As part of their Mayan Civilization unit, students in Anthony de la Cruz’s and Ian Harper’s social studies classes at Sierra Vista Junior High School went to five different centers to learn more about the culture and history of the Maya.
The school library housed these centers for students to explore Mayan math, simulated cave glyphs, architecture, ritual ball games and Mayam geography.
At the first station, students practiced writing basic numbers using the Mayan number system of dots, dashes, and shells. They also learned how to write numbers as high as in the tens of thousands by stacking these symbols.
The second station was centered around the “Cave to the Underworld.” Based upon Mayan mythology, it was the rumored entrance to the Maya underworld of Xibalba, located in a cave in Central America. Students, assuming the role of archeologists, crawled through the mysterious “cave” and viewed glyphs along the walls, deciphered them, then created their own.
Station three revolved around Maya architecture, specifically focusing on the “El Castillo” step pyramid of Chichen Itza. A small, 3D replica of the pyramid was provided for students to view while they answered questions and formulated claims.
At station four, students also had the opportunity to navigate the informative and entertaining website www.ballgame.org. Students completed a scavenger hunt worksheet and learned about the origins, rules, and consequences of the ritual ball game.
Then at the final station, students labeled the Maya, Inca, and Aztec civilizations on a blank map of the Americas. With the teacher librarian and the social studies teacher working together, students progressed smoothly through the different centers.
Students commented on how they enjoyed doing a variety of activities in a hands-on way to learn about the Maya people. After all, how often does a student get to crawl through a “cave” in the school library?