Students of Spanish at Linden High School recently held a creative exhibit that used art projects as a way to enhance their proficiency in the language as well as their understanding of Mexican culture – and of themselves.

The program was held Nov. 21 in the school’s Media Center and was hosted by LHS Spanish teachers Tania Miguelez and Rocio E. Horzepa.

Horzepa said the unique art exercise helps the students raise their learning to a new level. “When you create, it is the highest level of cognition you can acquire,” she said at the start of the exhibit.

There were two main sections to the exhibit. The first group included seniors in the school’s rigorous International Baccalaureate program, who created paintings illuminating their inner spirit. Students contrasted their self-perception of who they are against their image as perceived by others. The assignment was paired with a writing task and an oral proficiency presentation using the painting as a subject for conversation.

The other group included IB juniors and students in Spanish III honors. They created plaster masks, painted and decorated to resemble the traditional calacas or calaveras mexicanas. Their work was based on in-depth study of the celebration of El Dia de los Muertos, or the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday. The participants also completed interpretive tasks and written presentations.

Instrumental teacher Bernard Mathews’ guitar students provided beautiful background music throughout the exhibit.

Linden High School Principal Yelena Horre was among the visitors to the exhibit. She told the students she was proud of the work they created — and of the teachers for going the extra mile.

“It would be very easy for the teachers to just clock in and clock out,” she said. “But this is above and beyond, and they do it because being here is a work of heart. It’s not just a job, it’s a vocation.”

Visitors to the exhibit were allowed to vote on which pieces were the best. They took small pieces of pink and yellow paper, and dropped them into cups numbered for the works of art. Winners for the paintings were:

painting of standing soccer player whose shadow is celebrating a goal

Juan Montes Zarate, first place

painting of a face with a veil over the mouth

Daniella Calero, second place

painting of bulldog with blood on his teeth and message saying USMC Semper Fi

Dylan Simoes, third place.

Winners for the masks were:

plaster mask resembling a skull with flowers for hair

Nancy Lima de Felix, first place

plaster mask resembling skull with flowers for hair

Angela Lopez, second place

plaster mask decorated with blue on face and purple flower on head

Booke M. Beyer, third place