Students Celebrate Maya Culture

DSC_2712 Ross School seventh graders recently wrapped up their unit on Maya people and culture with a celebration featuring presentations, games, and traditional foods. The students have been learning about the Maya as part of their studies of the rise of empires and universalizing religions from 350 BCE to 800 CE.


The day began with a rousing game of Maya Ball in Gandhi Hall, where the Passion Pyre faced off against Quetzalquan. The competition helped set the fun atmosphere for the remainder of the day, and was slightly less intense than the original version, which often ended with the death of the losing team as a ritual sacrifice.


Then it was back to the classroom for “Maya Math” games for which the students created their own abacus bracelets. They also worked on an art project with Visual Arts teacher Jon Mulhern, collecting rocks and twigs from around the campus and then pressing them into plaster to represent their birthdates.


A big part of the day was dedicated to the individual presentations of a creative project related to the Maya unit. Some focused on Maya architecture and artwork, including the Bonampak murals (three rooms in one temple). Each room tells the story of a king, his success in battle, and the sacrificial celebration that follows the battle. One student imagined what a fourth room would look like. Others built a replica of a trading post, made a delicious flan inspired by Maya cuisine, created a goddess mask, or focused on the Maya codices. All the student projects were impressive and the students really showed an appreciation for their studies. Each student proposed a question related to his or her presentation that will be included in the Maya unit final assessment.


Another fun Maya Day project was preparing hot chocolate made with stewed bananas and cacao beans. Jon showed the class how to use a metate to grind the beans, a process he was able to see firsthand on the Field Academy trip to Brazil last year. This year, many in the class will be traveling to the Yucatan Peninsula during Field Academy, and everyone is excited to see the traditional practice in action.


At lunch in the Café, the class enjoyed the authentic tamales and other delicacies they made the day before with guidance from Executive Chef Liz Dobbs. Tamales also served as the main entrée for the meal for the rest of the school, and the Café was decorated with the seventh graders’ personal glyphs, which are creative expressions of their given names.

Maya Day ended with a lively game of Maya Jeopardy!, covering a wide range of topics from goddesses to rituals, which allowed students to demonstrate the depth of their knowledge of Maya culture.

“Through their creative projects and activities, the students really connected to their studies and gained an important foundation for their Field Academy trip to Mexico,” said seventh grade teacher Carol Crane.