This is a digital collection of our Spanish art/science/history museum. The photos on the left-hand side are from real life and represent a cultural aspect of one of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries, while the right-hand side photos are what students did in class. Click on any of the images to enlarge them. Enjoy!
SPAIN: El Prado in Madrid, Spain is one of the most famous museums in the world, housing over 27,000 objects and artworks. In fact, it was the Google Doodle just this week, which celebrated the museum’s 200th anniversary! For this exhibit, students took an 8.5×11 copy of Still Life with Game, Vegetables, and Fruit (the first Spanish still life, by Juan Sánchez Cotán) and transferred it by eye to a large trifold, trying to imagine how artists filled such massive canvases. Fourth graders did an amazing job here!
La vista de Toledo, by El Greco (above)
The Persistence of Memory, by Salvador Dalí (above)
Las Meninas, by Diego Velázquez (above)
SPAIN: During the painting process, one student learned that the Prado was actually robbed in 2014— of a shocking 885 artworks. As a result, more than several classes were spent trying to merge their Spanish news show (including translated advertising slogans and commercial breaks) with an iMovie green screen breaking news “robbery” of their paintings in the style of Oceans 12. Ultimately, the project lost steam, but it was fun while it lasted! Here is the soundtrack we used.
CUBA/SPAIN: In 1715, a fleet of Spanish ships sank off the coast of Florida, en route to Spain and loaded with treasure from the new world. Modern treasure hunters have discovered some of this lost treasure–one family made $4.5 million dollars in 2017!–but much still remains on the ocean floor. Students acted out this story as a class, and then made artifacts for a faux museum display. After painting the Spanish crest and flag on them, students broke a few of the plates intentionally to make it seem more realistic! More info HERE.
MEXICO: Alebrijes are mythical-type creatures and spirit animals. You may remember the alebrije Dante if you have seen the movie Coco. The origin of this art had an interesting beginning (read below). Fifth graders created their own alebrije out of papier-mâché.
“In 1936, when he was 30 years old, [Pedro] Linares fell ill with a high fever, which caused him to hallucinate. In his fever dreams, he was in a forest with rocks and clouds, many of which turned into wild, unnaturally colored creatures, frequently featuring wings, horns, tails, fierce teeth and bulging eyes. He heard a crowd of voices repeating the nonsense word “alebrije.” After he recovered, he began to re-create the creatures he’d seen, using papier-mâché and cardboard” (Source).
SPAIN: Pamplona, Spain is perhaps most famous for its celebration of San Fermín and the annual Running of the Bulls. This tradition, although a huge part of Spanish culture, is highly controversial. Do you see the nobility of the beast and the elegance of the bullfight, or do you see animal cruelty? Whatever your stance, start a conversation and try to understand both perspectives. Here, a fifth grader researched bullfighting, and then built his own bullring- complete with real sand! For more information on this topic, visit THIS PAGE.
GUATEMALA: These are tiny Worry Dolls from Guatemala. Children make them and put them under their pillows at night to take away their worries (e.g., monsters, nightmares). Students were fascinated by these. They took a day to glue small pieces of fabric to balsa wood sticks, added a face, and soon afterwards, had their very own Worry Dolls. This Silly Billy video story is a great introduction.
SPAIN: The Camino de Santiago is a 500-mile hike across northern Spain. It takes about 30 days to complete on foot. You carry everything you need in a backpack, and follow the arrows and shells so you don’t get lost. Second graders made a very cool green screen video (click HERE) showing us their journey, while fifth graders opted to make a topographical representation of the walk.
PERU: Rainbow Mountain, or Vinicunca in Quechua, has a unique composition–14 different, colorful minerals–that makes the mountain range appear like the inside of a jawbreaker. For more information, visit this link and scroll to “Top Facts”. While the class used THIS amazing, paint-pouring video to make a model of the mountain–crazy fun but really messy!–one student painted the middle image on a canvas (above). Wow!
BOLIVIA: Yungas Road in Bolivia is one of the most dangerous roads in the world. It is only 12 feet wide, and the elevation varies from 4,000 to 15,000 feet high. Yikes! Third graders made a miniature diorama of this road, and presented their research at the weekly assembly. Would you dare to ride on it? For videos, see THIS LINK.
CHILE: Easter Island is an island located in the South Pacific. There are hundreds of massive statues and wooden tablets scattered over this landmass, but no one knows how they got there–it is a mystery! The tablets have a mysterious language written on them (called Rongorongo) that no one can read. Third graders carved 3-D models of the statues and wooden tablets with clay and toothpicks.
ARGENTINA: This terrifyingly high “Tren a las nubes” (Train to the Clouds) in Argentina is, well, terrifyingly high! Students are in the middle of creating a model of it out of Popsicle sticks.
SPAIN: Gazpacho is a delicious soup from Spain, and the perfect cold tomato dish to enjoy on a hot summer day. Third, fourth, and fifth graders took a day to celebrate La Tomatina, or tomato-throwing fight in Spain, by making Gazpacho in class. This is the recipe we used.
GUATEMALA: Thousands of Catholics in Antigua, Guatemala join together during Lent each year to make colored sawdust carpets in preparation for Semana Santa, or Holy Week. In 2014, they broke the Guinness Book of World Records and made the longest sawdust carpet ever, at an astounding 6,600 feet. Last year, the art teacher drew stencils in pencil on colored bulletin board paper, and then students filled in the designs with colored sand and glue. For more images of the real thing, see HERE.
MEXICO: This pyramid is called “El Castillo” in Chichen Itza (2:19-2:36). It was built hundreds of years ago by the Maya civilization, but the amazing part here is that twice a year, exactly on the Spring and Fall equinoxes, a shadow appears that aligns perfectly with a serpent’s head. How did the Maya figure this out? For project ideas, one year Lower School students created almost 400 miniature cubes to literally build “El Castillo”. This year, third graders are using LED lights to create a shadow of the serpent’s tail inside a diorama.
SOUTH AMERICA: The Andean Condor is the largest flying bird in the world. It weighs up to 33 pounds and can have a wingspan of nearly 11 feet. Last year, students tried to make a life-size replica of this massive bird with paper feathers, but ultimately tired of cutting them out. So many feathers!! This year, a fifth grader cut one out of cardboard and painted it–much more efficient! Now there will be time to explore legends based on Andean mythology and Incan folklore…
PUERTO RICO: Bioluminescence is a natural phenomenon where “living organisms emit light”, oftentimes when disturbed. You have probably seen this on land–fireflies lighting up the night–but it can also occur in the water. Mosquito Bay in Vieques Puerto Rico is the brightest glowing bioluminescent bay in the world. If you scribble on your hands with yellow florescent markers and put them under a blacklight, it produces a similar effect. Note: This made my hands itchy, so be sure to wash up immediately afterwards.
SPAIN: Don Quijote de La Mancha is a world-renowned, 900-page novel from Spain, written by Miguel de Cervantes way back in the 1600’s. Centuries later, Picasso made a sketch of the two main characters to commemorate the novel’s 350th anniversary. First graders put a photocopy of this up to the window, placed pastel-colored paper on top of it, and then trace-scribbled the drawing with a Sharpie to create a two-tone replica. The class joke and icing on the cake was to cross out Picasso’s name and replace it with their own!
CHILE: Chile’s Marble Caves are a truly beautiful natural wonder. Students mixed teal and green paints to capture different shades, and later added true-to-life purples and yellows to their paintings to accent the vibrant backdrop. This VIDEO describes the caves as “like being inside the Aurora Borealis”. Wow!
PERU: The Nazca Lines are a group of ancient geoglyphs in Peru. They are made out of naturally occurring elements, like rocks, stones, or earth. These trenches–running in all different directions in this part of Peru–appear to be roads from ground level. However, from an airplane, you can see that they are actually huge designs depicting anything from hummingbirds and lizards to astronauts and spiral shapes. Drones are helping to uncover even more in recent years. HERE is one activity you can do in class or at home. Students also recreated these designs with masking tape on the floor. Click this LINK for more pics and videos.
PANAMA: The Kuna Indians of the San Blas Islands off of Panama are famous for a specific type of art, called mola. Mola means ‘blouse’ (or clothing) in the Kuna language. While women used to paint geometric designs on their bodies, nowadays the patterns come from nature—or, plants and animals—and are created with layers of fabric. Students opted to trace the mola patterns instead. This in itself took time, and gave them a glimpse into the detail-oriented, intricate work involved in the process. In a word, paciencia. HERE is a video to learn more.
ARGENTINA: Yerba Mate Tea is the ‘friendship drink’ of South America, especially Argentina Uruguay, Bolivia, and Paraguay. You drink the tea out of a gourd, and keep refilling it with hot water all day long to sip. The tea leaves are loose (not in a tea bag). It can be quite strong to some people. Fifth graders tasted it and heard the Guaraní legend of how Mate came to be.
BOLIVIA: Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat formation in the world. During the rainy season, a light coat of water creates a perfect reflection of the sky–from sunrises and sunsets to beautiful starry nights. Students used watercolors to paint a sunrise on half of a sheet of paper, and then folded it over while still wet to create fun mirror-images. Later, we all tasted a lot of salt and contrasted it with azúcar/sugar, and discussed how salt is a natural resource.
ECUADOR: There are sneezing iguanas that live here… and actually sneeze! HERE is a hilarious video to put on loop. We blend cultures by using the Colombian practice of saying, “Salud, dinero, amor” (health, money, love) every time someone sneezes in class, and then listen to a classic song about “Las tres cosas” by Cristina y los Stop, link HERE.
COLOMBIA: Is this the world’s most colorful town? Students painted colorful buildings and houses on tri-folds, and set up the cardboard in two lines so that they can ‘walk’ through town, stopping at various businesses and mercados along the way. The Señor Wooly song, “¿Adónde vas?” works well with this unit. In Guatapé, Colombia, there is also the famous Peñón de Guatapé–a 70-million-year-old rock that stands 656 feet high–which somehow begs for a project. *Photo credit to photographer Jessica Devnani
For more links, videos, photos, and research about each of these places, visit the “Projects” page.