Teach MAM: An Exciting Partnership to Strengthen Arts Education Across Louisiana
A Louisiana State of Mind
By Teach MAM Visual Arts Ambassador
Carolyn Lenora Scalfano
The wonderful thing about living in Louisiana is that eventually, the heat subsides, and the weather breaks. The smell in the air reminds us that we have outlasted the intense subtropical climate of our uniquely unpredictable state, and there is a promise on the horizon for approaching cooler weather and a break from the scorching summer temperatures.
One whiff of the October air is all it takes to engage euphoric olfactory recall and instantly retreat in our minds to a time to celebrate autumn festivities and relish in them with our loved ones.
As an educator, we must cater to the diverse population we serve. In many cultures, Halloween is a holiday that is joyfully celebrated. However, that is not the case for all families. This is an important factor to consider in the classroom when October approaches.
In my experience, Halloween may be a touchy subject for some students due to cultural or religious preferences within their homes. So how do we delicately navigate our approach to activities with our students without offending others or making them feel left out?
One well-known approach is to link costumes and dressing up with literacy. For example, if your school allows a day for students to be out of uniform in celebration of Halloween, use this opportunity to choose a favorite character from a book, and dress as that character, rather than a traditional “spooky” costume. A school-wide pumpkin painting contest based on books is another way to avoid any negative connotations associated with the autumn holiday. My all-time favorite example of similar activities is the “Vocabulary Parade,” invented by author and educator Debra Frasier in 1991, where “The costume describes a vocabulary word they have selected or been assigned by a teacher.”
The health, wellness, and safety of our students are always the primary focus of the staff at an elementary school. Therefore, I find it beneficial to review Trick-or-Treating guidelines and tips with students and parents. Our community in Central Louisiana has an abundance of fall activities for children that may serve as safer options than going door-to-door in neighborhoods. Trunk-or-Treat events are happening throughout October at local hospitals, churches, libraries, zoos, and non-profits. My children and I attend these events every year, and I’m here to tell you – they are so much fun! Most places provide hayrides, petting zoos, fun jumps, and craft activities for children at no cost. Not to mention, what a great opportunity to score lots of candy and treats!
I wish you and yours a fun and joyful October. Enjoy the cooler weather! Try reaching out to local libraries to find safe local events. And most importantly, please don’t forget to embrace and celebrate the variety of cultures in our schools. I have found that most quiet students are quiet because they may feel different or left out. I encourage you to reach out to these specific individuals. Ask about the holidays in their homes, share with them about your family’s traditions, and try to make sure they feel heard and included in the celebration of this new season.
Happy fall, y’all!
–Carolyn Lenora Scalfano
Teach MAM Visual Arts Ambassador 2020 – 2023