In this set of activities adaptable for grades K-3, parents and educators will find ideas for teaching about the Maya civilization. These activities are designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. Maya Civilization topic page, which includes a movie, quizzes, online games, printable activities, and more.
Classroom Activities for Teaching About the Maya Civilization
Remind children that experts were able to figure out part of the Maya written language by looking for patterns. Have small groups come up with different symbols for letters in the alphabet. Then have them write a message using the new symbols. Have groups swap messages and try to decode the writing. Talk about the challenges faced by archeologists trying to decipher ancient symbols. Allow groups to give each other hints or clues as needed, perhaps by sharing the symbols for the vowels and a few frequently used consonants. Encourage students to look for patterns in the words to help figure out the other letters.
Jaguars were important symbols to the Maya, and they are depicted on temple walls and in paintings. Jaguars were considered to be powerful predators and perhaps a god or a symbol of the gods. Have students think of an animal that represents something important to them. Have them draw a picture and write a paragraph or myth about their animal. What does the animal represent to them? Why? Students can share their work with the whole class.
Family and Homeschool Activities for Teaching About the Maya Civilization
Track the phases of the Moon with your child. Every night observe the Moon together and take notes. Your child may want to draw pictures and label them with the date. After a few weeks, review the notes and drawings. What patterns does your child see? How might the Maya used the phases of the Moon to organize time?
Why did the Maya abandon some of their cities? Review some of the theories about why the Maya left their homes. Many experts believe a drought drove out the people. Have your child write a diary entry from the perspective of a Maya child, man, woman, or ruler. What happened after they left their city? How did the person feel about leaving their homes?