With the US Census showing that Hispanics and Latinos now make up more than 18% of the population, it is more important than ever to honor their contributions, diverse cultures, and extensive histories. To do so, educators can explore the art and culture of Hispanic people through a variety of activities.
From the Smithsonian’s Nuestra America series to a collaboration between the National Portrait Gallery and Lil’ Libros, there are plenty of ways for children to celebrate Sept. 15 – Oct. 15. For example, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is hosting its second Fotos & Recuerdos family festival with stories and arts & crafts. And the Postal Service put a Hispanic Heritage stamp on its Forever collection featuring pinatas, those handmade party favorites typically associated with blindfolded guests trying to crack them open for candy.
As part of this month’s festivities, the library can help students connect with Hispanic culture by highlighting authors who write in Spanish. In addition, a bilingual reading list from the Library of Congress includes titles that range from classic literature to contemporary nonfiction and poetry.
Another way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage is by exploring ancient civilizations, fine art, or music from Hispanic countries. A virtual tour of the Teotihuacan pyramids in Mexico, for instance, can be used to discuss the importance of archaeological sites and their protection. And a visit to the website of PBS Learning Media offers videos about the lives of Spanish and Puerto Rican artists like Diego Rivera, Cesar Chavez, and Maria Moreno. The site also features lessons on the impact of immigration and how to cook a traditional meal like tamales.
In order to give young Americans a better sense of the diversity within the Hispanic community, it’s also crucial for schools to teach Latino history. But a recent study found that American high school textbooks do an insufficient job of covering it.
As such, teachers can use the Smithsonian’s lesson plans to introduce young students to Latino artists and their styles like cubism, abstract painting, and surrealism. They can also explore the work of Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, and Salvador Dali to learn how Hispanic artists have shaped modern visual arts.
Finally, students can volunteer with organizations led by Hispanics or Latinos to help their community. A few options to consider include the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, Latino Victory, or the National Latino Institute for Reproductive Justice. Alternatively, students can donate to organizations that promote Latino health and wellbeing through programs that address issues ranging from mental illness to the opioid crisis.