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Student Projects

The Mayan Community Project

Author: Heather Lovell

Grade: 7th

Subjects: History, Humanities

Students working on writing assignment
Holding M is for Maya book
Book Cover: Meet the Maya

Why is it important to learn about the Mayan civilization today?

How are books published and marketed?

What is life currently like for people of Mayan descent?

After doing extensive individual and group research on current and ancient aspects of Mayan culture, students will summarize information from their research to write and illustrate a children’s book, A-Z: What We Learned about Mayan Culture. Each student will be responsible for creating his/her own page with illustrations to contribute to the class book. The book will be bilingual and each student will have a chance to translate parts of their work into Spanish with help from the Spanish teacher. As a class, students will produce, promote, publish, and sell the book, operating as a business with committees and job positions. All proceeds from book sales will go to sending impoverished children to school for a year in the Mayan towns near Lake Atitlan in the highlands of Guatemala.

The Mayan Community Project is always an adventure and, to me, illustrates the fun and chaos possible from project based learning. The beginning is very researched based and somewhat controlled, but as the project moves toward completion, the students take over in their committees, and I feel more and more in the shadows of their work. What always strikes me most about their work is how authentic it is and how all the students revel in it.


This year every single student submitted several drafts of their text, several drafts of their illustration, and an attempt at Spanish translation. Every student wants to be in a real published book, and I love how so many of them can keep the bigger goal of helping others in their mind as they work. Throughout the process, they often expressed their fears about making mistakes that would hurt our book sales and concerns that our choices would cause us to make less profit and not help as many kids as we wanted. Being the second year of the project, the precedent was already set at raising at least $1500 so that the same six students sent to school last year would be able to continue and not have to stop schooling.


My students really tuned into the fact that they had the power to help others and ran with it. I had never seen them so careful with their writing, their researching, their fundraising or their attitudes. I must admit, that after this project I am always a bit drained. I carry the same worries about book sales and profits that the students do, and the circus of trying to manage different committees with all different goals and deadlines is exhausting. In the end it always turns out amazing. So far this year we have already raised much more than last year and still have books to sell. The students are SO proud of their work, each and every one of them, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.

  • Research Notes
  • Group Powerpoint Presentations, study guides, and quiz questions
  • Persuasive Cover Letter and Committee Application
  • Individual:  One book page with illustrations
  • Whole Class:  Completed Book A-Z:  What We Learned about Mayan Culture.(View the book at:
  • In-Class Essay on  Colibri
  • Student-created website for marketing book
  • Charitable Contribution:  Money generated from book sales will be donated to sending impoverished children to school for a year in the Mayan towns near Lake Atitlan in the highlands of Guatemala.

Students will know:

  • Comprehensive information about Mayan culture, including: class structures, family life, warfare, religious beliefs and practices, artistic and oral traditions, architecture, locations, climates, and Spanish influences.
  • How to use Photoshop to manipulate images and create artwork
  • How to track expenses and profits using Excel spreadsheets
  • What a business plan is

Students will understand:

  • How the legacy of the Mayan culture influences and affects Central American society today
  • The reality of poverty in Central America and how to make a difference in an impoverished child’s life
  • The importance of effective business planning and marketing, and its influence on the success of a product
  • The importance of fulfilling individual and group responsibilities within a “company”
  • How authors use the writing process to improve their work for publication

Students will be able to:

  • Read a variety of non-fiction texts and analyze maps, graphs, and images related to the topic
  • Create informative PowerPoints and useful study guides for their peers
  • Successfully complete the quiz to demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the topic
  • Synthesize and summarize information into a written and illustrated page for a children’s book
  • Revise and edit writing for publication
  • Write a persuasive cover letter and complete an application for a job position
  • Discuss and reflect on the effectiveness of their business and marketing strategies.
  • Participate in a Publication Party to showcase their knowledge of Mayan culture and their business skills they developed during the project
  • Deliver effective oral presentations
  •  Presentation Software (such as PowerPoint)
  • Scanner
  • Art Supplies
  • Tracing Lamp/Overhead; tracing paper
  • Binders for each Committee
  • “Mailboxes” for Committee correspondence
  • Daily Blog (Blogger)
  • Publication websites: Students will need an on-demand Publication method. Some options are:
Mayan Community Project: Example of Project Timeline based on approximately 2 hours class time/day
Week 1
  • Introduction to project
  • Mayan calendar lesson and Trek Through Time PowerPoint
  • Break into focus research groups
Week 2
  • Research time
  • Learn Presentation & Question making skills
  • Research Notes due Thurs/Fri, January 15th/16th.
  • Start Presentation and Study Guide
Week 3
  • Start Reading Colibri by Ann Cameron
  • Continue Presentation Work
Week 4
  • Finish Presentation and Study Guide
  • Study Guide due for copying end of class Tues/Wed, Jan 27th/28th.
  • Learn about present situation in Guatemala
  • Excerpts from I, Rigoberta by Rigoberta Menchu
  • Continue reading Colibri
Week 5
  • Presentations Tuesday/Wednesday.
  • Picture Book study: Begin individual Picture Book Page
  • Persuasive writing lessons
  • Continue reading Colibri
Week 6
  • 1st draft Picture Book Page due Wednesday, February 11th.
  • Content quiz about presentations Wednesday.
  • Revision of Book Page and Gallery Walk
  • Application and Cover letter for Committee due Thursday.
  • Continue reading Colibri
Week 7
  • 2nd draft Picture Book Page due Tuesday, February 17th.
  • Art mini-lesson by Ms. Barrett
  • 1st draft of illustration due Wednesday, February 18th.
  • Continue Revision of Book Page and illustration and translations
  • Learn about writing business plans
  • Business Plan Presentations Thursday/Friday.
  • Finish reading Colibri
Week 8
  • Committee Work…Deadlines in effect
  • 2nd Draft Illustration due Monday
  • 3rd draft Book Page due Monday to the Senior Editors.
  • Colibri In Class Essay
  • Continue Editing & Revision of Book Page and illustration
  • Final draft Picture Book Page w/illustration due Friday, February 27th.
Week 9
  • Committee Work…Deadlines in effect
  • Book Publication Ready due Wednesday, March 4th.
Week 10
  • Committee Work…Deadlines in effect
  • Letter Writing and Class Sales Effort
Week 11
  • Final Committee Work
  • Letter Writing and Class Sales Effort
  • Work on Exhibition Presentations
Week 12
  • Final Exhibition of Work for Community
  • Book sales continue after project


*Since this is such an extensive project, there will be many graded activities throughout the project. The following is a list of some of the primary components of the students’ final grades.


  • Individual Research Notes 1: 20 points
  • Group Power Point: 50 points
  • PP Study Guide/Quiz Questions: 30 points
  • Content Quiz: 20 points

Book Page

  • First draft: 15 points
  • Second Draft: 15 points
  • Third Draft w/color illustration: 20 points
  • Completed Page & Completed Illustration: 80 pts

Business Phas

  • Business Plan: 50 points
Maya book project 001

Students drafting book pages


Katie visits Casa Rosario in Guatemala!
Katie, one of Heather’s students, was so moved by the project that she and her family visited the school in Guatemala that students supported with proceeds from their book.


Cover of book
Students designed the cover of their class book.