We’re so excited to take a journey to Mesoamerica this week, exploring ancient cultures and seeing how they have impacted our life today! As always, consider this lesson plan a framework for your homeschool. Want to finish all the lessons in a couple days? Go for it! Prefer to space them out one per day this week? That works great, too. Start by reading through all of the lessons before you begin your week so you can determine which activities you’ll complete and which supplies you will need. Want to track your progress along the way? Download our skills and books tracker for your records.
What you need:
Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):
- Honest History – Issue Eleven Journey Through the Jungle (use code LEARNANDLIVE15 for 15% off your purchase!)
- The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History by Jane Bingham (you will also use their online resources)
- Amazing Ancients! World of the Maya by Elaine A. Kule
Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):
Note: We break down our supply list by so you can choose what you need based on which lessons you plan to do with your child.
Mayan sculpture activity:
- paper or plastic grocery bag
Aztec sundial craft:
Relief pattern craft:
- paper plate
- salt dough (or you could use clay)
- watercolor paints
- gold metallic shoe cream (or you could use paint)
- paper clip
What to do:
We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!
Activity 1: Research + discover. Mesoamerica refers to the diverse civilizations that shared similar cultural characteristics in the geographic areas making up modern-day countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. It is located in the thin area of land between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico that connects North and South America. The climate there is hot and dry, becoming more tropical as we move farther south. It is part of North America even though it is commonly referred to as Central America. (Source)
Using a world map, atlas, or Google Earth, find the area of the world referred to as Mesoamerica.
Activity 2: Read + Discuss Honest History Magazine: Journey Through the Jungle, pages 26 and 27 to learn about the four ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica. Create a timeline starting at 1500 BC to today to plot when these civilizations existed. (Need a timeline 101? Watch this video with your child.) Compare and contrast these ancient Mesoamerican civilizations with one another and other ancient civilizations your child may know about. Review any vocabulary they may not know.
Next, read Honest History pages 8 and 9 for more fun facts about the Mayas and watch this video.
Today, we’ll be focusing on the Maya and their way of life.
Activity 1: Read + Discuss. Start by reading Usborne World History, pages 280-281 for an overview of the Maya and the Toltecs. Next, read the Amazing Ancients! World of the Maya, page 4 to learn a list of interesting facts.
Activity 2: Documentaries. Some students learn better in a visual format. If you would like to try a documentary-style learning experience, watch this video (that includes the Maya creation story) for more details of Mayan history and real life images of artifacts.
Activity 3: Art. The Maya were very artistic people. They were expert carvers and sculptors. Read page 20 of Amazing Ancients! and do the modeling clay activity. Alternatively, do the activity on pages 42-43 in Honest History. You can also watch this video to learn more.
Ready for some games? Today, we’ll explore some of the ways these ancient civilizations amused themselves.
Activity 1: Begin by reading Usborne World History page 179 about the Olmecs. The Olmecs are credited for inventing rubber and playing sports with a hard rubber ball. According to some sources, they likely influenced later civilizations in their games.
Next, read Amazing Ancients! page 19 to learn about the Mayan game ulama. Click here for a look at the game field and a real life image of the rings. The link also tells you more about the rules and the players.
Activity 2: Writing. Write an updated version of the rules for ulama! Add additional rules to the game or remove the ones that made the game difficult to score. If your child needs a little more help with the writing process, try using the guide on page 31 of Honest History.
Activity 3: Next, try to play the game following the rules the child has written using a balloon and bag as described at the bottom of page 19 of Amazing Ancients! Getting a little silly is highly encouraged!
Activity 4: Read the “Did you know?” section about rubber trees at the bottom of page 19. Want to learn more about this tree or see what it looks like today? Check out this link.
One thing many of the Mesoamerican ancient cultures are famous for is their variety of ways of tracking calendars and time. Today, let’s learn more about their ingenious discoveries.
Activity 1: Compare and contrast. These ancient civilizations had complex tools to measure time. Read Amazing Ancients! page 21 to get started. Learn more about the Mayan calendar here. Now, compare that to the Aztec sundial by reading this webpage. Draw a Venn diagram to compare and contrast both calendars.
Activity 2: Next do this sundial craft project.
Today is all about architecture! From pyramids to temples, get ready to explore some of the incredible structures and buildings of these ancient peoples.
Activity 1: Read + Discuss. Read Usborne World History pages 180-181 and Amazing Ancients! page 18 to learn about the homes and pyramids and temples. Then have your child compare what they read to what they know about other ancient civilizations that also built pyramids and temples. How are they different? How are they the same? Watch this video for a look at the ruins of an ancient palace.
Activity 2: Engineering. Next, let’s build! Using the cutout on the last page of Amazing Ancients, cut out the picture of the Mayan temple and build your own Temple of Kukulkan. You can also try one of these ideas made out of LEGO, boxes, or by drawing one by hand. Here is an up-close picture to use a model. Or you can use craft #1 in this link to download a Maya pyramid template from Honest History. Here’s their Instagram reel to help you put it together.
Activity 3: Ever wonder about the decorations you see on these ancient buildings? They are called relief patterns. Read about this style of architecture and then try it yourself.
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