En la Clase: Resources for teaching about the Maya

As you may already know, Journey of Dreams is our featured young adult book for the month of April.  You can read our book review here or a brief description of the book here.

Photograph of Maya woman weaving in Chiapas, Mexico, provided courtesy of Beth Dove, © 2009.

Photograph of Maya woman weaving in Chiapas, Mexico, provided courtesy of Beth Dove, © 2009.

The book revolves around the story of a Mayan family from the highlands of Guatemala. It touches on so many different topics that there are a number of ways to integrate it into our classrooms (which I discuss in the book review).  One of the most important things the book offers though, is a glimpse into the culture and worldview of the Maya.  Cultural competency is a word we hear being used more and more frequently in conversations about standards and the purpose of educational curriculum.  Books like Journey of Dreams provide an avenue for exposing our students to diverse cultures, peoples, and ways of life.  This allows them to consider their own lives in relation to those from different cultures. In doing this students discover both similarities and differences, while learning to respect these differences.

When I was in the classroom, I always found teaching literacy through the content areas a successful way to engage my students while helping them improve their reading and writings skills.  A book like Journey of Dreams would be perfect for teaching a social studies unit specifically about the Maya or more generally about indigenous peoples.  In keeping with this idea of teaching literacy through the content area, I’ve shared a number of resources (including books, websites, and lesson plans) below that may be of help in putting together a thematic unit.

Children’s Books:


Lesson Plans:

  • Davis, D. (2010). Introducing the Ancient Maya to the Classroom – Classroom Activities Packet. New Orleans, LA: Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies, Tulane University.A free curriculum that facilitates teaching about the ancient Maya.  Found at: http://stonecenter.tulane.edu/articles/detail/722/Introducing-the-Ancient-Maya-to-the-Classroom
  • Heady, Kathleen (2011). Ancient Maya: Knowledge through Art. PBSNewshour. Created by PBS Newshour, this free set of lesson plans will allow students to “explore the Maya culture, and our knowledge of it, through art, architecture, and the heritage of modern Maya people.” Found at: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/teachers/lessonplans/art/maya_6-07.html
  • Chabot Space & Science Center (2011). Tales of the Maya Skies: El Universo Maya: Yok’ Ol Kaab Mayaa’.  An educational site that supports a traveling planetarium exhibit. The website and planetarium exhibit inspire and educate through their description “of the Maya’s accurate astronomical achievements and how astronomy connected them to the Universe.” Found at: http://www.chabotspace.org/tales-of-the-maya-skies.htm

Other Online Resources:

  • Endangered Threads Documentaries.
    Endangered Threads Documentaries’s “goal is to produce educational documentaries recording endangered indigenous art forms, especially those in imminent threat of disappearing due to global economic expansion and the resulting homogenization of cultures.” In addition to creating documentaries, this company also provides a map-based online photo anthology that guides users through different place-based images and information. Found at: http://www.endangeredthreads.org/what.htm
  • Florida Museum of Natural History. “Images of the Maya.”
    Found at: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/maya/
  • Maya Traditions Foundation / Fundación Tradiciones Mayas. Found at: http://www.mayatraditions.com/index.php
    The foundation’s mission “is to empower and improve the quality of life for Maya women artisans and their families through education-driven social programs and market access to International Fair Trade and artisanal networks with a focus on traditional Maya culture and tradition.” In reviewing their educational workshops, the foundation provides a concise explanation of different weaving techniques and products. See specifically: http://www.mayatraditions.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=73%3Awhat-is-ikat-weaving&lang=en
  • Nottebohm, H. (Fall 2010 / Winter 2011). “Maya Weaving Heritage: Conserving a Way of Life.” Revista: Harvard Review of Latin America. Found at: http://www.drclas.harvard.edu/publications/revistaonline/fall-2010-winter-2011/revitalizing-mayan-textiles
    A brief article that reviews the historical importance and ongoing significance of Guatemala’s textile tradition and its relationship to “Maya culture, society and ethnic identity.”
  • Mexican Indigenous Textiles Project.
    Found at: http://www.mexicantextiles.com/
    “An independent documentation project dedicated to conserving the indigenous textile memory of Mexico. The project presents village by village the type of traditional dress in use, village life and environment, textile designs and patterns and other traditions of indigenous Mexico.”
  • Sam Noble Museum of Natural History. “The Fabric of Mayan Life: An Exhibit of Textiles”
    Found at: http://www.snomnh.ou.edu/collections-research/cr-sub/ethnology/mayan/Home.html
    “This [digital] exhibit of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History’s collection of Mayan textiles will point out some of the various messages that Mayan clothing communicates.” Provides clear illustrations of Guatemalan weaving techniques, tools, and products.


  • Tsikbal ich maya website
    Found at: tsikbalichmaya.org
    This website has a number of Maya-language stories from Yucatán that have been recorded and then subtitled in English and Spanish.  They also have two animated shorts in Maya

I hope you find these helpful.  If you know of any other resources, please share them with us in the comments!



8 thoughts on “En la Clase: Resources for teaching about the Maya

  1. My picture book for K-2 students would be an asset to classes studying the Maya. It’s called Maya Moon, a folktale that “explains” why the moon changes shape. Available from my website.

  2. Cuckoo : a Mexican folktale = Cucu : un cuento folklorico mexicano
    by Lois Ehlert has stunning illustrations.

  3. Also “The night the moon fell: a Maya myth” by Pat Mora. The Spanish edition is “La noche que se cayo la luna : mito Maya”.

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