Ideas for Teaching about the Ancient Maya

Openendedsocialstudies has just launched a brand new unit for teaching middle or high school classrooms about the ancient Maya.  Find free readings, guided questions, and lesson plan ideas on the following subjects:

  • The Basics of Ancient Maya Civilization – Who were the Maya?  Where did they live and when?
  • The Ancient Maya in Time and Space – How did the Maya interact with their environment?  How did the Maya conceive of themselves and the universe around them?  In European influenced societies, geography, ecology, time, and spirituality are all relatively distinct spheres – not so for the ancient Maya, whose since of time, space, and religion were closely linked.
  • Ancient Maya Society – How was the ancient Maya society structured?  How did they govern and feed themselves?
  • The Maya City – The most durable testament to the grandeur of the ancient Maya are their grand construction projects.  How were these cities made, and what makes them so awe-inspiring?
  • The Written Language of the Maya – Language shapes thoughts, knowledge, and feelings as well as human imagination, so it permeates all aspects of culture – the complexity of the Mayan language is key for understanding the richness of this people.

One great way for students to develop a deeper understanding of a concept is to have them teach others.

  1. Choose any section from this unit and develop a lesson – in the form of a presentation, a storybook, or a worksheet – that teaches younger students about the Maya.  Make sure the material is age appropriate in content and approach, and create some simple questions to check your audience’s understanding.

Find more free lessons on the Maya at Openendsocialstudies.org.  

There are also plenty of free lessons featuring other peoples from world history.

Take a Guided Tour of Maya Mexico, 2017

Explore the ruins of Ek’ Balam, Uxmal, and Chichen Itza, scramble through streets of colonial Merida, and sample the cuisine and culture of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on this guided photo essay (complete with suggested activities for use in your social studies classroom.)

This photo essay works perfectly in conjunction with the rest of our free Maya unit.

Suggested Activities

  1. Choose any topic described in a photo or caption in this album. Do deeper reading and research on that topic, creating a presentation to share with your class.
  2. Research and plan a realistic travel itinerary through Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula that focuses specifically on its Maya and colonial histories. Explain the historical or cultural relevance of your choices. Present the final itinerary with photos and estimated costs for the whole trip.

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Stateless Peoples in Lands Far from Home

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The Maya: Illuminated Offspring of the Makers

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The Maya City

This lesson was reported from:
Adapted in part from open sources.

Continue reading “The Maya City”

The Ancient Maya in Time and Space

This lesson was reported from:

Adapted in part from open sources.

Continue reading “The Ancient Maya in Time and Space”

The Psychology of a Refugee Crisis

What psychological dangers do refugees face throughout their journey and during their time searching for safety and a new home?
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The Yucatan: An Upcoming Open Ended Social Studies Expedition

In late November, Openendedsocialstudies.org founder Thomas Kenning will undertake a research expedition to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.  This trip will form the basis of a new set of lessons covering the Maya civilization, furthering our mission of presenting original and dynamic classroom materials focusing on parts of the world neglected by traditional world history textbooks in the United States.

Continue reading “The Yucatan: An Upcoming Open Ended Social Studies Expedition”

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