Grade 7 Celebrates Maya Culture

The seventh grade finished their unit on Maya culture on October 24 with a celebration featuring presentations, games, and delicious food inspired by this Mesoamerican civilization. The students have been learning about empire building and universalizing religions from 350 BCE to 800 CE.

Dubbed Maya Day, the festivities began with presentations on such aspects of the ancient culture as art, fashion, astronomy, architecture, cuisine, games, and weaponry. Carley Wootton studied Maya clothing and crafted attire inspired by Maya designs to fit a doll. Jade was a coveted stone and was used for jewelry, she explained, while tattoos and body print representing social position were prolific during those times.

Marco Marsans studied astronomy and assigned his classmates a project deciphering Maya glyphs to identify constellations. Meanwhile, Nina Damieki wrote a play that offered a modern twist to the Maya Myth of Popol Vuh, where the “hero twins” end up in the underworld fighting the lords of death. In Nina’s version, the twins introduce the iPhone and iPad to the lords, who challenged the brothers to a deadly game where the winner keeps this newfangled technology. The four battle it out but ultimately make peace and become friends.

Moving from myths to cuisine, Tristan Griffin studied what the Maya ate and served his classmates pumpkin soup and French toast, inspired by bread the Maya used to dip into syrup and eat. “I think this project was a creative way to learn about the Maya and to be imaginative and put your knowledge to use in a fun way,” said Tristan.

In addition to presentations, the seventh graders played games, testing their knowledge of this ancient people’s number system and culture. They played Maya Jeopardy! and Who Wants to Be a Maya Millionaire. They also played the Maya Ball Game, where originally the winners were treated as heroes and the losers were subject to human sacrifice.

The interdisciplinary project also involved a culinary component, as students learned how to make tamales with the help of Ross School chefs. The tamales were served to the School the next day, along with a special menu the Café staff created to reflect the Maya diet that included squash soup, black bean salad with quinoa and avocado, pumpkin seed dip with roasted poblanos, tortilla chips, salsa fresca, roast chicken with tomatillo sauce, veggie and cheese enchiladas, tofu with mole sauce, pinto beans, and roasted sweet potatoes.