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Integrating Pop Culture into the Classroom: Encanto

Disney’s Encanto is an exciting new family film centered around a close-knit family with magical gifts and the enchanted house they inhabit. The story follows Mirabel, the only one in the family without a magical gift, as she discovers that the miracle of her family’s gift is beginning to weaken and that cracks are beginning to appear in their home. Her journey to save her family’s magic and keep her family together is central to the story.

Integrating pop culture references and using them within your classroom is a great way to keep students enthusiastically engaged. There are numerous ways to tie the themes that appear in Encanto into educational activities. Read on for ideas students are sure to fall in love with!

Discover your students’ special talents.

In the beginning of the movie, Mirabel lavishes praise on her family members and their unique gifts, such as healing others through food, enjoying endless physical strength, and wielding control over the weather. Despite not having any magical gifts of her own, Mirabel still contributes to her family in big ways. Ask students to complete a writing activity where they come up with their own list of things their family members excel at, and how these could transfer to magical gifts. Take it one step further by asking students to reflect on what their own special talent might be, magical or otherwise! By helping students see the gifts in others and in themselves, you are helping them build self-awareness and a sense of pride in their innate abilities.

Introduce students to another culture.

Encanto is different from many Disney movies that come before it because it is set in a real place: Colombia! The movie is full of specific details that tie it to Colombia, including the ​​biodiversity of plants and animals, food, music, and clothing. Can your students identify some of these elements, either on their own, with partners, or with your help? Don’t stop there; Encanto also touches on some of the deeper cultural values from Latin America, and Colombia specifically, like the importance of family. Cultural norms and beliefs matter. How are these represented throughout the movie, and what cultural values do your students relate to most?

Define and discuss traditions.

Traditions are customs or beliefs that are passed down from generation to generation. Many cultures believe in the healing power of good food. In Encanto, Mirabel’s mother, Julieta, can literally heal people through the arepas she cooks! Use the movie as a starting point to talk about what traditions students have in common and what traditions may be unique to their family. One tradition unique to the Madrigal family is the gift ceremony, which is repeated twice in the movie and unites each of the Madrigal children, even Mirabel, who doesn’t have a magical gift. What other traditions, cultural or familial, can students identify in the film and in their own lives?

In Encanto, we learn that the strength of the Madrigal family lies not in their magical gifts, but in their love and acceptance of each other. Mirabel may not have a magical power, but her abundance of courage in the face of difficulty is the glue that keeps her family from crumbling.

What other ways could you use Disney’s Encanto to share self-awareness, culture, and traditions with students? Are you a Colombian teacher excited to introduce these themes to your students? Let us know on Twitter @participatelearning.

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