Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed

SBA Students Explore the Mayan Civilization
SBA Students Explore the Mayan Civilization

The growth of the great Mayan civilization is as much a mystery as its decline. The world has long been captivated by the ruins of the ancient temples, intricate glyphic inscriptions, and the remarkably accurate astronomical charts of this pre-Columbian culture. They built magnificent cities with huge stone palaces and pyramids; yet they had no knowledge of the wheel or metal tools. The Mayan civilization reached its peak in the classical period of 250 to 900 and then declined – the people moved from the cities into small villages, and the Inca and Aztec Empires replaced the Maya as the political center of the Central American world. Much of the remaining knowledge became lost to time and the Spanish conquest. The Maya seemed to fade into memory until discoveries in the 19th century renewed interest in the Yucatan region and its cultures. Continued discoveries and advancements in archaeology have given scholars a greater picture of this ancient, sophisticated civilization – a hidden world, now revealed.

Fifth and sixth grade students from Saint Benedict Academy were among the first students in New England to partake in the new special exhibition on the Mayan Civilization at Boston’s Museum of Science. The exhibit opened to the public in mid-October. Students were able to view and interact with artifacts from this civilization – a perfect connection to the fifth graders’ recent unit of study on the Maya.

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Relief of a Mayan ceremonial altar.

Students began their day at the Mugar Omni Theatre where they had a special screening of the documentary Mystery of the Maya. Told through a modern-day archaeologist and a young Maya descendant who explore ruins and legends to unlock the secrets of the past, Mystery of the Maya took students on a breathtaking trip through Mayan culture and history.

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Students created their own Mayan glyph.

Later, students had a special visit inside the exhibit Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed. In one section of the exhibit, students used Mayan symbols to complete math problems; and in another, they were challenged to reproduce intricate patterns found in Mayan cloth. One highlight for the students was getting to create their own glyph, or symbol, to represent their name. Students were then able to receive a printed bookmark with their birth date and unique glyph written in Mayan symbols. As students walked through the exhibit, they read commentary about different facets of Mayan life. Many of the students enjoyed learning about Mayan sports, especially how the games seemed the athletic ancestors of soccer and basketball.

Diving into history: Students were intrigued that many Mayan sacred sites are still utilized by Mayan descendants today.Mayan Math ChallengeMaya: Hidden Worlds RevealedMrs. Batt teaches students about how to "read" an exhibitStudents race to complete a Mayan architecture challenge at the Museum!The Mysteries of the MayaMaya: Hidden Worlds RevealedStudents created bookmarks with their birth dates written in Mayan glyphsStudents read about Mayan court cultureStudents used the Mayan calendar to create their own glyphs

Students also had time to explore other exhibits in the museum and were challenged to find a concept or experiment that intrigued them as a possible springboard for their Science Fair Projects this spring.

Students explore the Habitats of New England exhibitStudents explore the Habitats of New England exhibitStudents explore the life cycle of the oceanStudents explored the space exhibitStudents explore velocity and accelerationStudents examine the food chain and life cycle of the oceanStudents participate in the optical illusion exhibitStudents examine the food chain and life cycle of the oceanStudents examine the food chain and life cycle of the oceanStudents examine the food chain and life cycle of the ocean

A special thanks to Mrs. Timpe, Mrs. LaPalme, and Mrs. Batt for organizing this wonderful excursion for our students – the exhibit deepened student comprehension of the Maya and piqued their interest to learn more about this fascinating civilization.