Oaxaca Projects, Part One

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I made this map to include in my students’ Mayan codices. It looks great laser printed on brown craft paper.  You have to cut the paper to size, however.

At the moment, I have to say that I am maxing out my loafing potential as Summer Vacation begins.  I have all sorts of ideas and projects, but at the moment, I can’t seem to be bothered much.  So… in an attempt to focus, I am looking back at my application for the National Endowment of the Humanities Summer Institute that is four short weeks away.

In order to be considered for the Institute, I had to write an essay of no more than 4 pages, double spaced.  I tried hard not to play with the margins too much, but I had so much I wanted to say.  The excerpt below is the part where I explain what I would like to do while I am down in Oaxaca.  Yes, there will be tours, and lectures, and all sorts of interesting things to see, but the main idea of getting a bunch of teachers together is to create lesson plans that will use the resources we will learn about – as well as any others we can bring to the table.

Here goes – of course, I’ve added notes as I am thinking of them now:

If I am fortunate enough to be chosen to participate in this Summer Institute, I have some specific ideas of what I would like to pursue.  First of all, I am interested in expanding upon my lesson plans on the Mayan Civilization, which is one of the standards that I must teach in sixth grade Social Studies.  I would like to take the idea of creating a Mayan codex (which I did as an accordion book out of cardboard and brown paper this past year) and add more elements to that book.

Glyph with Mayan Long Count Birthdate

This will be a challenge – but I think that my students already have some experience with “creative” spelling.  It may not be as difficult as I envision.

If possible, I would like to have clarification on how to calculate the dates in the Long Count calendar so that this could be aligned with the Mathematics curriculum.  I would also like to collect more specific information about the Mayan observatory – perhaps this information could be added to the Astronomy unit in the Earth Science curriculum.

To be honest, I found some excellent lesson plans, but the Mayan calendar in long count confuses me…  It is true, however, that we do study the planets in Earth Science – I just am not aware of any specific astronomical information in my Mayan resources.

In regards to teaching ESOL and reading, I have also located two young adult novels that portray young people living in Ancient Maya.  One of these books is called The Well of Sacrifice (by Chris Eboch) and the other is Heart of a Jaguar (by Marc Talbert).  The Well of Sacrifice has a female protagonist and Heart of a Jaguar has a young male protagonist.  I would like to organize a parallel book study where the students can identify with life in a Mayan village.  Both books portray vivid scenes of ritual sacrifice and I look forward to sharing ideas about teaching this sensitive subject.  I have supplemented my reading materials with books of Mayan folktales and legends and want to use those as resources, too.

I hate to sound jaded, but for most middle school students, the portrayal of blood and gore only seems to ENHANCE the reading experience.  Truth be told, I am having a hard time getting into these books, so I don’t know how that bodes for younger readers…  I forgot to mention that I DO use Me Oh Maya!, which is a Time Warp Trio series of books.  It’s pretty funny and is a good attention grabber.  In coordination with the new British series I found, it could be good.

In addition to these texts, I have found four texts that illustrate the modern world of the Maya and Mixtec people.  What the Moon Saw and Red Glass by Laura Resau involve heroines that voyage to Oaxaca and encounter curanderas, divination using corn kernels, and the Mixteca language.   Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Muñoz Ryan also involves a journey to Oaxaca, and highlights the woodcarving culture of the region.  Although Colibrí by Ann Cameron is set in Guatemala, many of the traditions and references are similar to those in my books about Oaxaca.  I would like to make the teaching of these texts in more depth possible by collecting information and real life examples and making them available to our school library – to generate interest and understanding in the subject matters and culture described so vividly in these books.

So, there.  I don’t know if I am going to do all of those things, or choose aspects of each.  I do want to do some advance preparations so that I have some idea of the lesson plans before I get to Mexico.  After I made the proposal, I came up with the idea of looking at my collection of folk tales – which is pretty extensive, and using those for a Language Arts lesson plan on elements of a folk tale.

On top of that, I have many interesting picture books about the area that can be appropriate for introducing the culture.  I have a book called Josefina by Jeannette Winter that is written about the artist Josefina Aguilar.  We don’t have a trip planned to Ocotlán, but I could go down there.  She and her family have a pottery studio there.  Dream Carver by Diana Cohn is said to be inspired by the real life of Oaxacan woodcarver Manuel Jimenez.  There is also a series of books by Cynthia Weill which include Oaxacan woodcarvings to illustrate the alphabet and opposites.

So, my problem is not with coming up with ideas – it is with narrowing down the possibilities for the four week Institute!

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One response »

  1. Pingback: All the Books… | Maison Celeste

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