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Day of the Dead 2020: A Story of Community Collaboration
by Cierra Campbell, Middle School BCIL Curriculum Innovator and Collaborator. Middle School Spanish Teacher, LSA Advisor

Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos), like many traditions, is a time when families who have recently lost a loved one, as well as entire communities, come together and grow closer through shared beliefs and practices. In a time of uncertainty and enormous change, Day of the Dead has joined our Brentwood Middle School community together in celebration and remembrance, and also pushed us to innovate.

Back in September, the Middle School Latino Student Association (LSA) approached the Belldegrun Center for Innovative Leadership (BCIL) for support in addressing the real world challenge of transitioning the annual Día de los Muertos altar and festivities to a virtual setting. The BCIL engaged Middle School LSA students in an effective and participatory workshop. Students worked together to identify their challenge and goals, brainstorm solutions, break their large project into smaller steps, seek and incorporate feedback, and prototype their ideas. By the end of the meeting, the students had a plan: build their own website!

Over the next month, the Middle School LSA dedicated at least one lunch period each week to their project. The goals were for the website to introduce the Día de los Muertos tradition through both community education and inviting community participation. After creating the skeleton (no pun intended!) of their website, LSA students and advisors designed templates to invite El Nido families, Middle School advisory groups, and Spanish and art classes to add to their two virtual altars—one to honor people and one to honor animals who have passed. LSA students presented to the entire Middle School during a Community Time assembly, and were met with overwhelming student and family participation! Classes joined in, too, with unique contributions. These included Sculpture class and the BCIL Fabrication Lab joining forces to create individual fabrication kits for students to build their own 3-D ofrendas; Digital Art class manipulating photos to reflect iconic Day of the Dead imagery; and Spanish classes weaving vocabulary and grammar into exciting projects around remembering loved ones and learning traditional Salvadoran leyendas.

After spending time perusing the MS LSA website, we know it will be as clear to you as it is to us: our MS students possess exceptional core leadership skills and have met their goals! Please join us in celebrating both Day of the Dead and our incredible Brentwood students by visiting their website.

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