Unit Plans, Writing Activities
Grades 6-8: The Huichol Community of Mexico: Communicating with Symbols
Learn about the Huichol people of Mexico and the importance of community and nature in their culture. Discuss their importance in our own lives.
- Grades: 6–8
- Learn about the history and symbolic art of the Huichol Indians of Mexico
- Write a story using a visual as a prompt
- Design a visual story using personal symbols
- Create a Huichol inspired class mural that analyzes and reflects the themes of community and nature
- Organize a school-wide presentation and mural unveiling
NL-ENG. K-12.1 Reading for Perspective
NL-ENG. K-12.2 Understanding the Human Experience
NL-ENG. K-12.4 & 12.5 Communication Skills & Strategies
NL-ENG. K-12.9 Multicultural Understanding
NL-ENG. K-12.11 Participating in Society
NL-ENG. K-12.12 Applying Language Skills
NA-VA.5-8.3 Choosing and Evaluating a Range of Subject Matter, Symbols and Ideas
NA-VA.5-8.4 Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures
NA-VA.5-8.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
Watakame’s Journey: The Story of the Great Flood and the New World by Hallie N. Love
Large plastic beads in assorted colors
SET UP & PREPARE
1. Cut cardboard into 6-inch x 6-inch squares
2. Read Background Information study aid on the Huichol
REPRODUCIBLE STUDY AIDS
- Huichol Image 1
- Huichol Image 2
- Huichol Image 3
- Huichol Image 4
- Huichol Image 5
- Huichol Image 6
- Map and Huichol Background Information
- Huichol Symbols Reference Chart
Day 1: Introduction/Discussion
1. Guide students in a small group discussion using some of these questions as prompts. Students may work in groups and report their answers to the rest of the class.
- What does community mean?
- How many kinds of community can there be?
- How many do you belong to?
- What do or can communities do together?
2. As you distribute copies of Huichol Image 1 and Image 2 to each group, explain to students that in the mountains of northwestern Mexico, a community of Huichol (wee-chol) Indians have been creating beautiful art for centuries. Their artistic and symbolic creations reflect their spiritual wisdom and identity, communicating myths, legends and beliefs. The Huichol continue to practice religious ceremonies honoring creation to this day. (For more details, see the Map and Huichol Background Information .)
3. Using the Huichol Symbols Reference Chart , direct students to examine the images you distributed. Ask them to identify some of the Huichol symbols and discuss their meanings. For example, you could find representations of the four elements: earth, water, wind and fire. (Flowers come from the earth, candles represent fire, birds fly through the wind, corn needs water to grow, etc.)
- Which symbols do you recognize?
- Which symbols are new to you?
- Based on two images, which plant is more important to the Huichol?
- Which animals do you think are very important and how can you tell?
- Are there any symbols that are repeated in both images?
- Are there some symbols that are unique to one image? What do you think they are?
2. Direct students to take a close look at the figures, colors and shapes in the Huichol bead painting and answer the following questions. The answers will help them create the characters, setting and plot.
- When and where does the story take place?
- What are the names of the characters?
- Can you describe in detail what they are like?
- What was the scene before this image?
- How does the story begin?
- What is happening in the bead painting?
- What are the characters thinking?
- What will happen next?
- What will the characters do? Why?
- How does the story end?
Day 3: Creating a Visual Story
1. Show students Huichol Image 5 and explain to them that they are looking at a Huichol yarn painting that depicts an offering of a deer to Grandfather Fire. The artist has chosen those symbols to represent an important ritual that the community performs in order to keep the universe in balance. Ask your students to identify some of the symbols they recognize.
2. Have students brainstorm symbols that represent themselves, their family or their community so they can create a visual story about their identity. Each student should list at least four symbols and explain their significance.
3. Next, ask students to make a sketch of their symbols, drawing each on a 6-inch-square piece of paper. Explain that many Huichol symbols are geometric and symmetrical.
4. Once they have drawn their symbols in pencil, have students trace the outlines of their symbols with a dark marker and color in the shapes or empty spaces using markers of bright, and contrasting colors. To create a textural look, they can fill in the shapes with circular lines to resemble yarn or with colored circles to resemble beads. (See samples below.) Or as an additional challenge, they may glue on yarn and mount the piece on cardboard to prevent the paper from warping. (See Huichol Image 5 .)
5. Direct students to write a brief explanation of their Huichol inspired visual story on the back of their piece or make a symbol reference chart to accompany their visual story.
Day 4: Reflecting on your Community
1. Organize students into small groups and ask them to read a story about the Huichol creation myth entitled Watakame’s Journey: The Story of the Great Flood and the New World, by Hallie N. Love.
2. As students read along and you check for comprehension, ask students to make a list of the natural elements valued by the Huichol (sun, earth, moon, animals, wind, water, etc.). When they are finished with the story, ask them to compare and contrast how their family or community views those same elements.
3. Using this new knowledge of the Huichol and their nature-based philosophy, ask students to think about how their community feels about the environment. For homework, ask them to make a list of positive and negative environmental issues that they would like to raise to their community. They may interview family and friends to investigate further and add to their list.
Days 5-7: Making a Huichol Mural for the Classroom
1. Ask students to use their notes and research to develop at least 6 symbols that represent elements of nature, people, animals, events or ideas. The symbols should communicate messages about their community’s environmental issues.
2. Direct students to sketch the symbols on a separate sheet of paper before they transfer them to a 6-inch-square piece of cardboard and begin their Huichol-inspired bead painting. Students should follow these instructions:
|STEP 1||STEP 2||STEP 3||STEP 4|
|Gather materials: cardboard, beads, glue and poster board||Transfer and trace the outlines of symbols directly onto the cardboard||Fill in one symbol at a time by gluing beads directly onto the cardboard||Glue beads onto all empty spaces so the entire panel is covered with beads|
3. Once students finish their squares, they should glue them to a larger poster board, forming a mural. You can glue, tape or staple the larger poster boards together until all student pieces are included. The entire mural should form a square or a rectangle. To complete the project, offer extra credit to students who create more than one panel. (Show students Huichol Image 6 as an example.)
4. Have all students work together on the dedication program, presenting their individual pieces as well as the overall message of the mural. In addition, ask them to focus on how their classroom worked in community.