Mexico- Fried Crickets

MEXICO: It is very common in many parts of Mexico to eat, well, bugs. Really! Evidently, Mexico is the country with the greatest variety of edible insects: 549 species. Some insects (like chapulines) are eaten fried but plain, while others (like scorpions)–as one of my colleagues experienced–can be mixed in with guacamole, mole, or other sauces.

“CHICATANAS (giant winged ants): When the first rains of the season hit Oaxaca, ants with coin-size wing spans spin into the air to escape their flooded nests and to search for food. Snatching at them are the hands of locals seizing their next snack. Chicatanas only come out one night a year, so families come together with a sense of urgency and excitement; kids make a game of seeing who can collect the most (and avoid getting bitten).”


En lieu of traveling abroad with my second graders, I buy a few boxes of fried crickets locally or on Amazon, and students have the opportunity–read: option–to taste them in class after we talk about the history and how everyone around the world eats and enjoys all different foods. To provide examples of this fact, we compared school lunches from a variety of countries (scroll down to slideshow on link).

To entice younger students to participate, there are even fun cricket flavors to whet their appetites, such as: Bacon & Cheese, Salt & Vinegar, and Sour Cream & Onion. This jumpstarts a unit on courage and stepping outside of your comfort zone in my classroom (soy valiente/ I am courageous).

BACKSTORY: I stumbled onto all of this a number of years ago after hearing the song, Un mes by the Colombian singer Mara, in a Zumba class. The lyrics referenced a “chapulín colorado”, and I wanted to know what that was. While the words literally mean, “red grasshopper” (which led to pics of bugs; see above), El Chapulín Colorado was also a Mexican television comedy show from the 1970’s that parodied superheroes. Clearly, there is room for this unit to go in many different directions!

Recipes- Central America

Food from Central America and beyond to make at home with your family. Turn on the radio to a Spanish station, and have fun! Note that the recipes are ordered alphabetically by country.

Central America & Beyond

Mexico- Chocolate

MEXICO: After taking time to learn about molinillos, or the [beautiful!] wooden tools used to stir chocolate in Mexico (see video below), students practiced a hand clapping rhyme about cho-co-la-te. Younger students learn another well-known rhyme: bate, bate chocolate, tu nariz de cacahuate.

Some year, we will dive deep into the history of chocolate (Jennifer Martinez @EverythingJustSo has an extensive packet on this)–but this year was not the one. However, fourth graders did figure out how to do the clapping rhyme in a circle, with a big group of people. We also changed the ‘playback speed’ to super fast and then super slow on the clapping video below. Fun, fun, fun! This lesson is great for both vowels and coordination.

Mexico- Radish Festival

MEXICO: Mexico has a lot of holiday traditions this time of year, but one particularly unique one is Noche de los Rábanos (Night of the Radishes) in Oaxaca. Here, people spend all day long carving radishes into beautifully intricate sculptures; they earn cash prizes for the best ones. Watch the videos to learn more, and then try to carve your own radish sculpture (with an adult).

LINKS:  Radish Carving Festival Article (Mexico)Night of the Radishes (Mexico)Night of the Radishes Photos (Mexico)

Mexico- Hammocks

MEXICO: The Yucatan in Mexico is known for its hammock culture, especially amongst the indigenous Maya people. Here, 2/3 of children sleep in hammocks instead of beds, and there are even hammocks in hospitals! In the US, many hammocks are used outside; the difference is that these hammocks replace beds and are inside. Watch the short video below to see the beautiful & labor-intensive weaving process.

For this challenge, string up your own DIY hammock with a sheet and paracord/twine/rope, either for yourself, or a miniature one for a beloved stuffed animal (or pet?). Attach it to your bedpost, a chair, or even a tree outside. Be sure to ask your parents first so that you choose a safe place. Finally, put on some music in Spanish and relax in your hammock. C’est la vie!

More Links: Hammocks- YT, Hamaca- Slides

Mexico- Cinco de Mayo

Anónimo, Batalla del 5 de mayo de 1862, óleo sobre tela, Museo Nacional de las Intervenciones, Exconvento de Churubusco, INAH. Imagen tomada del libro: Eduardo Báez, La pintura militar en el siglo XIX, México, Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, 1992, p. 1

MEXICO: Cinco de Mayo means “May 5th” in Spanish. It is celebrated especially in Puebla, Mexico, but has become popular in the United States to recognize Mexican culture in general. Historically, it is important because while Mexico’s army was the underdog and expected to lose a battle way back in 1862, the French & Napoleon (Francia/ France) actually lost.

You see, France was angry because Mexico had not paid back money they owed them; instead, the president Benito Juarez gave the money [he owed France] to his people instead, who were suffering (poverty, etc.). France decided that enough was enough, and went to invade the country, anticipating that it would be an easy win; however, something unexpected occurred that day: it started raining cats and dogs, which created huge mudslides on the hills surrounding the small town of Puebla… and allowed the Mexican army to win, proving the impossible possible.

In class, students made flags to represent each country (México/Francia), were divided into two groups, set up glue sticks to represent the armies (France’s army was really big; Mexico’s was small), built a circle out of blocks to represent the hills surrounding the town in Mexico, and then the French army group pretended to fall/slide down the hill as they listened to rainstorm sound effects on the Promethean board. Later, we celebrated with Mariachi music. ASIDE: immediately following this lesson last year, it started absolutely pouring, so kindergarteners thought that they had made it rain!!!

Other years, we have extended this project to talk about sombreros and sombras (shade/shadows) vs. luz/light (natural y artificial). Activities to do at home include the following: make your own sombrero; choose a different craft from THIS LIST; play Shadow Tag outside; take 3-5 photos of interesting sombra/shadow shapes; and/or cook something HERE. The Burrito Zucchini Boats look fun!

LINKS: Batalla de Puebla, The 5 Magical Towns of Puebla That You Should Not Miss, Mexican Metal Tooling, Ojo de Dios (Huichol), Talavera

Mexico- Crystal Caves

MEXICO: The Giant Crystal Cave is a cave connected to the Naica Mine in Mexico with massive crystals. The average person can only stay inside for ten minutes because there is 99% humidity, whoa!

For this challenge, grow your own crystals at home with Epsom salts, food coloring, and a bowl. Turn off the air conditioning if you want to enhance the cave simulation, haha! Skip to 5:23 in the video below to learn more.

LINKS: Cueva de los Cristales- Naica (Mexico), Naica Mine (Mexico)

Image Credit

Mexico- Chewing Gum

MEXICO: Making natural chewing gum is a fascinating, time-consuming, and dangerous job that dates back to the Mayas in the Yucatan. Chicleros climb high up to slash zig-zag patterns in the sapodilla trees with a machete, let the sap drain out, and then boil it until it turns into a thick paste, stirring all the while. They must be careful to avoid jaguars in the forest and falling machetes. Watch the videos below to learn more about this process.

One year, students painted red zig-zags on actual bark they found outside, and even tried their hand at melting Starbursts with a hairdryer–since they didn’t have access to sapodilla trees or machetes! This process led to third graders brainstorming about how to start their own business, with the idea of selling the “chicle” they were “producing” (read: re-selling melted Starbursts). While the business plan fizzled after a while, it was great to see them thinking like entrepreneurs.

Mexico- Underwater Museum

MEXICO: In 2005, someone noticed that tourists, anchors, snorkelers, and divers were damaging the coral reefs in Mexico–in particular, the Manchones Reef. By 2013, an underwater museum (MUSA/Museo Subacuático de Arte) had been created around the reef, in order to help protect it. Currently, there are about 500 sculptures that have been placed in the ocean. In class, students took an old fish tank and made their own waterproof sculptures to place underwater. This was fantastic, until the tank started leaking! Beyond the physical representation, it would be easy to extend this project into a discussion about how observant and considerate we are of others and the world in which we live, particularly because the exhibit:

shows how humans can live with nature and make a workable future between the two, but also how humans have damaged nature, specifically the coral reefs, and show no sympathy. The statues in The Silent Evolution show how some humans see their surrounding and embrace [it] while others hide their faces. Each statue was made to resemble members of a local fishing community where Taylor lives. Each statue has its own personality and features. Taylor made sure every detail from the hair to the clothes of the statues was perfect. They include a little girl with a faint smile on her face looking up to the surface; six businessmen with their heads in the sand, not paying attention to their surroundings; and even a man behind a desk with his dog lying him, but looking tired and uninvolved in the environment.

LINKS: MUSA- Underwater Museum (Mexico)

Mexico- Chichen Itza

MEXICO: This pyramid is called “El Castillo” in Chichen Itza (2:19-2:36). It was built hundreds of years ago by the Maya civilization, but the amazing part here is that twice a year, exactly on the Spring and Fall equinoxes, a shadow appears that aligns perfectly with a serpent’s head. How did the Maya figure this out?

For project ideas, one year Lower School students created almost 400 miniature cubes to literally build “El Castillo”. This year, third graders are using LED lights to create a shadow of the serpent’s tail inside a diorama. Aside: The video below is subtitled in Chinese, but narrated in English.

LINKS: Chichen Itza (Mexico)Chichen Itza (de noche)Chichen Itza (2:19-2:36)Pyramid/20 Story High Apt. Bldg., 10 Chichen Itza Facts, Early Indigenous Knowledge of Astronomy, Los cielos de América- Chichen Itza, Chichen Itza in 4K, Constellation Maps- Printable, Chichen Itza ‘El Castillo’ Coloring Page

Mexico- Alebrijes

MEXICO: Alebrijes are mythical-type creatures and spirit animals. You may remember the alebrije Dante if you have seen the movie Coco. The origin of this art had an interesting beginning (read below). Fifth graders created their own alebrije out of papier-mâché.

“In 1936, when he was 30 years old, [Pedro] Linares fell ill with a high fever, which caused him to hallucinate. In his fever dreams, he was in a forest with rocks and clouds, many of which turned into wild, unnaturally colored creatures, frequently featuring wings, horns, tails, fierce teeth and bulging eyes. He heard a crowd of voices repeating the nonsense word “alebrije.” After he recovered, he began to re-create the creatures he’d seen, using papier-mâché and cardboard” (Source).

Mexico- Día de los Muertos

MEXICO: El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) is a day to honor family members who have passed away. This tradition dates back to the Aztecs. People believe that spirits come back to visit us from Oct. 31-Nov. 2nd. The skeletons you see are very happy to be reunited with their loved ones.

People make ofrendas, or altars, in their homes to remember and honor their dearly departed. The movie Coco is a great introduction to this Mexican holiday, as well as the cortometraje/ short film below. Keep scrolling to see an infographic contrasting Halloween and the Day of the Dead–they are not the same!

LINKS: Article- Muy Bueno; 24 Day of the Dead Activities for Kids; Jigsaw Puzzle; Customs & Traditions (SpanishMama); Day of the Dead, Day of the Dead- Flavor; Day of the Dead; Receta de Pan de Muerto; Image #1, Image #2, Image #3, Image #4

Movies & Songs

Read Alouds & Coloring Sheets

In Guatemala…

DIY- Flowers, Makeup, & Papel Picado

Halloween vs. Día de Muertos

Full article & credit HERE.