Las Molas {Cultural Exploration}

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Every year I do this project with my second grade classes, and they are amazed at how beautiful and well crafted Molas are. I like to pretend that we are taking a trip together to the border of Panamá and Colombia to visit the Kuna-Yala people so we can learn firsthand about their art.

I use a map to locate the city and country where we currently live, and I use a paper airplane to travel from our homebase to the lands of the Kuna-Yala.

I also love using Google Earth to show pictures of the Kuna-Yala people and the places they live.

Many live on a small island in Panamá called San Blas, and they also live in small villages in Colombia in the "Darien Gap." They speak the Tule language, and some of them speak Spanish. They are famous because of their art which is called “Mola,” a term which also means clothes in the Tule language. The Kuna women are the ones in charge of making the molas that are part of their clothing. I take this opportunity to share pictures of a few molas with the children and ask them to describe them by naming the colors they see.

I observe the pictures with my students and share with them the fact that molas are made of three layers. Two of the layers are the same shape, but with different sizes, a small shape and a big shape, laid on top of one another to expose the different colors. Then, simple shapes are used around the main part of the art to decorate it. All the layers are usually of different colors and are sewn by hand.

The "Make Your Own Molas"  Art Project

In this project we will use the same basic technique, but instead of sewing, we will be using paper and

You will need:
1. Construction paper
2. Glue
3. Scissors
4. Mola templates. Grab them HERE!

Once you have the template, print them on pages of different colors. Have your students cut the shape out and they will look like the ones on the pictures below:

Putting your Mola together

1. Glue the bigger template on the blank sheet of paper (red on top of blank yellow here).

2. Glue the slightly smaller fish (red here) in the fish shape of the template.

3. Glue the smallest fish (yellow one here) on top of the small fish (red here).

5. Use a different color and glue strips and dots of paper on the other shapes (green bits here).

6. Add some shapes to the fish (green strips here), and you will have a beautiful Mola!

Download the template HERE!

Happy crafting!


My Classroom: Make Over - Home Edition

Wednesday, September 18, 2013
I used to be a traveling teacher, visiting classrooms all over the school, carrying heavy bags with everything I needed for class. After a few years of traveling, my school decided that I needed a room to settle and put a stop my itinerant ways :) I was so excited, but I forgot that to keep a classroom efficient and effective also takes time and energy. Somehow, it doesn't just happen magically!!

I decided to call this post "My Classroom: Make Over - Home Edition" because in the end, my classroom is the place where I spend most of my waking hours during the school year, maybe even more than my own tiny house.

This picture shows how everything looked when I first moved my stuff in:

First, I felt challenged to decide what theme I wanted in my classroom, and I finally decided that it was better to keep it simple for my sanity and my student's clarity of thought. I find it overwhelming when teachers put so many decorations in the room that cause children to get distracted - staring at colorful eye candy but not paying attention to the teacher or classmates. This is especially true for me, since I'm basically a big distractable kid, and I get attracted to whatever is around me in my environment. When there's too much, my head spins! So, I focused on what I needed to make a safe space for learning a foreign language with minimal distraction but still enough color and cultural elements.

This is what my room looks like now:

Flags that represent Spanish speaking countries.

A place to keep binders and folders for students' work.

Family photos to share with my students.

A place with pictures of important personalities and books about Spanish speaking countries.

A little peace "garden"

Classroom materials with labels
Art from different places in the world

A homemade puppet theater for my younger students

Useful phrases in Spanish

Monsters mimicking conversations about the calendar in Spanish.

Reminders in Spanish.

Maintaining one's classroom is a work in progress. I am sure I will rearrange it a few times before I optimize every single space for my students.

Happy teaching!

Quetzal Art and Craft

Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Quetzals are found in the highlands of Guatemala and Mexico. For this activity, find a map where you can locate Guatemala and Mexico. You can also use Google Earth and find locations where this beautiful bird lives. What a great opportunity to review colors and describe the differences between the male and female bird (those differences being colors and feather length) - even a chance to touch on science and social studies, too. More information may be found HERE

Here is a great video that you can share with your students:

To make the art and craft you will need:
1. Glue gun or craft glue
2. Green pompoms, different sizes
3. Pieces of red and yellow felt
4. Googly eyes
5. Piece of a branch or stick


1. Glue the pompoms together
2. Add googly eyes and use the yellow felt for the beak.
3. Use the red felt for the front of the bird.
4. Glue the green feather.
5. Glue the bird to the branch / stick.
6. Prepare the quetzal to sing in your room like this QUETZAL.

Happy crafting!

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