One of the things I love most about the curriculum at City Garden School is how intentional each aspect of the curriculum is and how it meets the child of that age. This is no less true for Ancient Civilizations in fifth grade.

Up until now, the students have been hearing stories from the world of mythology. These stories are the truer-than-true stories that have lived in the oral traditions of their people. In fifth grade, students will begin the school year hearing those mythological stories, but by the end of the year, they will move into the realm of history.

To prepare the students for this shift, we will show them, through various cultures, how human beings came to make Earth their home. Each culture we study brings the human being closer to feeling home on Earth.

This week we finished up our studies of Ancient Persia and began studying the Ancient Maya civilization. At the beginning of the week, we heard a story from the Zend Avesta about the 16 kingdoms created by Ahura Mazdao in Persia. Each kingdom was created out of the abundance of the previous kingdom. The next day we reviewed the story and then talked about which kingdoms students thought were the most important for life on earth. We had a great discussion, and students really used their critical thinking skills to explain why each kingdom they chose was important. Students wrote about this in class and put a final draft into their main lesson books.

Then, we turned our attention to the other side of the world. We looked at our globe and at our map of North America to find the Yucatan peninsula, where the Maya lived. We discussed the geography of this area and how it was very different from the dry deserts of Ancient Persia. The Maya lived in a rainforest that gets 160 inches of rain a year! We talked about the challenges of living in such a place. We talked about how the region’s geography influenced the people living there. We looked at how the Yucatan peninsula is surrounded by water and mountains, making it relatively isolated from other parts of Central America. This helped the Maya thrive for so long because they were not subject to many invasions. We drew a map of this region and continued to talk about what the environment is like.

After hearing about the environment, we learned a bit about the way of life of the Olmec, a tribe from which the Maya descended.

We also heard stories from the Popol Vuh, the ancient Maya’s sacred text about creation. The Makers and Creators attempted to make humans three different times: first out of clay, then wood, and finally corn.

We will keep studying and learning about Ancient Civilizations at City Garden School, to deepen our understanding of history, our world, and the overall human experience.