Remember Me Fondly

By kathy murphy, November 18, 2006

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

Four fifty-minute class periods


Many great people are remembered for the things that they did in their lives: interests, hobbies, pets, the people that they loved, what they did to help others, the environment, world peace, etc. In our culture, photo collages showing a person in a variety of situations are used for commemoration. But, in other cultures different means are used to show remembrance. For example, in Mexico you might see a remembrance box that has a small skeleton riding a bike over a mountain. This remembrance would tell you that the person honored liked to ride bikes near the mountains. In the Mexican culture, the skeleton takes on a different meaning that it does in our culture. Students will learn more about how these two cultures express ideas of remembrance and honor ancestors. Students will then design a remembrance box depicting how they would like to be remembered. At the elementary level, students are very excited to create something that has to do with their personal interests. This project gives them that opportunity and forces them to think a little deeper about the things for which they want to be remembered. The students will learn about the amount of thought and energy that has gone into designing memorials as well as the thinking that went into the designer's decision making and how those decisions were viewed by the public.

National Standards


Students will:
  • learn how two cultures express ideas of remembrance and honor ancestors (through investigating Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos, or "Day of the Dead," and America’s Memorial Day, as well as the Vietnam Memorial)
  • learn about the artist Maya Lin and her designing of the Vietnam Memorial
  • analyze the Vietnam Memorial and Lin’s artistic decisions in creating it
  • compare the ways in which the two cultures—Mexican and American—remember and honor their ancestors and loved ones
  • learn about the Mexican “Day of the Dead” boxes and what they express
  • create a “remembrance design” depicting how they would like to be remembered
  • write in their journal about how they would like to be remembered using poetry and expressive writing


  • examples of day of Day of the Dead Boxes (can be purchased from import stores)
  • sample remembrance box with skeleton examples of “Diego and Frida”
  • poster of the Vietnam Memorial
  • copies of various photos of Maya Lin, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, other memorials in Washington DC, etc.
  • A Strong Clear Vision a documentary about Maya Lin (Movie)
  • Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston and Jeanette Winter (Book)
  • prints of paintings by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo
  • "Aesthetic Questions" handout (attached)


  • Paper-maché or Claycrete
  • cigar or shoe boxes
  • construction paper
  • glue
  • hot glue and glue gun
  • scissors
  • paint
  • brushes
  • yarn
  • ribbons
  • trims
  • permanent black sharpies


remembrance-a memory of a person thing or event honor-a showing of merited respect custom-a practice common to many or to a particular place memorial-something that keeps remembrance alive mourning-an outward sign of grief


Class 1 • Hold a class discussion about the idea of a remembrance. Ask the students what they think a remembrance is? Can they think of an example of a remembrance? • Read Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston and Jeanette Winter. Ask the students what they think of the way people in Mexico remember the dead. Can they think of any custom or ritual in America that is similar? Show them an example of a Day of the Dead Box and discuss how people in Mexico look at the skeleton differently than we do. In this box how are the man and woman being remembered (for the Diego Rivera/Frida Kahlo box)? This is Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo. What does this box tell you about their life? Pass the box around and ask for details. What do the students notice about the people in the box? Inform the students that these boxes are created by many artists and depict many things. Show paintings by Kahlo and Rivera, discuss. • Can anyone think of ways that we show honor to those who have died in the American culture? What about Memorial Day? What do we do on Memorial Day? Do we go to a parade? Who is usually in the parade? Do we go to the cemetery? What do we bring with us? Encourage a discussion about other American places meant to honor people who have died. Show the photo collage of the Vietnam Memorial or other familiar memorials. Discuss Maya Lin and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Have the students watch “A Strong Clear Vision,” a documentary about Maya Lin and the Vietnam Memorial. Discuss the film with the class. • Organize the students into groups of 5 or 6 and pass out the aesthetic questions for each group to discuss. Ask the students to have their journal with them so that they can each record their reactions to the discussion. The groups should choose a speaker who will present their answers to the entire class. • After groups have talked for 5 minutes start a large group discussion and have each group speaker share what they discussed in their small group. • Inform students that they will create a Remembrance design depicting how they would like to be remembered in their next class. As a homework assignment, they should think about how they would like to be remembered and complete a journal entry about it. Class 2 • Have students share their journal entry about how they would like to be remembered with the class. • Instruct the students that they will begin working on their remembrance design. Tell them that they can use any materials they like. They can also bring in small trinkets from home that will enhance their box. Demonstrate how to form the paper-maché clay into a shape and let it dry on wax paper in case they students want to use it. A material station should be set up with construction paper, markers, glue, plastic knives, wooden sticks, and pottery tools for creating forms. Class 3 • Continue to work on the remembrance designs. Class 4 • Have the students put everything together and finish their box design. Figures or forms should be glued into the boxes and any details and trims added. Permanent black sharpies will work for details. • When students are finished have them write in their journal about what they are depicting in their remembrance boxes. • The students should write an artist’s statement to go with their Remembrance design. The statements can be in the form of poetry or descriptive writing. • Each student should present their designs and statements to the class.


Did the student participate actively and stay on task? Did the student express an understanding of the styles of remembrance from the two different cultures? Did the student use their journal to record their reflections?

Enrichment Extension Activities

After doing research on the Internet the students will create a sculpture out of a variety of materials with the theme of honoring someone that has done remarkable things in their school or community.

Teacher Reflection

Did the designs reflect creative thinking? Did the students use many of the techniques demonstrated? Did the students use materials successfully? Were the students actively involved in this project?

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