Return to Headlines

Smith School Students Honor Mexican Culture with Halloween Sugar Skull Art

Smith School Students Honor Mexican Culture with Halloween Sugar Skull Art 

art student

 ITHACA, NY - Combine a few bags of colorful icing, skulls shaped from sugar, and a room full of eager elementary students, and you'll have some fun. Throw in a passionate teacher with a natural flair for language, and you'll see lives being shaped.

World Spanish Language Teacher Señor R.J Santander Malabanan may have only joined the TST BOCES family three years ago, but he has already made quite the impact on his students. The high-energy classroom has quickly established itself as a safe place for learning, sharing, and growing for anyone who enters the room.

"Don't be afraid to express yourself," said Santander Malabanan. "No two masks should look alike," he tells his students as they paint sugar skulls with rainbow-colored icing. 

Last month, students learned about the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, and the way different cultures honor important people in their lives who have passed away. Some students chose to dedicate their works of art to athletes or celebrities they admire. Others, decided to honor family members they have lost.

"I am very proud of my students for opening up and expressing themselves the way they did on this project," said Santander Malabanan. "Leading up to this project, we watched Coco and had a great discussion about the Mexican traditions they saw in the movie." 

Señor Malabanan uses the exploration and appreciation of culture to teach language skills to his students. “It sparks a connection and makes a lasting impact," said Malabanan.” I’ve found that when the students are excited and engaged in the culture, they quickly pick up the language.”

This year, the student’s artwork was showcased at Village Taqueria and Grill in Dryden. "It’s been very exciting for the students to know that their art has been on display for the entire community to see," said Santander Malabanan. 

art student

ART