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Feb 24, 2005

Students look at ancient & modern Maya

Story PictureBelize may be a land of many cultures but not all those various groups are necessarily found living together in one place. The Maya, for example, may be Belize’s oldest residents but most urban Belizeans outside of Toledo would not be familiar with their lifestyle. That challenge to educators is being met by a new exhibit in Belize City. Patrick Jones reports.

Patrick Jones, Reporting
With pen and notebook in hand, Standard Five students of St. Mary?s Primary School were the first to view the latest exhibition at the House of Culture, focussing on the Maya. Researcher with the Institute of Social and Cultural Research, Froyla Salam, says the displays are set out to help children make a connection with the Maya, both ancient and modern.

Froyla Salam, Researcher, ISCR
?The similarities were based on archaeological evidence. That?s the only way we know how the ancient people lived. So for example I used sections dealing with technology and with the cultivation of corn, the use of cacao for example in the past period to today. So certain things that we know for a fact existed in the ancient time and are still in existence today. There is a section that covers fruits. I didn?t include the banana, because the banana is a recent product. So the exhibition specifically focuses on things that we have records of existing in the past and are still used today.?

Salam says that ?The Rural Maya: Ancient and Modern? exhibition is based almost exclusively on research covered in the African and Maya Studies programme which was introduced to the primary school curriculum last year.

Froyla Salam
?And again when I was doing the exhibition putting it together, I kept using information they are getting in class to here. So in a way it?s almost like a hands-on experience, short of them going into the villages.?

And for some of the children and their teacher, the field trip to the end of Regent Street was like going into the heart of Toledo.

Candice Coye, Standard 5 Teacher, St Mary?s Primary School
?Yes it does because it gives the students a more fuller idea of what the Mayan and African civilizations are all about.?

Fidencio Pop, Standard 5 Student, St. Mary?s
?It?s kind of easy yes. Because you can learn from the way that they are saying, from the Mayans. The Mayans have been here from a long time and their food was a little bit nice. We just tried some of it too. And many things else.?

Froyla Salam
?Well just from the reaction I had when I took the students through, there was this fascination and a real interest in the Maya. The Maya wasn?t just something in a text book anymore; the Maya was living and that they are part of it. You know, corn tortilla for example, I don?t think they actually really thought about where corn came from or who had used it before they used it today. So I think from that perspective the kids could make a connection with what they are doing today with the past. Make a connection with their history to a certain extent.?

Patrick Jones, for News 5.

Salam says while the exhibition is targeted mainly at students taking part in the African and Maya Studies project, anyone interested in the history of the rural Maya is welcome to view the displays. The exhibition runs through the middle of March.

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