Creative ways to integrate "The Sport of Life and Death" exhibition and web site into the classroom.

Lesson Plan 1:
Make a Paper Face mask

Lesson focus:

Students will design a symmetrical face mask based on symbolic animal images found in the ancient Mesoamerican ballgame.

Learning objectives:

  • Identify animal symbolism found in Mesoamerican Art.
  • Recognize how personification of information and ideas is influenced by social, cultural, political, and historical events.
  • Learn to make geometric and organic abstraction from observation. Organize and use the elements and principles of design.
  • Recognize 3-D objects from different perspectives, and congruent plane figures after transformation: reflection and bilateral symmetry.

Pottery figures of two male dancers wearing jaguar masks. From the Veracruz region of Mexico. A.D 400-600. Mint Museum of Art


Curriculum connections (Grades 3-5):

Background information:


  • Printout of Chart to help identify congruent planes (Print from web site.)
  • Printout of templates used to make bilateral animal mask (available at this site.) Click on a template and print the page: jaguar, deer, eagle, crocodile, owl, rabbit, quetzal
  • Bristol weight paper or Strathmore cover stock in contrasting colors of turquoise/rust; yellow ochre/rust; or rust/black. Two sheets for each student.
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Hole punch
  • Elastic or string to fit under student's chin
  • Plastic or wooden animal models (see animal symbolism list)


  • ART TERMS: personification, zoomorphic, symmetry, bilateral, congruent plane, reflection
  • CONTENT TERMS: symbol, ritual, quetzal, macaw, jaguar, howler monkey, maize, hacha

Pacing: 3rd, 4th grades: Three 45 minute sessions


  1. Discuss personification in the animal and number head glyphs of Mesoamerican ballgame imagery.
  2. Introduce congruent plane identification using quetzal bird chart (print from site.)
  3. Demonstrate abstraction into simple organic shapes on overhead projector or board working from three-dimensional models of jaguar, rabbit, macaw, alligator.
  4. Demonstrate translation of 1/2 frontal drawing to paper that has been folded in half at center.
  5. Hand out animal mask templates (available from web site) and scissors. Have students practice bilateral design and cutting two sheets at a time. Animal mask templates: jaguar, deer, eagle, crocodile, owl, rabbit, quetzal (print from site.)
  6. Demonstrate how to draw pattern designs on top sheet with it still folded and cut out these shapes. Have students mimic this in practice on their activity sheet.
  7. Demonstrate construction method for simple face mask with 2 sheets of contrasting colored paper.
  8. Have students follow the process in a step by step sequence (make mask, punch holes, tie elastic.)

Math Extension:

Students will use the congruent plane chart with the quetzal bird to introduce the translation of shapes into different perspectives, frontal and profile.


  • Personification in animal effigy and zoomorphic forms in Mesoamerican art works.
  • Review congruent planes, transformation, reflection and bilateral symmetry.
  • Discuss the use of the animal symbolism in the cosmic diagram from the web site.



The Sport of Life & Death: The Mesoamerican Ballgame
A traveling exhibition sponsored by the Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC