This summer we’re diving into the Ancient Maya and the rain forest biome. We have two friends along for the ride, the same ages as my kids (7 and 10), so it will be fun to have some extra energy around! See also our Ancient Maya Unit Plan, our Rain Forest Book List, and our Rain Forest Unit Plan.
My spine for our unit is Maya: Amazing Inventions You Can Build Yourself, by Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt. Along with a good amount of text – 12 chapters covering various aspects of Ancient Maya life, almost every chapter includes multiple hands on projects or craft activities. It’s a great book!
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Initially I planned to have the younger kids work through the Maya portion of CKLA’s 1st Grade Early American Civilizations unit, but the unit is really just three fictional impressions. It’s an early first grade unit, and both 7 year olds are very capable and completely ready for second grade work. The older two kids will work through the first 6 lessons of CKLA’s 5th Grade Early American Civilizations unit. There isn’t as much in-depth content at the Maya: Amazing Inventions book, but the reading comprehension and writing work is at their grade level and very appropriate for them both. CKLA units linked here are from the coreknowledge.org original editions. We are actually using the Amplify second editions, but they are not free to access. Coreknowledge.org is free!
Other “spines” for mythology include Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient Maya, by Leonard Everett Fisher, Mayan and Aztec Mythology by Michael A. Schuman, Maya Gods and Monsters, by Carol Karasik, and People of the Corn by Mary-Joan Gerson. We also have The Chocolate Tree: A Mayan Folktale, by Linda Lowry and Richard Keep.
I always check way too many reference books out of the library. There were several I consistently used to add images while I read, and for the kids to research from. We used The Ancient Maya, by Lila Perl, Ancient Maya, by Barbara A. Somervill, Maya, by Sara Tieck, and The Ancient Maya, by Jackie Maloy.
A couple of other books we enjoyed: Where is Chichen Itza? by Paula K Manzanero as a read-aloud, and Maya Designs, by Wilson G. Turner as a coloring book and as art inspiration. Step into the Aztec & Maya Worlds by Fiona Macdonald was also useful for activity inspiration and for discussion on discerning which information applied to the Maya, and what to the Aztec.
During the last couple of weeks of our unit, we began listening to the Jaguar Stones audio books too, by J&P Voelkel. I like to start our unit studies with mythology to create a cultural background knowledge, read factual text in the middle for content knowledge, and then add fiction at the end so that we get another sense of the culture and can apply our knowledge.
We like to enrich our book knowledge with some well chosen videos. We always watch the videos after we’ve read and talked about the related content:
Kid’s Animated History with Pipo Maya Episodes 1 & 2
These are available to rent on Amazon Prime Video. We watch them for free through Hoopla – sign up with your library card!
Next, we watched National Geographic’s Lost World of the Maya over a couple of days. This was during our third week of Maya studies, after reading 2 different mythology books, and reading the first few chapters of Maya: Amazing Inventions You Can Build Yourself.
After reading Where is Chichen Itza? by Paula K Manzanero we watched a couple of clips about Chichen Itza so that the kids could actually see it.
We also watched a couple of videos about the Maya calendar and the writing system.
This linked playlist contains short clips from a much longer documentary. The clips cover language, number system, calendar system and many other topics.