The student in the classroom in many instances needs, or would like to have a theme that could be carried on throughout a great part of the academic year, or during the entire year. Tenochtitlan is a theme and a rich subject that could be adapted to the different needs and tastes of a class and faculty. There are many activities that could be pursued. For this we need to organize the subject matter in lessons and exercises appropriate to the realities aforesaid.
Students are going to learn the history and legends of great cities in the cultures of the world. Troy has some wonderful possibilities in terms of illustrating history and myth within a given culture. There are many other cities that could give the student a perspective of the power of the urban setting in the broad picture of civilization. This is good opportunity to introduce to the student the concept of the significance and meaning of symbols. Let’s take as an example the apple of discord as an object of rich symbolic value that just about any student could understand. Indeed, Eris, the Lady of Discord, who was not invited to the wedding of Achilles’ parents took revenge by rolling “upon the table a gleaming, heavy apple of solid gold.”
This deed is the origin of war between Troy and the city states of the Greek peninsula. Paris takes away Helen opening up a torrent of violence, suffering and destruction and the subsequent end of Troy. The story itself should be relayed to the students with some detail so that they could grasp it and enjoy it.
The important point that we want to make in terms of symbols is that the apple, beyond being just a fruit, becomes the harbor of power and meaning. Three beauties are disputing this apple to be awarded to the most beautiful of them. Therefore, this solid apple of gold becomes the symbol of beauty. Beauty brings admiration, power, love, pleasure. The apple creates a chain of images leading ultimately to the global focusing of the destruction of a famed center of civilization: Troy! The irony of the presentation of the wooded horse to the city is another example of the value of symbols. Although in this case the misreading of the meaning of the symbology of the horse proves to be a lethal act that would determine the fate of the great city. The city in itself signifies security, protection and life; the doors and walls attesting to the value of the symbolic language of architecture.
Books, tales, maps, pictures and even tapes and videos of this venture are available to the student at home or in the classroom. Time: one week.
The introduction of Mexico-Tenochtitlan in the context of the power of the urban center as a symbol of order and a structure of power and wealth. This could be the begging of a wonderful and dynamic relationship between students and teachers; subject matter and students. It has to be fun! It has to be interesting! And most important of all, it has to be relevant to the reality of the students. Time: two weeks.
Students who show a special interest in the city project and its ramification, would greatly benefit from a hands-on project. As nasty as this term might begging to sound, the virtues of a practice of this kind has no limits. The imagination, knowledge, techniques, know-how, curiosity, etc., is put to work in the best way possible. We are talking about a model of Tenochtitlan. A model that would be light, versatile, powerful, portable, could be initiated with very limited materials and expenses. Time: one year; six months, three months, it all depends on the dynamics of the class.
The geometry of a model city. This is really fun. this material is great for any kind of student. Draw, paint, paste, cut, put little pieces together so as to make sense and at the same time create, recreate beauty. Time: two weeks.
Build the city! Time: again it all depends on the dynamics of the class. See lesson III.
Writing about the project of constructing Tenochtitlan. Time: this is an on-going experience and a process. It should last the entire period of the lessons, from A to Z.
A wrap up experience were students use critical thinking to evaluate the work and to make it his/her own. This is the time when students become teachers and students at the same time. this is the time when students go around showing the product of their scholarship and sweat. This is the time when students are ready for the next step, and also, of course, ready to answer questions. This is a life long experience and is full of surprises. Students of the fifth grade went to other districts to show their city of Tenochtitlan.