The Aztecs were originally a nomadic tribe of Mexico, roaming the open landscape in search of food and shelter. That is, until 1325, when they found their home in central Mexico and built the city of Tenochtitlan, known today as Mexico City. After settling, the Aztec people worked hard and expanded their empire. Over time, the city grew in size, holding nearly four times the amount of people in London. At an estimated 250,000 people, Tenochtitlan made its name as a city of rich art and distinct culture.
One of the most vibrant forms of Aztec art were the colorful masks they used during ceremonies and funerals. The masks have no eye holes, so it’s safe to assume that they weren’t meant to be worn — at least not by the living. However, the mouths of the masks...
Introduce Aztec masks, either by reading directly from the Background Information or sharing in your own words. Then, lead a short discussion to shed some light on Aztec masks:
Can you think of any other cultures or examples who would make masks to honor important figures? (Ancient Egyptians, ancient Romans, memorial statues/ busts…)
Why might the Aztecs make masks out of precious stones, instead of more common materials like clay or wood?
AZTEC MASKS (independent)
Using the template, Campers create their own Aztec masks! Either walk through the steps together or have students collaborate in groups. Depending on what inspires them, they may want to follow the steps closely or create their own designs.
CLEAN UP AND WRAP UP (whole group discussion)
Save scraps of construction paper for later, collect glue, pencils and scissors to use again and lead a short wrap up discussion:
Did you attempt to arrange the sizes of your tiles to describe facial features?
How much more difficult would this be if you had to make the mask out of jade?
What difficulties or troubles did you run into?
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