World Wide Web: Chichen Itza: Exploring Ancient Maya culture through math, science and the World Wide Web

When kids (and even some adults) hear the word “Pyramid”, immediately they have visions of The Sphinx and the Three Great Pyramids of Giza in the sand dunes of Egypt.
But do they know that right here in the “New World”, are great structures of another ancient civilization?

What if they could explore the most famous of those pyramids; calculate time and math like the civilization that constructed these pyramids? With the help of NASA, Sun-Earth Connection Education Forum and other donors, your classroom kids can experience the beauty, mystery and greatness of the Pyramid of Kukulkán (Sp.: El Castillo, En.: The Castle) and El Caracol (En.: The Observatory), pyramids of the Ancient Maya.

Located on the Yucatan Peninsula at Chichén Itzá, Kukulkan provides a glimpse into the lives of the Ancient Maya, who inhabited what is modern day Southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras from AD 250-AD 900.
Thanks to YouTube, your classroom TV screen to be transformed into one of the most breath taking mysteries of the Ancient World: The Descent of the Serpent on the Pyramid of Kukulkan (video in Spanish with English subtitles. Start the video @ 2:17 and end @ 3:17). Twice a year, on the Spring and Fall Equinoxes, the shadow created by the setting sun and the genius of the Maya when building their temples, creates the shadow of a descending serpent down the 91 steps on the side of the pyramid, thought to be in observance and revelry for the feathered serpent god Kukulkan.

Ancient Observatories (there is an html site if your computer does not support flash) contains information on the Ancient Maya, their temples and practices.
In addition, math and science teachers will find the 2 interactive projects a great way to introduce geometry and algebra to middle school students while opening their eyes to the wonders of an advanced ancient culture.

A great supplement to your Ancient Maya lesson is the Traditions of the Sun Yucatan web site. Here teachers and kids can see wonderful photos and slideshows of sacred sites from all over the Yucatan Peninsula . As a bonus, while not Latin American, Traditions of the Sun has a web site all about Chaco Canyon, an intricate collection of dwellings of Ancient Native Americans right here in Northern New Mexico!  We could draw in Latin American studies by wondering and researching on the similarities and differences between Chaco Canyon and Chichén Itzá. If you get funding for a Chichén Itzá field trip, I’d be happy to chaperone!

Be sure to also explore Sun-Earth Day 2011 . “Sun-Earth Day is comprised of a series of programs and events that occur throughout the year culminating with a celebration on or near the Spring Equinox. Each year we wrap a fresh new thematic approach around Sun-Earth science while highlighting Sun-Earth Connection scientists, their missions, and research” (Sun-Earth Day 2011 “About”). While a year out dated, Sun-Earth Day 2011, is all about the Ancient Maya. Explore video-casts, pod-casts and other exciting resources to help your students get the most out of their Chichén Itzá experience.

Our World is made far richer by the contributions of the Ancient Maya. In addition to honoring the more sought out cultures of Ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece, we must give due credit to other brilliant Ancient cultures of the world.

Happy Exploring!

–Ailesha

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