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Grade Level: 5th and 6th grade
Subject: Family And Consumer Science
Estimated Time of Completion: 1-2 Days

This activity was designed to address the following educational national content standards:

Curriculum Standards for Social Studies
Prepared by: National Council for Social Studies
Cultures: Compare similarities and differences in the ways groups, societies and cultures meet human needs.

National Standards for Family and Consumer Science
Prepared by: National Association of State Administrators for Family and Consumer Sciences
Demonstrate nutrition and wellness practices that enhance individual and family wellbeing.

Foreign Language Standards
Prepared by: American Council on Teaching Foreign Language and American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP)
Connect with other disciplines and acquire information. Acquire information and recognize the distinctive viewpoints that are only available through the language and its culture.


The students will be able to…


1. The PBS VIDEO: Food for the Ancestors

If you can’t show the entire video use these segments:
A. Show the first 9 minutes up to the verbal cue, "The Dance of the Volodores".
B. Restart 26 minutes into the program with the verbal cue, "When the Spanish conquered…."

2. The Web site: http://www.pbs.org/foodancestors

Web site pages:

3. USDA Food Pyramid chart

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Information Center; Food Pyramid http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/

4. A Blank pattern of the food pyramid.

Illinois Nutrition Education Training Program http://kidseatwell.org

5. Mexican foods list (See Appendix)

6. Magazines for pictures and colored pens/pencils etc.


Every year the people of Mexico celebrate El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). The holiday begins the evening of October 31 and continues throughout the day of November 2. It is a time when Mexican families remember the dead by mixing ancient beliefs and ritual of the early peoples of Mexico with the customs introduced by the Spanish Christians.

Much preparation leads up to the holiday, which is actually a pleasant commemoration, rather than a solemn occasion, as one might think. It is a very social event, which begins by cleaning the gravesite and decorating with flowers and well as preparing special foods such as pan de muertos (bread of the dead), for their departed. Family members gather at the cemetery to picnic and remember the dead by telling stories about them.

Altars called ofrendas are constructed at the ancestors’ home on which are placed the favorite foods, flowers and personal items of the departed relative to honor them. These may include sugar skulls and toy skeletons.


Before viewing the video-
Ask the students about their grandparents/ancestors.

Ask the students about the special foods their family.

During the video-

A. Show the first 9 minutes up to the verbal cue, "The Dance of the Volodores".
B. Restart 26 minutes into the program with the verbal cue, "When the Spanish conquered…."

After viewing the video-
Ask the students about the celebration and its food.

Discuss or use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the Day of the Dead foods to the list they’ve already created about a "typical food for an American celebration."

Discuss why there is a difference in the types of foods eaten in a particular country.
(Possible answers include climate, custom, lifestyle, religion, local crops, history, etc.)

Discuss how all people, regardless of where they live, require the same nutrients.
(However, the foods they consume vary from place to place.The Mayan and Aztec Indians established the foundation for native Mexican food. The conquerors from France, Austria and Spain have added their influence to the foods of Mexico. These conquerors were also influenced by the native Mexican foods and took home to Europe many native Mexican foods like chocolate and vanilla.)


What are indigenous foods?

Have the student’s research native American/Mexican foods. (Possible answers include corn, tomatoes, capsicum peppers, beans, sweet potatoes, yams, avocados, and squash.)

Resources: Smithsonian Institute, Seeds of Change, Foods of the New World and the Old World (http://www.nmnh.si.edu/garden/history/)

Use this research to create the following assignment(s).

Create a Mexican Food Pyramid.

The USDA has established the Food Pyramid to help Americans select foods that promote health and wellness. Every group of people has particular foods that are common to their culture, so this food pyramid is not appropriate for all countries.

Give the students a pattern for the food pyramid and using the list they have researched, fill in a blank food pyramid template to create a Mexican food pyramid. They can draw or write or create a collage.

Resources: (For a blank food pyramid) Illinois Nutrition Education Training Program, NET http://www.kidseatwell.org


Have the students plan a Mexican menu for one day following the meal pattern below.

Mexican meal patterns vary from those in the U.S. Traditionally the main meal is eaten in the middle of the day (comida) 1 to 2, following a light breakfast (desayuno) of sweet breads and coffee or hot chocolate. A smaller meal is eaten at 6 (merienda) and a supper (cena) is eaten at night when it is cooler, about 8 to 10 PM.

Desayuno (Breakfast) fruit, bread, eggs, beverage.

Comida (Dinner eaten between 1 & 3) soup, chicken/fish, salad, meat course, accompanying vegetables, refried beans, bread, dessert, coffee, fresh fruit

Merienda (Smaller meal eaten at 6pm) beverage, rolls, cookies or cake, atole (corn drink)

Cena (Supper eaten between 8 and 10 PM) a light snack



Grain Group: taco shells, posole, crackers, sopa, corn tortilla, rice
Fruit Group: avocado, mango, papaya, platano, zapote, pineapple
Vegetable Group: tomato, jicama, chayote, chilies
Meat/Eggs/Bean Group: beef, chicken, frijoles, chorizo, chapulin (grasshopper), turkey
Dairy Group: custard, leche (milk), cheese, goat’s milk
Fats, Oils, Sweets: lard, butter, sour cream, vegetable oil