Arts education: Mexico & UK exchange project

One month's voluntary work for Fundacíon Juconi – a charity that helps young people by tackling the cycle of violence and poverty in Puebla, Mexico. Juconi offers vocational training for young adults, a day centre for young children vulnerable to abuse and Casa Juconi, their residential home for children unable to live with their parents. The emphasis is very much on psychological healing but also maintaining links with the children's parents, many of whom were themselves victim of the cycle of abuse. Find our more about their work here:

Inspired by my work with children in Mexico, and having learned about curriculum learning objectives through my work at Isambard Community School, I created two programmes for schools (primary and secondary). The Local Education Authority in Swindon allowed me to present my ideas to an area teachers' meeting, and I was able to bring two of the projects to Sevenfields Primary in Penhill.

Arts workshop: Casa Juconi, Puebla, Mexico.

I planned and prepared projects before I left the UK, and prepared more on the hoof, as well as helping head office with some graphic design and painting a mural in Casa Juconi's common room.

The aim of the main project was to build the kids' self-esteem – creating portraits based on Julian Opie's graphic style that strips away personal details (race, age, wealth) thus emphasising the inherent equality, and worth, of all people. We transferred their painting onto t-shirts (something practical and tangible).

fundacion juconi julian opie portrait

A slide from the project introduction which explained Julian Opie's work and the technique. My 'reasonable' Spanish was tested during my stay in Mexico – I had this presentation proof-read by my Spanish teacher before I left the UK!

mexico juconi puebla t-shirt portrait self-esteem

I worked a couple of days a week with a group of nine boys, all of whom lived at Casa Juconi.  Above the work of Miguel, Miguel, Angel and Consejo. Angel was one of the most talented young artists I've encountered.

casa juconi, dia de los muertos

My stay in Puebla coincided with Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). The boys are pictured infront of the altar. 

International arts exchange project: Quien Soy?

The 'Who am I?' (Quien soy?) project looked at Spanish vocabulary and sentence building through bi-lingual worksheets and art activity. Pupils could meet learning objectives such as global citizenship and inter-cultural understanding with an exchange with children at Centro Juconi where I had worked, making mobiles with younger children in Mexico. Working with the UK school's Spanish teacher and staff at Centro Juconi we exchanged artwork, photos and videos. 

key stage 1, spanish  arts education, spanish, primary language learning, art

The children in Swindon and Puebla filled in the same bi-lingual worksheet to describe a friend. The worksheets were exchanged so that a Mexican child made a puppet of a British child by reading their desciption. The puppets were engineered so that arms and legs would move when the head was pulled.


Day of the Dead. Dia de los Muertos.

Mexico's Day of the Dead tradition celebrates the lives of people who have passed on, welcoming their spirits into their homes during the celebration. This project introduced a way to discuss death, grief and bereavement with Key Stage 1 pupils and met SEAL (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning) objectives.

I introduced the taboo topic of death by contrasting European culture's 'scary' Hallowe'en with the celebratory Mexican Day of the Dead tradition. We then watched a snippet of 'The Lion King' when Simba's father dies and discussed feelings. Some children had lost close family members or friends. The children made papier mache masks which they designed and decorated with pictures that reminded them of the life of a dead person. Children could choose a famous person, I spent a lot of time talking to the students who'd decided on a deceased family member or friend, giving them an opportunity to remember that person and to normalise discussion of people who have passed on.

dia de los muertos, sevenfields, penhill, KS1

One of the slides from the introduction to the project

mask making, art, primary school, halloween

Ella's grandfather had recently died. We talked about what he had liked and the things she remembered him by. Her design included the pub, a pint of beer and the Ribena he would buy for her, his glasses and his love of birdwatching.

football, bobby moore, mask, day of the dead

Nearly 50 years on from the 1966 World Cup win, this boy chose to remeber Bobby Moore through the World Cup trophy, West Ham strip and the England flag. He knew about Bobby Moore through his dad.