Grades K-2: The Huichol Community of Mexico: Communicating with Symbols
Students get an introduction to Mexico's Huichol people and the importance of community and nature in their culture. Students also learn how symbols can communicate visual stories.
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
- Learn about the Huichol Indians of Mexico through class discussion and reading The Journey of Tunuri and the Blue Deer, a book by James Endredy
- Design a visual story using personal symbols
- Make a Huichol bead painting using large paper shapes
- Create a Huichol-inspired class mural that reflects the themes of community and nature
- The Journey of Tunuri and the Blue Deer by James Endredy
- Glue (tacky glue works best)
- Paper cups or small paper plates
- Pompoms or poster board circles in assorted colors
- Poster board in assorted colors
- Photocopies of nature and animal images
- Huichol Image 1 (PDF)
- Huichol Image 2 (PDF)
- Huichol Image 6 (PDF, sun detail provided from the mural New Awakening, National Museum of Mexican Art Permanent Collection)
- Huichol Symbol Reference Chart (PDF)
Day 1: Introduction/Activity
Step 1: Review the Huichol Background Information and introduce the topic to the class by asking if they know where Mexico is in relation to the U.S. Show the countries on a map of North America.
Step 2: Introduce the class to the Huichol people, emphasizing their strong beliefs about nature and their practice of communicating with symbols. Refer to Image 1 and Image 2 and to the Huichol Symbols handout.
Step 3: Ask your students to think of examples that demonstrate their feelings about nature in the following story. You might add that the pictures in the story are all handmade with yarn by the Huichol people.
Step 4: Have students read The Journey of Tunuri and the Blue Deer by James Endredy. Give students enough time to view the characters on each page and point out that these are actual details from Huichol works of art. Stop at the end of every page to ask comprehension questions and give students time to answer individually or as a class.
Some questions to ask (in this order) include:
- How did Tunuri get lost? How would you feel if you realized you were lost?
- Why is the sun important to things on earth?
- Why do you think Brother Wind is important in this story?
- How many ways can Tunuri (and all of us) feel Sister Water? Name them.
- How does Mother Earth give us life, food, shelter, and love?
- How does Grandfather Fire tell Tunuri to find him when he is lost?
- If you were Tunuri, how would you describe your journey to the rest of your family?
Day 2: Reflecting on Community
Step 1: After discussing the story with the class, explain to the students that the characters in the story and the ideas presented are what the Huichol people actually believe.
Step 2: Have students draw a picture (or pictures) about the Huichol people and nature on a sheet of paper. Remember to talk about community and how our community compares to the Huichol community. For example, the Huichol people all live together in the mountains of Mexico. Do we live in the mountains? Where do you live with your family?
Day 3: Using Visual Prompts
Step 1: Ask students to recall the story about Tunuri: “If you were only shown the pictures and not the words, would you still be able to tell the story?”
Step 2: The Huichol use symbols in their art to tell stories. Explain to the students that they will create a colorful work of art, similar to the Huichol bead paintings, to tell their story as a community.
Step 3: Distribute the picture of the sun detail from the New Awakening (Huichol Image 6 ), the mural on display at the National Museum of Mexican Art. Point out the details in this bead painting, asking questions about the colors and the additional images in the detail. What do you see in this picture? Remind students about Tunuri and all of the characters he encountered.
Day 4: Creating a Visual Story
Step 1: Have groups of four students collectively decide on a symbol that represents them as members of their community. Use the photocopies of nature or animal images as examples. These photocopies will be the templates in the next step.
Step 2: Distribute a 10-inch-square piece of cardboard to each group of four students. Each group should cut out the image they have chosen and trace it to the cardboard.
Step 3: Using the large colored pompoms as "beads," students will add glue to one side and place it on the traced image. Make sure the students know the planned color scheme. For example, if the bird in the picture is supposed to be red, then the students should glue all the red pompoms on the bird.
Step 4: Lastly, give the finished poster time to dry and display the textured image from each group in the classroom.
Step 5: Wrap up by discussing how everyone made these beautiful pictures together as a community. Why is this important? What would happen if we didn’t work together as a community? What would happen to the earth if we didn’t care for it?
Day 5: Making a Huichol Mural for the Classroom
Step 1: Tell your students that they will now create a mural of their Huichol pieces by bringing all of the poster board squares together to create one large mural. 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.
Step 2: As a class, give the mural a title. Display it prominently in the classroom, or better yet, in the hallway so the whole school can appreciate the work.
Step 3: Have students describe their design and why they chose it. After they have finished, each group may present their design to the class, explaining why they chose the design and what it means to them. Open up the presentations to questions from the class.
(For reading The Journey of Tunuri and the Blue Deer)
Journey: A long trip.
Something that is very important and treated as special.
(For creating the Huichol art project)
Shape: A form such as a square, triangle, cone, or cube.
Mural: A large picture painted directly on a wall, either inside or outside a building.
Extended Classroom Connections
- For an additional language arts activity for second grade, read When Animals Were People by Bonnie Larson, or The Tree that Rains: The Flood Myth of the Huichol Indians of Mexico by Emery Bernhard. These children's books give additional information on Huichol beliefs and, naturally, may be simplified by the instructor.
- Visit the Huichol Center online for coloring pages.
- Na-Va.K-4.4 Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures
- Na-Va.K-4.5 Reflecting Upon and Assessing the Characteristics and Merits of Their Work and the Work of Others
- Nl-Eng.K-12.1 Reading for Perspective
- Nl-Eng.K-12.4 Communication Skills
Huichol Images are details of:
"El Nuevo Amanecer/The New Awakening," 2003Art direction by Santos Motoaopohua de la Torre de Santiago with assistance by Graciela de Santiago Gonzalez, Catarino Roblez Cocio, Felipa Molina Valdez, Mariano Carrillo Rolando and Guadalupe Carrillo de la Cruz.Chaquira beads in campeche wax on wood,
94 ¾" x 118 ¾"
National Museum of Mexican Art Permanent Collection, 2004.7.1-80
Purchase made possible by Davis Bancorp.