Lessons One and Two: Compass Work
Teachers will have to gauge the timing of this lesson according to the prior knowledge and energy level of their students. Doing so, it may well turn out to be a lesson in two parts. It is best to get the students outside as soon as possible to use the compasses themselves, especially if the class is only forty minutes. On the other hand, students may want to absorb the posters and ask questions about the history as well as the workings of the compass and about the illustrative drawings you will put on the blackboard. You may wish to do the classroom introduction as a shorter piece on the day before or extend it on the day after. Or, probably better, you may decide that you will allow time for the classroom introduction to develop and then take them outside if there is time. The next day can be spent entirely outside, so that the work there with the compasses is not rushed or shortchanged.
When the students enter the room for the first day of the unit, there will be maps, posters, and reproductions of Mesoamerican works of art, both past and present, on the walls. I will tell them that we are about to go on a journey and that to do so we need to know how to use an instrument that has been used on land and sea for over 1000 years, the compass. The compass was not only a useful tool; it was the inevitable means by which Europeans reached their "New World" and the privacy of that world was breached. Once they had the means of reliable navigation, it was only a matter of time before curious and ambitious captains reached this continent.
Some alert student is going to mention Columbus, especially since very near the beginning of this unit schools will observe his three-day weekend . There are a number of historical developments of which students should be aware, not only because they are interesting but because they help students go beyond a binary approach to events that labels them either good or bad. Briefly, then, there was a new technology, driven by economic and political pressures: The compass facilitated bigger boats which permitted longer voyages for greater profit which encouraged mariners to attempt the Atlantic.
Once mariners knew that with the compass they could go over the horizon and get back again, they were motivated to build larger and more seaworthy boats, specifically the galleon that had three masts and two decks. Such a vessel could carry home more pay cargo or payload and the extra space before loading up could be filled with food for a larger crew. The galleons also carried cannon. All of this was more expensive, it is true, but with surer navigational tools, there was a better chance for a return on the investment Ironically, Columbus set off with smaller ships, coastal vessels really, that were all Spain felt she could afford for his particular exploration.
Next I will check for prior knowledge about how and why compasses work. Students should understand that the earth itself is a magnet and has a liquid metal center (molten magnetic core). This core creates/generates lines of force that at the same time/simultaneously go through the earth from top to bottom at the poles and return from bottom to top on the outside of the globe.
These lines of force are weak, but a small magnetized piece of metal will follow these force lines. The needle of the compass has been magnetized. (The needle can be ruined/demagnetized by heat or by an alternating current. Leave it on a rock in the sun all day and it and it may no longer work. It also should not be dropped. To ruin it with an alternating. current, you need to put it near a powerful a.c. electric motor, like a generator.) Since the South Pole or red end of the magnet seeks the North Pole of the earth, we can always tell where magnetic north is. It is best to learn to use a compass outside where metal desks and chairs will not confuse it.
Lesson Two: Outdoor Compass Work
You should have at least one compass for every two students (see description in Overview above) and a playing field or park, preferably with trees or objects that will allow you to set up a compass course. Since students will be dividing up into teams, at least one team member should be equipped with a clipboard and pencil attached to it by string; heavy cardboard and a clip serves just as well.
Local Girl or Boy Scout leaders might like to help with this lesson; teaching younger students to use a compass might even fit into an Eagle Scout project. It's
worth a few phone calls. Do not forget New Haven's exceedingly able and helpful educational office for the DEP listed above under Materials for Classroom Use, item two.
For additional information about how to teach with compasses, see "Activities for Map and Compass Study, Grades 4-6," E.E. Series Bulletin 2471, 11 pages, Montgomery County Public Schools, Rockville Md. or Elementary Science Study: Mapping Teacher's Guide, Delta Educational, P.O. Box MD; Nashua, NH 03061, order number: 16-416-0353.
1) Students will demonstrate their understanding of the compass by performing the tasks outlined below.
2) Students will acquire social skills by working with a partner who may or may not understand how to use a compass.
3) Students will demonstrate their new vocabulary (words underlined) in their discussions and subsequent writing.
Once students are outside and teamed with a partner, hand out compasses and line them up. They should then spend a few minutes keeping a steady course for ten paces when you tell them to walk North and then in the opposite direction, which is South. Keep it simple and at a comfort level at first. There will always be one student who breaks the line by going in the opposite direction. You will explain that the red part of the needle must point to the N on the compass dial. Point out the white lines on either side of the N and tell them always to "keep the red in the shed."
For West, have them turn to the left approximately 90 degrees. The N on their compass face will now seem to be aimed in the new direction, but when they rotate the dial of their compass so that the red is once more in the shed, they will find a small white line under the compass dial that is marking their new direction as somewhere near 250 degrees. They will call the position NW, if it is on the W or beyond it; SW, if it is on the other side of W. To find E, they will turn 90 degrees to the right. Here, logically, their position will be close to 90.
For each direction, suggest that they site a prominent object to help them keep their bearings so that they can walk in a fairly straight line without having to look at the compass all the time. Explain that when using a compass to find the way, it is wise to site a number of objects--pine tree with missing top, church steeple, dead tree with one outstretched branch--since as one goes up hill and down dale, objects may temporarily disappear. Again, have students test their understanding by holding a steady course while walking ten paces in a westerly direction and then in an easterly.
They should then follow a course, marked at a number of points by tape or ribbon, that you have set for them. It would be good to use the Maya colors for each direction, although I would not explain the significance of the colors at this time. Thus the course that is heading northerly would be marked in white, southerly would be yellow, easterly would be red and westerly would be black. I would suggest creating at least four courses not only so there is one for each point of the compass but so the class can move in teams rather than as a crowd, each with its own destination. The students' job is to agree as a team on the compass reading that takes them to each point and then to their final destination. These are to be written down and given to the teacher when the course is finished. One student on each team can be the scribe; the rest are scouts, with a head scout who will be the final arbitrator if there are disagreements about readings.
At the end of the entire course there should be a written, cryptic message: "You are now ready to begin your journey to an ancient civilization; you will begin, in a few days, by going...." and then draw the appropriate glyphs (see Figures 1 through 12 below) not only for the direction they have reached but the special color of this glyph for the Maya, which is the color they have just been following.
These messages should whet appetites, unify this first lesson, and bring the class back to you for translations--which if you are smart, you won't give. Impress upon the students that these messages must be saved in their class notebooks; they will be held responsible for them. When they begin their own map trip in Lesson Four, it will be their job to plan a course that starts by moving either North, South, East, or West, even though the general direction from Connecticut to Mesoamerica is southwesterly. Students who end up with East as a direction will get to figure out that they can use the boat pictograph and begin their journey by water, quickly turning south--unless there is a storm--and taking what is essentially the inland waterway.
If you have time, there is another introductory exercise in which students on a team--or you--decide upon one object out of three that are spread over at least 90 degrees. They must take readings of the chosen object from two directions. The player who is not privy to the choice must identify the correct object through her or his own readings.
For homework, each student must try to bring the words for the four directions in at least one other language. Explain that this is research that may or may not yield immediate results. What they must do is record how they have tried to learn these new words, whether they actually find a source at this time or not.
Lesson Three: Orienting the Classroom
Compasses; several packs of white, unlined 5x7 index cards; funtack or a roll of masking tape; broad black markers for each student and at least ten sets of red, green, and blue markers; a number of bottles of whiteout or a number of broad pens that write in white; sheets of construction paper for each of the directions sacred to the Maya: black, yellow, white, red, blue, and green. The colored papers that I like to use are the shiny Origami papers with their true, strong colors; if these are too expensive, fall back on construction paper or find rolls of gift wrap. Samples of paint colors or paint chips can be used to extend the discussion on defining colors. Finally, you will need a table, at least as substantial as a student desk, for students to use to mark the center of their classroom.
Students will apply their knowledge of the compass to label the walls of their classroom: North, South, East, and West
Students will teach one another the words for these directions in at least one other language.
Students will practice speaking and writing the name for each of these directions in Maya and will practice drawing the glyphs both for each direction and for the color the Maya believed was appropriate to it using a pen of that color.
Students will record on 5x7 cards their own associations with each of these directions and then post their reflections on the appropriate wall.
Students will establish a center for their own classroom, following the Maya convention of a fifth direction.
The first task of the next class will be to use compasses indoors to identify the four directions in the classroom, to make a sign for each one of the 5x7 index cards and black magic marker, and to post it as high on each of the four walls as possible. Those who have brought words for these directions in other languages should work with a partner to make signs for those as well.
After making an inventory of the languages represented, discuss some additional possibilities and ask students, as homework, to try to find them, through the library or through interviewing people in their neighborhoods. Ask especially whether anyone could learn how to form the characters for these four words in an Oriental language or in Hindi. See whether someone is willing to contact the Pequot Museum in Mashantucket (860 396-6981) or IAIS (the Institute for American Indian Studies) in Washington, CT (860 868-0518) to learn the signs for North, South, East, and West in Native American languages. All of this need not be done overnight but can be part of ongoing research. There are also schools in New Haven that have a rich diversity of foreign students; it might be possible to contact the ESOL (English as a Second Language) teachers at East Rock Magnet or W. Hooker Elementary, or find students from Yale who are willing to help.
After the students' present research has been recorded and posted, it should be read out loud, first by the students who brought in the words. The students who are comfortable with the pronunciation are then responsible for the patient teaching of those who are not and should take a few minutes to begin to so one-on-one. Everyone should be given a chance to speak and teach, if they would like. Spanish pronunciations especially will vary and it is worthwhile to have everyone aware of the differences in what is sometimes thought of as one language.
The next step is to spend some time asking students to record privately on the 5x7 cards any meanings that directions have for them. They should use a separate card for each of the compass points. How do their own houses or apartments face? The room in which they sleep? When are they conscious of directions? And finally do they associate any color with any particular direction? Invite students to post any of their cards that they would like on the appropriate wall of the classroom. They may also discuss what they have discovered with one or two partners.
Now ask whether there are questions. If no one mentions the pictures that they received on their little notes at the end of the outdoor compass class, ask them to pull them out. First the teacher speaks the Mayan word for each of the directions, writing them on the board on English letters. They are easy to pronounce and everyone should speak and then use them as needed. Explain that for the Maya each direction was associated with a particular color and that both direction words and color words had their own glyphs or symbols, sometimes looking very much like the word they represent but sometimes standing for the word in a way that would not immediately be obvious to us. Make sure that everyone connects these words for the directions and colors to the colored ribbons on their compass course.
Pass out copies of these glyphs copied from Figures 1 through 12 (Miller and Taube, 77 and 67). Students should begin practicing writing them in the correct colors with pens, backing them with colored paper, if they like. They can then plaster each wall with these efforts. White for North can be painted with a whiteout pen or drawn on white paper and then backed with a colored paper or papers that the students devise. I insist that students initial their cards. Encourage students to be creative; I would ban only bubble letters.
This is also the time to introduce the fact that for the Maya there was also a fifth direction, namely the center of the universe or that place where one is. See Figure 13 (67). In Maya Color, Becom and Aberg write that "traditional Maya see themselves living on a blue-green island surrounded by the dark blue sea." (31) The color of the earth's center, therefore, is blue or green. Both colors are represented by the same word in the Mayan language. If this seems strange, ask students to identify the one red in the classroom or the one yellow or brown. There will be healthy arguments. You might bring out paint samples or chips from a hardware store to heighten the discussion.
Tell the students that in their next lesson, they will explore the relationship between green and blue by creating a range of these colors to mark the classroom center. In time, as they study the significance of this central point, they will place other objects there as well. (These will be plants to represent trees; possibly a live turtle in a tank, if it can be well cared for; or at least pictures to represent the animals that the Maya believed were the basis of their world. You may decide--appropriately--to set your village for Part II here.) As more is added, you may want to substitute a larger table. For now, it will be well to establish it with something at least as solid as a student desk. The lesson should close with the students doing the math to decide where to place it and doing so.
For homework, students should reflect upon the Maya colors and write on five individual cards what they feel about each direction/color pairing. In preparation for their painting during the next lesson, they should bring to class samples of green or blue that they particularly like so that we can get some sense of the range of these colors. These samples may be small objects or they may decide to wear a shade of blue or green. Remind them as well to bring an old shirt to use as a smock for painting.
Lesson Four: Coloring the Center
The materials for this lesson will be some of those that will be needed for Lesson Six, Painting the Journey, and subsequent work in the Screenfolds. Now you will need only three tubes of acrylic paints, ultramarine, cadmium yellow pale, and white. Winsor and Newton's student quality Galeria is good and reasonably priced ($2.44 at Koenig's). For this lesson, I would suggest using inexpensive sponge brushes, ideally one inch and one half-inch for each student (poly-brush, .39 and .59 ). These can be washed and reused. At least one, preferably two jars to hold water for rinsing brushes; peanut butter jars are good. Cans rust and plastic containers tip. Regular household sponges (not pre-soaped!) to wipe and lay brushes on, at least one styrofoam egg carton to be cut in half for each student to use as a palatte, a throw-away cafeteria breakfast tray for each student to lay out brushes, water jar, egg carton, sponge. Plenty of half-size sheets of paper, newspaper, and large shirts for smocks.
1) Students will learn how to use acrylic paints and sponge brushes.
2) In mixing at least five different shades of blue-green from tubes of ultramarine and pale cadmium, students will demonstrate their understanding of the effects of mixing these two primary colors. They will contribute one painted sample, marked with their initials, to the table that marks the center of the classroom universe.
After comparing the greens and blues brought in or worn by students, the teacher will explain that we will mix various shades of blue and blue-green by combining pure primary colors of blue and yellow in varying proportions. Explain that you will be squeezing three small but potent amounts of each in their egg cartons and that they are to start with either color and then gradually add more of the other color to it so that they create different hues.
They should record each hue that they like on a piece of paper, marked first with their initials on the back. Each student must produce at least five differently hued sheets, but should try to create many more. At the end of the session only, you may let them see what happens when they add a little white, and they may create additional sheets with the colors that result. Paint must be applied evenly and with only one coat so that it dries quickly and does not drip. Although it will be tempting to overlay several colors on one sheet (and you may allow students to do so for themselves when they finish the exercise), an overlay will be created at our classroom's center by the juxtaposition of each of their sheets. Someone should remember to place at least one pure ultramarine sheet there as well. By the time each has laid her or his paper down, the entire surface should be covered in a collage of the color the Maya--and now the students--call yax (yash).
Students must collect and use their supplies carefully. Student clean-up is mandatory.
As homework to prepare for Lessons Five and Six, give the following prompt which they can work on over two nights: Describe a journey that you will never forget. Be sure to include your preparations, any family or companions who traveled with you, your destination, and what it was that made the journey unforgettable. Only the thesis and, for extra credit, the graphic organizer are due the next day. When you assign the prompt, make sure that the students can define "journey." Assure them that it can be a very short journey, if they have not yet traveled long distances--a field trip, an expedition to New York, a visit to relatives they rarely see--but that it must have impressed them as an experience in one way or another.
Lesson Five: Map Work
Prepare copies of the three maps included in this unit and provide colored markers or colored pencils for decorating them. Each student will need two copies of Maps One and Two; provide at least to allow for mistakes. If you can enlarge Map One (of Canada, the United States, and Mesoamerica), do so. Prepare, as well, the glyphs and signs that students will use to indicate the regions of Mesoamerica (Figures 14-17); each student should have multiple copies of each.
1) Students will be able to identify the main areas of the Western Hemisphere and specifically identify ten individual countries.
2) Students will identify regions of Mesoamerica by using the four glyphs provided.
Students will need maps on walls of classroom or in dictionaries to guide them; they will also need Map Three to help them with Mesoamerica. Working with partners they are to identify countries on Maps One and Two. Explain here how glyphs and signs will identify three regions of Mesoamerica: The marketplace sign, Figure 14, will identify Tenochtitlan (Ten-och-tee-tlahn), meaning "near the cactus," now Mexico City (Miller and Taube, 113) . Figure 15 depicts the water lily, signifying abundance (Turner, 9). Figure 16 is the glyph for cacao (Miller and Taube, 49). The seed from this plant was considered valuable enough to be used as money and, for the wealthy, as a drink; we know it, sweetened, as cocoa or hot chocolate. Both these plants flourished in the Maya Lowlands and can be said to represent them. The Maya Highlands can be marked by the glyph for mountain, Figure 17 (121). Students can place the marketplace and mountains where they see fit in the United States, Canada, and South America as well. Here and elsewhere, the figures can be reduced to a smaller size, or they can be placed on the side of the map with arrows showing where they belong.
First students will label and color their maps and add the glyphs and signs. Encourage them to practice drawing the glyphs and signs themselves; they need not do it perfectly but should try to get a feel for the designs and draw enough of each one so that someone could recognize them. Next they must take a second copy of Maps One and Two and label those ten countries they have decided to identify. They should write their names on ten small cards and then post them on those countries on the large classroom maps. In a few days, cover the classroom maps and test the students by asking them to label their maps without help. You might test them on the glyphs and signs they have been using as well.
Take some time to discuss homework and listen to the students' theses. It is important to learn how students understand the concept of journey before beginning the next lesson.
Lesson Six: Journey Work
Students should be given a compass, a second copy of Map One, enlarged if possible, a second copy of the glyphs and signs from the previous lesson, and a copy of the glyphs and signs from Figures 18-21 (125, 43, 187). Remind them of the direction that their compass work indicated they must first take and direct them to start planning their journey. They can use routes described in their essays, if they wrote about a journey out of state. But to complete their journey, they must pass through--and label--at least 12 states and one body of water. They must also decide where they wish to end up in Mesoamerica.
They must mark their route with the little glyph feet; indicate mountains, if they cross any; and note the number of nights they spend with the Aztec sign for starry night. Those who must go East first, or at any point when the route is by water, should use the boat picture. The wind god, Figure 21, to be used for storms or helpful breezes, is Quetzalcoatl (Ket-sahl-coh-atl), the feathered serpent himself, since he is not only god of creation but also the god of wind. There are surely worse companions to have on a journey! The teacher can appoint scribes in the class to help those who have trouble with drawing. These maps should be displayed in the room; students will decide which wall is appropriate.
Lesson Seven: Screenfolding
Rolls of brown wrapping paper or three large brown grocery bags per student, dishpans for soaking, clothes line and pins, Elmer's glue, a ruler and pencil for each student, student quality acrylic gesso (Koenig's has a number of brands), sponge brushes, jars for gesso and for water, newspaper.
Before the Conquest, what we would call books were in fact screenfolds, written and painted on the hide of deer or a paper-like substance made from "strips of pounded bark," often from the amate or wild-fig tree, and "painted on both sides with a fine coating of white lime gesso." Miller and Taube go on to explain:
These strips were carefully folded into equal widths, with each fold creating two pages on opposite sides of the manuscript. Once folded, intricate scenes were first carefully outlined and then frequently filled in with brilliant colors. Both sides of the manuscript were usually painted, with the pages tending to run left to right across one side, and then returning left to right across the other (65)
Students can simulate the amate bark by treating brown wrapping paper or brown grocery story bags. If bags are used, start the project the day before because the bags must first be soaked for some twenty minutes until the glue is loosened; rinse this off well and allow overnight for them to dry on a line. The next day, ask the students to squeeze them into as tight a ball as they can. Care must be used for it is possible to tear the paper, especially if it has already been used as a bag, but the goal is to fill the bag with wrinkles. It should then be smoothed out on a table and ironed so that while the wrinkles remain, the surface is smooth.
Next, using rulers, students must measure out and mark the individual sheets with pencil so that they can fold them into screens. This must be done with care for the sheets must all end up the same size. I would suggest that the pages be 12" square. The final screen fold must have twelve sheets, six on each side, or a length of 72". If bags are used, students with have to glue two shorter strips of brown paper together to get the full length. Once the screenfolds have been measured and folded, a coat of gesso must fully cover one side and be left to dry. The other side can be painted in twenty-four hours. A little acrylic yellow ochre can be added to the gesso to give it an antique look. The two outer sheets or covers should not be painted with gesso. They can be covered with fabric to look like deerskin or painted yellow with brown spots to look like the hide of the revered jaguar.
During this lesson or at the start of the next, there should be a discussion of the rubric the class will create for guidance and assessment once painting and writing in the screenfolds begin. Before students start, they will have to plan and sketch. There can be some writing in the screenfolds--historically there was--but since there are other writing assignments, I would stress the visual elements here. I would suggest that students need to turn in a preliminary drawing for each sheet to show their care and craft, that there be at least two different glyphs on each sheet, that the students create a person, either to represent them or that will serve as their central character, that the sheets cover different topics, and that students use an authentic palette.
Lesson Eight: Painting the Journey
Painting the Conquest by Serge Gruzinski and tubes of acrylic to match the reproductions in Gruzinski. You will want plain white paper and fine-point black Sharpie pens for outlining; primary colors in acrylic, black, ochres, and several shades of red. Painting supplies from Lesson Four, but in addition to the smallest sponge brushes for filling in, each student will need at least one real brush. The best for fine work as well as the cheapest ($3.00) are number one or two synthetic since they will hold a point. This is a major investment and students must understand how necessary it is to care for them.
This lesson will take two or even three periods. The first order of business is applying gesso to the verso side of the screeenfolds. The second is showing color plates from the codices (singular: codex) reproduced in Painting the Context. The third is creating a character, an alter ego, or a representation of the person one might have been in Mesoamerica. This character will appear on each sheet, unifying the screenfold. Students should examine the figures in the codices, and for this purpose the teacher may wish to xerox different pages to distribute. Before drawing begins, spend time first in pairs and then as a class, identifying the general characteristics of the figures in the codices: e.g., shown in profile and two dimensional, distinctive eye shape, costumes with patterns (These were elaborately woven.), feathers, jewelry, fingers and nails, sandals and toes, teeth, and prominent noses. Make sure that students notice as well that the images are outlined in black. Use the rest of this first class, for students to sketch their own version of this character.
The second class should open with a discussion of the tiny brushes and their care. Students will be told that after a period of planning and sketching on plain paper, they will begin trying out colors on those sketches. Then insist on at least a fifteen minutes block for planning the first sheet, the subject of which will be the trip to Mesoamerica, using glyphs and signs and images and the student's Mesoamerican.
Only when there is a well planned sketch should tiny amounts of color be put in the egg crates and painting begin on the sketch. When students are ready, they can begin working on the inside of the cover of their screenfold, sketching in pencil first, then using the Sharpie pen, and finally laying in the colors.
As the unit progresses, the students will do several sheets on the events in Broken Shields, moving from right to left and bottom to top. (See the fold-out sheets from Codex Borgia, pages 18-22 in Gruzinski.) They will paint in a Maya map of the world with the creatures that support that world; several village scenes; their favorite exploits of the Hero Twins; and a farewell page in which they can return to home and the twentieth century or make other choices.
Lesson Nine: Shields Aloft/Shields Cast Down
Start the class with Deborah Lattimore's The Flame of Peace, a sanitized account for children of the Alliance of Cities during the time of Itzcoatl in the early 15th century, roughly 100 years before Contact. In contrast to the next two books we will read, this book depicts major warfare that does not destroy the civilization and it stars a daring child hero. The historical facts and rituals are incorrect. For example, the new fire that young Two Flint gets from Lord Morning Star or Quetzalcoatl (Ket-sahl-coh-atl), the Feathered Serpent, is usually produced by fire priests: "They ripped out the heart of a sacrificial victim...and started a flame with a fire drill in his open chest cavity" (Miller and Taube, 87). But Two Flint's quest is a mini version of that of the Hero Twins whom we will read in Part Two and the illustrations, patterned on the codices, will be useful. Lattimore also uses a Mesoamerican numbering system of dot, bar, and banner. As students peruse these, explain that "Mesoamerican peoples used a vigesimal, or base 20, system for counting, rather than the decimal, or base 10, system developed for Arabic numerals" (Miller and Taube, 124). Students may number the pages in the screenfolds in the same way.
Leonard Everett Fisher's Pyramid of the Sun, Pyramid of the Moon, is very different. A non-fiction account of the Conquest, it is an excellent and realistic preparation for the contemporary account in Broken Shields. I would suggest a guided reading with a picture walk-through, student predictions, and highlighting of unfamiliar words. There is a pronunciation guide at the end. After reading, I would ask the students what other things they feel they need to know about the Conquest.
Lesson Ten: Broken Shields
Having read Fisher's book, students can come to Broken Shields as knowledgeable readers and compare a version recounted by someone present at the events. The events themselves will not surprise them, although it is important to discuss the different way the story is told. The word lament is key here and students might be asked what they would lament. Once again, I would present this as a guided reading, writing down predictions, checking them, and explaining the words, particularly names and place names that are unfamiliar. There is a glossary. At the end, I would fill out a story map with the class, paying particular attention to the problem, the main events, and the outcome.
The lament is raised in the contemporary paintings as well as in the text. Be sure that students notice that these illustrations are different than those in the codices. Ask them to retell the story in three pages of their screenfolds and give them time to begin sketching. Remind them that their planning must include a different layout than what we are used to. The story will not move from left to right and top to bottom, as we read, but from right to left and bottom to top. The next class should be spent drawing and painting. Suggest that they place their alter ego in their account.
Lesson Eleven: Maya Maps
For each student: A paper 11"or 12" square with a clearly marked inner frame of 9" square. An envelope containing nine bright (origami paper, if possible) squares 3" x 3": one red, one white, one yellow, one black, one green, four blue. A second envelope will contain, in a contrasting shade of green, a circle to represent a tree and one Figure from the group 22-27 below. A third envelope will contain all of figures 28-34. Glue sticks. You will also have placed a green tree-like plant, a turtle, a toad, a crocodile on the table in the center of your classroom.
Silently pass out the large framing square and the first envelope. From their compass work and color work, students should have a pretty good idea of the significance of these squares. Let them arrange them for a few minutes. Your new piece of information for them is that for the Maya, East is at the top of the map. Someone will figure out that the big framing shape is really a diamond and then it will not be hard to lay out the small squares, as long as they remember that the center is "a blue-green island surrounded by the dark blue sea" (Becom and Aberg, 31). Glue them down.
Now hand out the second envelope. Let them compare the different figures and connect them to those on the central table. And don't let them forget their green circles. Begin to tell them about Maya ideas about the creation of the world: it could have been formed on the huge bumpy back of a caiman or crocodile. Ask them what they see in Figures 22 and they will see the tree, "the great ceiba, which has a green spiny trunk reminiscent of the caiman" (Miller and Taube, 49). This is a wonderful image, combining as it does a powerful earth-bearer and the world tree, the ceiba or yaxche (note: yax=blue-green plus tree). We call it the silky-fiber Kapok. This world tree reaches up to the heavens with its branches and pushes its roots into the underworld; it holds our world together. The Late Classic Maya flood caiman (Taube, 73) and the Aztec 1 Caiman (13) both speak of the beginning of things. Thus caiman and green circle can go right in the center of things.
The third great being that holds our world on its back is the turtle, shown in both Figure 25 and 26, with the plant that is seen as so life-sustaining that it is considered sacred, corn. In both figures, the maize god is bursting out of the turtle or earth, but in 25 (66) he emerges amid the power of the rain gods that allow him to grow, while in 26, a lowland Maya version (Tedlock, 140), his sprouting is the triumph of the sons who are on either side of him, the Hero Twins. Finally, in Figure 27 (114), we have toad or mundo, the creature who is essentially of the earth, earthy. Have some extra copies in case students would like a particular creature for their center. Glue them down.
Finally, pass out the third envelope. Students will find seven designs for weaving that are traditional but that I traced from Angela Weaves a Dream. Students ought to be able to guess Figure 28, the Universe, and perhaps 34, Serpent. Figure 29 shows the Ancestors, 30 is the Flowering Corn, 31 is Butterfly, 32 shows Toad twice, and 33 gives us three Scorpions. Ask the students to think about these creatures, especially in the light of what we have learned about the world. Ask them to practice drawing them since they will be part of the next sheet of their screenfolds.
For homework, they are to chose one of the embroidery figures to write a story about and they are to decide on what color to place it on their own map.
Lesson Twelve: Weaving the World
Angela Weaves a Dream: the Story of a Young Maya Artist with text by Michele Sola and photographs by Jeffrey Jay Foxx. This book is readily available and not very expensive. Foxx is also the photographer for Morris's extravagantly beautiful Living Maya. His photography captures Angela's world and, in the longer, more complex Living Maya, the essence of present-day Chiapas, Mexico; at this point, students should have a change carefully to examine both. To weave their own Maya world, students will also need another set of envelope number one from the previous lesson, rulers, pencils, scissors, glue sticks, masking tape.
Start by reading Angela Weaves a Dream. Take time to show the pictures. Make sure that everyone has decided where to place the creatures on their maps. Now pass out another set of envelope number one . Have students assemble them. Then they are all finished, ask students to fold them in half. They will then take their rulers and measure off an inch on either side of the back of their square. They will also draw a line an inch from the top of the folded piece, where the two loose edges are. The remaining nine inches they will cut six times, at intervals of an inch and a half, making sure to stop at the long line they have drawn. The result is a warp. They will then choose six strips from those you have prepared and weave them into their square. If some wish to cut their weft or strips midway and add another color, they may of course do so, but should glue down the shorter piece. All ends should be glued as well.
Take all the squares, woven and creature-filled, and assemble them on a wall in your classroom or in the hallway so that you will have a giant quilt or shawl to comfort the world.