Homeschooling Unit Studies: Mexico

Suggestions to create your own home schooling units study about the Mexican culture. Information about geography, art, ancient people and history.

Countries make great topics for unit studies because they can easily be incorporated into so many different subject areas, and offer a plethora of activities. Mexico is a particularly fun choice, as it has a rich history and colorful culture.

To prepare for this unit, stop by some travel agencies and pick up brochures and maps, head to the library for any age appropriate books you can find on Mexico or the pre-Colombian cultures of Mexico, and see if you can find some educational videos, such as "National Geographic," to watch with your children. Just spend your time gathering as much information and pictures you can on Mexico.

SOCIAL STUDIES:

Geography: Locate Mexico on a map of the world, and look at maps of Mexico. It is great to look not only at modern maps, but at maps showing ancient civilizations of Mexico and tribal territories. Discuss the terrain, climate, boundaries, major bodies of water, population, language, natural resources, capitol, major cities, and Mexican flag.

History: Study the Pre-Colombian civilizations of Mexico, such as the Olmelcs (rubber people), Mayans and Aztecs. Some things to consider about these people: artwork, cities, culture, appearance, religion, their advanced use of mathematics and engineering techniques unheard of in their time, their rise and fall.

Look at pictures or videos of some ancient artifacts, such as the great heads left by the Olmelcs that still baffles archeologists, the ruins of the Mayan Temples, or Mexico's famous black pottery. Study or discuss the conquest of Mexico by Spain. How did it affect the natives? How did the caste system work in colonial Mexico? How did Mexico achieve independence?

Take a look at Mexico as it is today. How is the government structured? What are some of the social problems faced by the Mexican Native Americans? How important is religion in contemporary Mexican culture?

MATH: The Mayans used math that was very advanced for their time. Study the Mayan number system, which is similar to our modern day number system.

The Mayans were also highly advanced astronomers, and were able to calculate planetary rotations and constellations with startling accuracy. Calendars created centuries ago by the Mayans are still accurate today. Have a look at Mayan calendars and compare their calculations to modern day calendars. Research Mexican currency and learn how to convert it to US currency.

LITERATURE: Read myths of the Mayan and Aztec people. What do these stories tell us about their culture?

Read translations of stories and poetry by famous Mexican writers, such as Juan Ruiz de Alarcon, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Carlos Fuentes, and Marco Antonio Montes de Oca.. Try to get a copy of "The Itching Parrot," by Jose Joaquin Fernandez de Lizardi, thought to be the very first Latin-American novel.

LANGUAGE: Study some Spanish, and research English root words derived from Spanish, or the Latin roots.

ART AND MUSIC: Visit a natural history museum and view some artifacts in person.

Get a recording featuring Mexican folk music

FUN PROJECTS

- Make a topographical map of Mexico on a large piece of heavy cardboard using modeling clay

- Make a collage depicting things that came from Mexico: rubber, chocolate, basketball, corn, etc.

- Create a time line outlining Mexico's history.

- Find pen pals in Mexico and exchange post cards and letters.

- Build a replica of the ancient ruins out of clay or building blocks.

- Have a traditional fiesta. Research and make traditional Mexican food, decorations, clothing and games. Play Mexican folk music and invite your friends over for your own cultural festival where you can display some of your other projects from this unit. All the better if it falls on Cinco de Mayo or Dia de los Muertos.

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