenda dedicated to Picasso

Rachel is inspired by the distance runner Steve “Pre” Prefontaine.

Rachel's ofrenda for "Pre"

Lindsey, whose ofrenda to Jackie O. was featured here last week, made really nice progress since our last visit.

Ofrenda for Jackie Kennedy Onassis

To hear students from Austin and the other 2011 partner schools discuss their ofrendas in their own words, watch their Phase 2 (Turning Ideas Into Images) videos. Please use the comment feature to leave the students your thoughts on their video blogs.

Phase 3: Create a Personal Ofrenda

As you can see by previous posts, this week’s topic for the students is to create a personal ofrenda. For the past several weeks, the students have been brainstorming for ideas, seeing the topics for previous ofrendas, researching their own topics, and doing preliminary work on their shrine. This week the students have gotten down to business and have started to decorate their ofrenda with personal objects that include photographs, beads, ceramic sculptures, drawings, and other items.

Before we get to the photos of the Humboldt High School student’s work, Art teacher Ms. Millazzo asks:

We would love to hear how the project is going for your students. Please feel free to comment below.

The Humboldt students have been making great progress on their project, and several ofrendas have been updated since last week.

She is tying small paper flowers on the outer edge of her work.

I honestly have no idea the topic of this ofrenda, but it is graphically rich. I can hardly wait to read the labels that the student will write.

The student’s Phase 2 videos will be uploaded within the next few days, so be sure and see the group from Phase 1.

Poner tus ideas en imágenes | Turning Ideas into Images at El Colegio

To see students’ ofrenda designs at El Colegio High School develop from the initial steps of gathering ancestral information, to laying out their visions on paper, is like seeing the inside of machine in motion. Take a look as they: work on their bocetos, the Spanish word for sketches; begin painting; and select familial objects to make their ofrendas their very own.

El Colegio instructor explaining to the class the importance of planning out their designs

Students planning ofrenda designs

Students prepping their crates for painting

El Colegio Class unleashing their creativity

Student Melisandra finds objects to represent her abuelito

Many students have been captivated by imagery of la noche, the night sky

Student-made skulls will adorn their ofrendas


Phase One: Honor Ancestors student videos are now uploaded! You can see them here, and the students would love to know your thoughts on their work.

Ofrendas, Origami, and Jackie O.

Lindsey and Maggie work on their ofrendas

It was exciting to visit with Austin High School students this week about who they’ve chosen to honor with their ofrenda and what colors, images, and symbols they will use to represent the person(s) they’re honoring. Maggie (above, in blue) is planning to honor her grandfather, who was a professional firefighter. Lindsey (above, in black) is dedicating her ofrenda to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis – we talked about the Andy Warhol homage to Jackie O.

Lindsey and Logan learning to make origami roses

Later in the class period, Lindsey and Logan watched a YouTube two part video demonstrating how to make extremely complicated origami roses that Logan plans to include in his ofrenda. See origami rose folding demo part 1 and part 2.

Miguel honors his great grandfather with his ofrenda

Miguel is honoring his bisabuelo (great grandfather), who lived in Mexico and worked as a cattle rancher. Miguel is thinking of including a small steer sculpture to represent this aspect of his great grandfather’s life. He doesn’t remember a lot of other details about his great grandfather, so he plans to interview older family members to gather more information, ideas, and images.


Art for the Ancestors Inspires Edison Students at the MIA

Edison High School students visited the MIA for tours about honoring ancestors on Wednesday, Septmeber 28. They observed details of art works ranging from a 17th-century Chinese Audience Hall, and an ancient Mexican tomb sculpture to African sculptures spanning centuries. They speculated on the meanings of the works of art and discussed how the choices made by the artists might influence their own ofrendas. The tour guides also engaged the students in conversation about two of the ofrendas made by El Colegio High School students for last year’s exhibition and introduced them to the gallery in which the ofrendas will be exhibited from November 1 to December 4.

Edison Students head to the galleries

The rich ofrenda designs created by the students back at school reflect ideas inspired by their museum visit including the use of symmetry, banners, figures on multiple levels and writing integrated with images.  Their week ended in the art studio where the students began to transform their crates into unique ofrendas.

A lesson in symmetry from the ancient Egyptians

Ofrendas from last year’s exhibition inspire students

Edison Students Express Themselves

Edison student's work-in-progess

Thomas Edison High School students in Señoritas Perry and Davis’ classes explored artistic expression firsthand during Phase 2 of the project. Each student created an art work about his or her feelings, making artistic choices about color, composition  and materials, which ranged from colored pencils, feathers, paper and ribbons to glitter glue, stickers and yarn. In preparation for writing artist’s statements later, the students also wrote about the choices they made for their art works and how these expressed what they were thinking about.

An Edison student at work

Señorita Davis led a lively discussion about her own obra de arte. She emphasized that student responses to her art work were equally valid as the meanings she expressed.

The Edison student artists are working on the final plans for their ofrendas and will begin filling the crates with images and symbols this week. They’ll also be coming to the MIA for a guided tour on the theme of “Honoring Ancestors.”


Austin High School is Proud!

Mr. Brobeck talking to the class

When we visited Austin High School (home of the Packers) recently, it was really neat to hear Mr. Brobeck talking with students about how proud the school and community are to partner with the MIA.

110 miles south of Minneapolis, Austin is home to Hormel Foods and the SPAM Museum. Austin High School is the only 2011 partner representing Greater Minnesota (meaning it’s outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area). Mr. Brobeck told the students their involvement in the Young People’s Ofrenda project is a chance to raise the profile of the school and the community in Minnesota and beyond through the exhibition of student ofrendas and Austin’s representation right here on the blog.

We’ll be back in Austin next week. We’re looking forward to checking in with Mr. Brobeck’s students to see the progress they’ve made on their ofrendas.

Phase 2: Turn Ideas into Images

As the second week of this project comes to a close, an update from Humboldt High School is in order. This week’s focus has been “turn ideas into images,” and the students have been using their work during phase one as a guide. Using the materials in the Ofrenda Teacher’s Guide, Art teacher Mr. Elizondo, has his students develop their ideas on a worksheet before they start to video record their thoughts.

Many of the students have already painted their wooden crates and have started to add photographs of their subjects.

And of some of the painting is very detailed:

Or in progress:

We will be following the progress of several ofrendas as they come together, and this week’s focus is the work that honors the famous Hunkpapa Lakota Sitting Bull (Tatonka-Iyatanka).

Mr. Elizondo and the student discuss her Sitting Bull ofrenda

In her work, she has cleverly painted the four sides of the crates white, red, black, yellow. These colors are often referred to as the four sacred colors that symbolize the four directions among Native American traditionalists. We’ll check in next week to see how it is progressing.

Do you need a poster for your classroom? Send us an e-mail at: and we will send you one!

Edison High School Students Write About Their Ofrendas

Edison High School students in Spanish classes with Señoritas Davis and Perry engaged in lively discussions in response to their research about Días de los Muertos and ofrendas. Students enjoyed learning that this celebration of life mocks death, and found it interesting that in Mexico celebrants eat at the graveside and that ofrendas can be made not only for family, but also for others who have died. Another discussion focused on how cool it is that everyone who has died is celebrated at the same time.

Discussion questions for Edison students

The students have also begun to write journal entries about their personal ofrendas in response to questions like “To whom do I want to dedicate this ofrenda?” and “What more would I like to know about this person or people?” As the students continue to learn more about the people they have chosen to honor, they are also beginning to turn their ideas into designs for their ofrendas.

Happy face!

Are you and your students following the project using the Ofrenda Teacher’s Guide? Need it in Spanish? We would love to hear how your project is going!

El Colegio High School visits the MIA

Fifteen energetic ninth graders from El Colegio High School visited the Minneapolis Institute of Arts last Wednesday for a tour. Students had the opportunity to view objects in the museum’s collections on the theme of honoring ancestors. Their tour led them around the world in the span of only a few hundred feet and their interests were piqued by the many similarities various cultures share in regards to honoring ancestors. As we observed the students scribbling away on their notepads, we hoped the tour spurred some great imagery for them to use in their own ofrenda creations. Stay tuned!

Spanish-speaking tour guide, Maria (second from the left) prepares to tour the students from El Colegio High School.

Interested in Spanish language tours at the MIA? Go here for more information.