Years 5 & 6 Autumn 2019

Mayan Visitors Centre
W/c 9th September
A search and rescue team has been called to an unfamiliar part of Mexico. They discover two young men, one of whom is injured after falling from what the boys refer to as ‘the temple’ (though there are no known temples in the area). The injured boy is refusing hospital treatment and both boys are behaving suspiciously; neither will show identification.
Unsure how to progress and feeling wary of the boys strange behaviour the local police are called to assist. On arrival the boys once again refuse to show identification papers and the parties are locked in a stale mate.
Unbeknownst to the authorities attending, the boys are not alone. They form part of a caravan travelling from Guatemala to the US border and had stopped here to take refuge and rest in the undiscovered ruins. Following the accident the boy’s older brother had no choice but to call for help, however in doing so has placed the migrants in grave danger.
They watch on from hidden parts of the surrounding forest wondering what fate awaits them and whether their hopes for a better life will be destroyed should they be discovered.
This drama led to the study of the following curriculum areas: use of atlases, coordinates, geographical vocabulary (latitude, longitude, prime meridian, equator, tropics, hemispheres etc), creative writing from the viewpoint of the migrants (focus on settings and editing skills).
W/c 16th September
As the migrants hid from the authorities, we began to explore the hidden ruins in which they were hiding. Only small parts of these buildings could be seen through the bushes, trees and vines; after all they were as yet ‘undiscovered’.
Out of role we conducted research, using books and the internet, to find out what ruins in Mexico looked like. This not only led to greater awareness of the architectural look of such sites, but also the existence of the Mayan Civilisation.
After drawing what could be seen of the ruins (very little) from where the migrants were standing we began to use drama to explore the point of view of the vegetation covering them. We discovered that the vines and bushes cared deeply about the ruins they were hiding: they wished to keep them secret; to protect them; and to preserve them forever more.
Next lesson, the children arrived with the pictures they had drawn now being presented as photographs. They were met by a member of the local leisure and tourism department (teacher in role), who had called them together as a team of international experts who were known for their skills in the planning and running of visitors centres in historically significant sites across Mexico. The team were invited to set up a new visitors centre in this location. Of course, the team said yes.
Now as a team of historical experts the the children set up a meeting to discover what to do first. Many questions were raised, however the immediate need was agreed to be to meet with the team of archaeologists working on the site.
Out of role it was agreed that if we were to going to behave as archaeologists and/or a team of historical experts we ought to know a bit about what we were going to have to be talking about. We then spent a length of time researching the Mayans, deciding what interested us and how to categorise our new information.
We were then more equipped to go into role as the archaeology team working on the site. On doing so we discovered that some of them were cutting back the vines hiding the ruins. Many of us then went back into role as the vines and we heard the whispers and threats of warning they aimed towards the working archaeologists. These warnings revealed knowledge of curses and hidden secrets that if to be unearthed would certainly bring bad fortune to the team working there.
In this photo the team of archaeologists can be seen in the centre as the vines creep towards them, whispering their threats of disdain.
With a sense of unease in the air, will the team continue? And what will they discover if they do?
W/c 23rd September
Meeting with the archaeologists we asked questions about their work so far. Several discoveries had been made, but one in particular appeared to hold the most interest for us. A team had been clearing vines when the disturbance caused the partial collapse of one of the ruins.
The archaeologists informed the team of their discovery and the workers prepared to explore this discovered area. After gathering the correct equipment and dressing themselves appropriately, the team entered the tomb. The photo below shows the archaeologists’ initial reaction: some explored with intrigue and seriousness, whilst others could not contain their fear as they ventured into this strange place.
Many items of historical interest were discovered in the tomb and their location was recorded on a map using coordinates. Out of role this exploration led us to ask questions about Mayan burial customs, particularly in comparison with today, so some time was spent reading about their traditions and interpreting what this told us about our discovery. Our findings led us to the assumption that we had discovered a funerary pyramid and that although this tomb was not believed to be for a ruler, it must have been for someone of importance and wealth.
We now have several paths worth following:
1. Health and Safety Rules and Regulations
2. Analysis of the discovered items, both in terms of general historical understanding and also for display in the visitors centre.
3. Security on site – the tomb appears to have been entered before us. Litter was found and there was some graffiti in Spanish. How can we ensure the site is not disturbed in the future?
4. Further exploration – a trap door was discovered at the entrance to the tomb. Where does this lead? What was it for? And who put it there?
W/c 30th September
The Health and Safety Inspector (teacher in role) heard of our incident when clearing one of the ruins and so came to visit. He was unimpressed with the unprofessional attitude towards safety and as a result closed down the site with immediate effect. He promised the situation could be reviewed once the necessary action had taken place.
The team agreed this issue needed to be taken seriously and that clear training of rules and regulations needed to take place. Areas of health and safety to be covered were discussed by the team and groups were formed to film short films detailing the onsite rules.
Out of role the children worked with the teacher on creating an iMovie of the collated footage. The children made notes of the steps needed to create a film with this software in order to be able to use it independently at a later date.
W/c 7th October
Having been ‘shut down’ the top priority became getting the site reopened and therefore proving our professional attitude towards health and safety. The team photographed and wrote captions for onsite rules, and jointly created a health and safety policy for staff.
The inspectors returned and after some persuading agreed to allow us to reopen, but to expect regular spot checks to ensure rules were being adhered to.
Following the good news we immediately returned to the tomb where we discovered more traces of it having been entered in recent times. We used drama to explore who was using this space and why: Infiltrators ranged from migrants seeking shelter and local children exploring the area, to ‘treasure hunters’ seeking Mayan artefacts to sell for riches.
Following our discoveries a meeting was conducted about next steps and it was agreed that the tomb needed to be secured and security put in place.
W/c 4th November
Recent weeks have been spent in exploration of security, as well as creating our displays for the visitors centre. Electric circuits have been investigated to see how we might create a circuit to switch on a light or buzzer. Now understanding how to make such a circuit, we will next look into how we might create a ‘switch’ to activate such a security feature, this can be then placed at the door of the tomb.
Working groups have also been formed to research and display information about different themes surrounding the Mayans. The internet and books were used to find facts and information, which was then written or typed up to be displayed on our boards.
Once completed we gave presentations on our research whilst the rest of the team made notes on our findings.
Most fun of all was last week when we celebrated Dia de las Muertos. We baked Day of the Dead bread, painted our faces, then gathered around our ‘Offrenda’ and shared stories of loved ones.
W/c 18th November
We have created a scaled plan of our site and used this time to explore average sizes of Mayan buildings, as well as their perimeters and areas. We used ratio and scale factors to produce the map. We also produced nets for possible models.
We have completed our circuits using pressure pads to secure the entrance to the tomb that we have discovered.

W/c 25th November

Returning to the chamber we examine an obsidian blade discovered. We believe it to have been used for some sort of ritual, and due to the sharp nature of the material and the carvings on the handle, many of us believe this ritual would have been sacrifices or blood-lettings.

Many of us have questions about obsidian and how it is formed so we conduct some reading. This leads us to question whether there were volcanoes in the area. We search the internet and our maps to locate any known volcanoes. 

We use drama to explore the use of the blade and discover a mother consoling her son. The 12 year-old boy is about to become King and must take part in a blood-letting ritual to mark the beginning of his reign. The boy is naturally concerned for what is to become of him. We develop the conversation with his mother and later look at his thoughts and feelings as he prepares for sleep the night before the ceremony. We use this drama to inform our writing of his fears. 

W/c 9th December
Our discovery of obsidian led to many questions about volcanoes so the week began researching how they are formed and the different types. We developed our note taking skills to record our findings.
Back in the drama we found ourselves at the day of the blood-letting. We created drawings of ceremonial artefacts that would be used in such a ritual and placed them around the room, explaining their use and significance. We produced images of the key figures involved.
We then saw the future king in the temple, surrounded by priests and noble-men. We watched him raise the blade to his tongue.
Just before the boy was about to pierce his tongue his mother shouted, “Stop!”
We then used drama to explore the different options of what might happen next. It was decided that the boy would go ahead with the ceremony and the mother would be imprisoned.
W/c 16th December
We returned to the discovered chamber and decided to enter the secret tunnels through the trap door. We heard our fears and worries before we entered. Most of us were in teams of trusted colleagues, however three of our party were alone.
Out of role we discussed next steps and what we might do about these three individuals. With our knowledge of Mayan beliefs about the afterlife, one us suggested the tunnels might be a passage to the underworld. With the tunnels ending beneath the main temple dedicated to the God of Death (Xalbiba) we decided that this would be where Dacey (the young King) would be buried with his family, and also where Xalbiba would be to decide whether the souls would enter paradise or the underworld.
Together we created the tunnels lined with spirits who whispered to the souls as they passed through. Once in the chamber Xalbiba made his decision.