Lesson Plan: Introducing the Maya
Artist not known, Maya
About A.D. 600-900
Children will learn basic information about the Maya through the Incense Burner with Sun God Face. They will look at maps, pictures of the rainforests of Central America, and pictures of Maya ruins, and then imagine what it would be like to explore this area. They will then compare this information with what they know about their own region.
21st Century Learning Skills Addressed:
- Critical Thinking and Reasoning
- Information Literacy
2009 Colorado Academic Standards Primary Area Addressed:
- Recognize change and sequence over time
- Develop spatial understanding, perspectives and connections to the world
Additional 2009 Colorado Academic Standards Addressed:
- Observe and Learn to Comprehend
- Relate and Connect to Transfer
- Oral Expression and Listening
- Reading for All Purposes
- Research and Reasoning
Length of Lesson
The premise behind this ECE social studies lesson is to help children see on a map that people live in different places on the globe, and that where they live influences their lifestyles and artwork. Social studies includes geography, which attends to climate, flora, fauna, etc., and addresses the idea that how people live, and the art they make, reflect their regions. The children won’t necessarily remember or grasp these concepts at this age, but early exposure gives them a context for learning that will come during elementary and secondary school.
Students will be able to:
- point out at least two images on the Incense Burner with Sun God Face;
- correctly identify photographs/images as being from the Central American rainforest or Maya culture versus their own region; and
- use their imaginations.
- Air-dry clay (about a 3-inch ball for each student)
- Map that allows children to see Central America and their own region
- At least six printed images (ideally laminated) of the Central American rainforest and Maya ruins
- At least six printed images (ideally laminated) of their own region
- Copy of About the Art sheet on the Incense Burner with Sun God Face (found at the end of the lesson plan)
- Color copies of the Incense Burner with Sun God Face for students to share, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen
- Preparation: Read the “Things to Look For” information on the Incense Burner with Sun God Face on Creativity Resource. Label on a wall or white/chalk board two separate sections: “Maya/Central America” and “Home.”
- Warm-up: Have children use the pieces of air-dry clay to shape animals that live in their communities. As they work, help them realize they are making approximations and that the animals don’t have to be exact. Have them share with the class what they made.
- Show the children the Incense Burner with Sun God Face. Point out the snake and catfish elements shown in the piece. Ask them if these animals are different from the ones they made. Explain that these animals are on the incense burner because they live where the people who made the piece also lived. Allow them some time to talk about the piece and other elements that draw their attention.
- Tell the students that the incense burner was made in Central America and that they are going to learn a little bit about how this part of the world is different (or similar depending on where you’re teaching) from where they live. Show students their hometown on a map and trace a route to Central America from where they live.
- Hand out or display on a screen the maps and photographs of Central America and Maya ruins. Focus their attention on the flora – lots of growth of a variety of plants in the rain forest. Allow them to talk about what they see, including what they notice about the pyramids and other Maya structures.
- Have the children imagine they are explorers making their way through the thick forests of the jungle and allow them to move about the room as though exploring. How would they get through the dense growth of the plants? Have them imagine they are clearing the plants to make their way through. Next, have them “discover” one of the pyramids and move their bodies like they are climbing a pyramid.
- Ask them if this area or the buildings look the same as where they live. Have them talk about why or why not.
- Lay out the different images of the two regions. Hold up the pictures one at a time and ask the children if you should put that picture in the “Maya/Central American” section or the “Home” section you’ve created. Have them tell you why.