Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Target Vocabulary: America, Americo Vespucci, ancient, Aztec, cacao, calendar, civilization, conquest, continent, Creation story, customs, explorer, Gregorian calendar, homeland, Inca, indigenous, landmass, maize, Maya, Mesoamerica, moon, native, North America, Olmec, South America, Spanish conquistador, time, Turtle Island
The Americas is a term used when referring to the landmass that makes up the continents of North and South America. It is said, Europeans named it America in honor of Italian explorer Americo Vespucci, who proved the area was not part of the West Indies or Asia as Christopher Columbus believed, but rather a completely separate “New World.” Based on human migration theories, it is believed people originally settled into The Americas primarily by crossing the Beringia Land Bridge from Asia to North America and then continuing south through Mexico into South America. Other theories suggest migration occurred by sea as well, with people coming from the Pacific and Atlantic regions.
North America – Turtle Island
The indigenous people of North America shared similar creation stories and referred to their homeland as Turtle Island. As part of our lesson on indigenous people of North America, we read an aboriginal creation story about Turtle Island, as well as 13 Moons On Turtle’s Back by Joseph Bruchac which tells the Native American stories of the 13 moons in their calendar year. To expand the lesson, we used this Turtle Time calendar activity to create a calendar craft based on the 13 moon cycles and compared it to the Gregorian Calendar. If you wish to use the Turtle Calendar to keep track of time, you can use this Moon Page to look up the phase of the moon for any day. In addition, we read tales and legends from various North American tribes, including The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie dePaola, The Polar Bear Son: An Inuit Tale by Lydia Dabcovich, Fire Race: A Karuk Coyote Tale by Jonathan London, How The Stars Fell Into The Sky: A Navajo Legend by Jerrie Dughton and Brother Wolf: A Seneca Tale by Harriet Peck Taylor.
Mesoamerica is a term given to the area encompassing Mexico, Central America and northern South America prior to Spanish exploration and conquest. Our lessons focused on how Mexico got its name from the Aztec (people of Mexica in the Valley), solving math problems using the Maya’s dot-and-dash number system, as well as brief overviews of the four main Mesoamerican civilizations: The Olmec, The Maya, The Aztec and The Inca. We compared the four by discussing name of the civilization, region/location, capital city, lifestyles, similarities to ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt, maize (corn) and cacao (root base for chocolate) as the main crops and trade goods, social classes, rulers and government systems, written language, architecture and arts, religion, main historical contributions and conquest by Spanish conquistadors. In addition, I explained why Spanish language and customs became the dominant standards of the regions. We also conducted a couple of kitchen labs using corn as the main ingredient: we made corn bread and popcorn to show two ways we use/eat corn today.
Rain Forests & The Amazon
Part of our lesson on Mesoamerica included discussion on rain forest ecosystem and The Amazon. We discussed the equator, northern and southern hemispheres, humidity, rain cycle, the tropics region and various types of rain forests around the world (tropical, temperate and seasonal), the layers of a rain forest (canopy, understory and forest floor), as well as many of the plants, animals and people (tribes) found in rain forests around the world. For our activity, my son created a rain forest scene using a Melissa & Doug Habitat Sticker Pad.