• Ballgame Palma, c. 900-1100. Stone; 19-5/16 x 9-1/4 x 4-7/16 in. Purchase from the J.H. Wade Fund 1973.3
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Gods and Heroes of the Maya

Grade Level: 
6–12
Student Level: 
Middle School

The Maya Popol Vuh (Council Book) relates tales of the Hero Twins who make the world safe for the arrival of human beings. During this lesson students explore this creation myth and other aspects of the Maya culture by examining artifacts from the Cleveland Museum of Art. On-camera interactivities include filling out a graphic organizer with personal interpretations of Maya mythology and beginning to write a story based on a princely scene from an ancient pottery vessel. Related discussion involves Maya hieroglyphs, notions of royalty, the sacred ball game, and the natural resources of Mesoamerica. The Teacher Information Packet which accompanies this lesson contains teaching extensions which promote such language arts skills as composing a narrative and developing characters.

Program Format: 
  • Open discussion with introduction to Maya mythology.
  • Introduce the sacred ballgame of the Maya and related artifacts.
  • Guided observation of Maya art objects from the museum's collection.
  • Introduce the Popul Vuh, (the Maya creation myth) and summarize adventures of the Hero Twins.
  • Graphic organizer interactivity throughout videoconference.
Objectives: 
  • Students will learn about the Maya creation myth, the Popul Vuh , and how the story of the Hero Twins relates to sacred ballgame played by the Maya.
  • Students will gain a better understanding of the gods, heroes, and myths depicted in selected Maya art works from the museum's collection.
  • Students will learn the characteristics of myth and understand how culture is revealed through the stories it tells.
  • Students will be introduced to the cultural and historical context of selected works of art and learn how art can tell a story.
  • Students will be introduced to the characteristics of mythology and learn that ancient myths, legends, and stories are used to explain the natural world, to teach morals, and to entertain.