To showcase their year-long cross-curricular study of Mexico, Barnesville first graders celebrated with a Cinco de Mayo festival. Throughout the year, social studies, science, language arts, math, Spanish and studio art classes are linked to the broad theme of Mexico, including its geography, history, and culture.
The celebration started with a preamble explaining that Cinco de Mayo is celebrated more in the United States than in Mexico. Students helped First Grade Teacher Mrs. Birkholz recite facts about the famed battle of 1862 where the Mexican Army defeated the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla.
Students, dressed in traditional clothing, performed the folk song “Don Gato” and recited the poem “Sol Matutino” in Spanish. Then they performed a simplified version of the “Mexican Hat Dance,” the national folk dance known in Mexico as Jarabe tapatío, and invited their parents to join the dance.
Acting as tour guides, students led parents through classroom exhibits of the different geographic regions of Mexico, noting the plants and animals found in the desert as compared to the rainforest. For each animal, students used an organizer tool to capture key facts discovered through classroom readings and collaborative research and then wrote a short paragraph— a process that introduced students to the basic concept of finding and reporting facts about a subject.
An exhibit on ancient Aztec civilization included samples of temples and ritual animal masks as well as an Aztec calendar. Students had learned that the distinctive calendar used symbols and had solved addition and subtraction problems using the Aztec system of dots and bars rather than Arabic numerals used today.
First-grade artwork was on display in a simulated Mexican-style marketplace featuring self-portraits in the style of Frida Kahlo, bird pinatas, color pencil drawings of alebrijes (fantasy animals), mini ceramic mortars and pestles, still-life cacti watercolors, and cut paper crows like those in the book Cuckoo, a Mexican folktale.
Students took turns “purchasing” their artwork with “Barnesville Pesos” from student vendors at the market, giving them more opportunities to practice and demonstrate addition and subtraction skills. Other math concepts had been touched on in the animal studies, such as patterns found on rattlesnake skins and the symmetry of Monarch butterflies.
The day ended with a pinata filled with prizes!