General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 29 Nov 2020/5 Flower
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Article suitable for Top Juniors and above

‘Maya and Aztecs - Science Ideas Web’ RSC resource

Ideas for PRIMARY SCIENCE

We recommend the resource sheet that these ideas have been taken from, produced by the Royal Society of Chemistry, written by primary teacher Raj Dharma and edited by Millgate House Education. Aimed at 5-7-year-olds, it covers a good range of topics, only a few of which we’ve uploaded here. They include ‘Habitats and environments’, ‘Living things’, ‘Changes of state’, ‘Keeping teeth healthy’, ‘Reversible and irreversible changes’. (Compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Pic 1: Feast time, Aztec style! Florentine Codex
Pic 1: Feast time, Aztec style! Florentine Codex (Click on image to enlarge)

• Nutrition - eating the right foods

’The Maya and Aztecs ate a variety of foods. Their diet included grains, meat, fish and fruit.
’How does a modern diet compare with the Maya and Aztecs? Do most of us eat grains, meat, fish and fruit? Can we create a chart for a healthy, balanced diet? How does this compare with what most of us actually eat?’

Pic 2: The ‘floating gardens’ of the Mexica (Aztecs)
Pic 2: The ‘floating gardens’ of the Mexica (Aztecs) (Click on image to enlarge)

• Ecosystems

’The Maya and Aztecs changed their environment to grow crops better. They removed forests to make fields, created terraced hillsides, and made dams and canals for irrigation.
’Can we find examples of how people have changed the environment for growing crops in our town? Can we find examples of where people changing their environment has caused problems?’

Pic 3: Artist’s impression of temple-pyramid building in ancient Mexico. Illustration by Martha Newbigging
Pic 3: Artist’s impression of temple-pyramid building in ancient Mexico. Illustration by Martha Newbigging (Click on image to enlarge)

• Contact forces

’The Maya and Aztecs made magnificent buildings for their gods and for important people. The first Maya temples were built from rocks and stone more than 2,000 years ago.
’How does moving a rock on sand compare with moving a rock on another surface? Moving rocks on sand creates friction. How many ways can we find to reduce friction so rocks move more easily?’

Pic 4: The Aztecs prepared reddish yellow colour dye from the the ‘zacatlaxcalli’ plant, here (in the corner picture) hanging from a tree; Florentine Codex
Pic 4: The Aztecs prepared reddish yellow colour dye from the the ‘zacatlaxcalli’ plant, here (in the corner picture) hanging from a tree; Florentine Codex (Click on image to enlarge)

• Identifying and grouping everyday materials

’Maya and Aztec people produced stone carvings, jewellery, pottery and other forms of art. They used local plants to make dyes.
’Can we find out how to make a dye from plants? Which parts of plants make the best dyes? Can we create an instruction leaflet for making plant dyes?’

Pic 5: Frothing chocolate; Codex Tudela
Pic 5: Frothing chocolate; Codex Tudela (Click on image to enlarge)

• Solids, liquids and gases

’The Maya and Aztecs drank a chocolate drink made from ground cocoa beans, chilli peppers, cornmeal and water. Their favourite part of the drink was the froth they created by pouring the liquid repeatedly from glass to glass.
’Can we make our own froth? We could try making a milky hot chocolate and pouring it from cup to cup. What happens to froth after a while? What can we find out about froth and how it forms on top of hot chocolate?’

Pic 6: Various colour dyes in gourd bowls; detail from a mural by Diego Rivera
Pic 6: Various colour dyes in gourd bowls; detail from a mural by Diego Rivera (Click on image to enlarge)

• Pure substances and mixtures

’Maya and Aztec people produced lots of art. Some of their art is full of shades of blue, from a bright vivid blue to almost green.
’What colours can we mix to make different shades of blue? Can we make every shade of blue, or are there some we can’t make? Can we use tie-dyes and white sheets to make Maya and Aztec pictures using different shades of blue?’

Pic 7: The famous shadow of a serpent descending the Pyramid of the Feather Serpent at Chichen Itzá
Pic 7: The famous shadow of a serpent descending the Pyramid of the Feather Serpent at Chichen Itzá (Click on image to enlarge)

• Light and shadows

’For Maya and Aztecs the most important object in the sky was the sun. The sun was recognised as the main life-giver on Earth.
’Why is the sun so important for life? What other sources of light can we find? Can we create a shadow puppet theatre and use it to tell an ancient Maya or Aztec story?’

Pic 8: Farming maize; Florentine Codex
Pic 8: Farming maize; Florentine Codex (Click on image to enlarge)

• Conditions for growing plants

’The Maya and Aztecs grew different types of food crops, especially corn (maize). They thought corn was the most important crop because they believed that the Gods had created the first humans from a piece of corn.
’Can we grow our own food crops? Can we find out the best way to grow food crops? Can we find out the best places to grow food crops? What kind of food crops grow best on our school grounds?’

Pic 9: Some of the Aztec signs for rain and wind (gods), lightning and rainbows; ‘Primeros Memoriales’
Pic 9: Some of the Aztec signs for rain and wind (gods), lightning and rainbows; ‘Primeros Memoriales’ (Click on image to enlarge)

• Seasonal change

’The Maya and Aztecs had calendars that were divided into 365 days of the year, based on the movement of the sun [and another of 260 days, based on the moon]. They learned that the weather depends on where the sun is in the sky and they discovered the seasons.
’What can we find out about the different seasons of the year? How is each season different from the others? What are the indicators in nature that show a change in season?’

Pic 10: Aztec stone carvers quarrying and cutting stones; Florentine Codex
Pic 10: Aztec stone carvers quarrying and cutting stones; Florentine Codex (Click on image to enlarge)

• Identifying and grouping everyday materials

’The Maya and Aztecs carved stones to make sculptures and facades on their temples and important buildings. They used tools made out of harder stone for carving.
’Which materials can/can’t be used to carve stone? Can we put these into a table to show which materials will carve stone and which won’t? Can every kind of stone be carved?’

Picture sources:-
• Pix 1, 4 (main), 8, 10: images from the Florentine Codex (original in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence) scanned from our own copy of the Club Internacional del Libro 3-volume facsimile edition, Madrid, 1994
• Pic 2: photo by Ana Laura Linda/Mexicolore
• Pic 3: image scanned from Ballplayers and Bonesetters: One Hundred Ancient Aztec and Maya Jobs You Might Have Adored or Abhorred by Laurie Coulter; art by Martha Newbigging; Annick Press, 2008 (note our strong recommendation of this book in our ‘Resource Reviews’ section - link below)
• Pic 5: image from the Codex Tudela scanned from our own copy of the Testimonio Compañía Editorial facsimile edition, Madrid, 2002
• Pic 6: photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore
• Pic 7: photo by and courtesy of George Fery
• Pic 9: image scanned from our own copy of Primeros Memoriales by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, Facsimile Edition, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, 1993.

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Sep 13th 2020

Our review of ‘Ballplayers and Bonesetters’

Martha Newbigging’s website
‘Primary science ideas web: Maya and Aztecs’ RSC Education
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