The iconic image of Mayan stone ruins have become a familiar representation of this historic culture. However, the houses of the Mayan people are less well known even though the architecture can still be found throughout the Mayan homeland. A great school project is the scale reconstruction of a Mayan home to teach that this culture was more than pyramids and sacrifices.

Draw an 8- by 4-inch rectangle on the styrofoam base. Measure in 1 1/2 inches from the corners in both directions and mark a dot. Round off the corners of the rectangle from each of these dots. You will now have an oval with the long sides being 5 inches curving to a 1-inch flat section on the short side.

Draw new dots at one-inch intervals on the long 5-inch side, which should be four new dots plus the two drawn previously. Mark two dots equidistant along each of the curves of the oval. There should now be 24 dots around the perimeter of the oval.

Cut the wooden sticks. You will need 24 to be 4 1/2 inches long for the wall uprights, two at 5 inches in length and four at 2 inches in length for the wall horizontal pieces, 24 pieces at 5 inches for the roof supports, and five pieces at 8 1/2 inches for the roof diagonals. Cut the pipe cleaners so that you have six at 6 inches and two at 3 inches in length. These will be for the wall and roof horizontals along the curved ends.

Push the 24 pieces that are for the wall uprights 1/2 into the styrofoam so that 4 inches is above the base. Using the metal twisty ties, attach a 5-inch roof support to the tops of the long sides of the oval. Use two of the 6-inch pipe cleaners on top of the curved ends. Glue in place with the contact cement.

Attach the 2-inch horizontal pieces on either side of a centre door 1/3 of the way up from the base and along one of the 5-inch straight sides of the oval using twisty ties and contact cement. There should be a 2-inch piece, 1-inch door, and a 2-inch piece. Attach the other two 2-inch pieces above, 1/3 of the way down from the top of the sticks.

Attach two of the 6-inch pipe cleaners horizontally 1/3 of the way up along the curved ends of the oval using twisty ties and contact cement. Attach the other two 6-inch pieces above 1/3 of the way down from the top. Similarly, attach the final two 5-inch pieces horizontally on the remaining straight side so that the ends connect with the pipe cleaners. The supports of the walls are now complete.

Attach four of the 5-inch roof supports at each end of the straight sides and opposite each other using twist ties and contact cement. Insert a 5-inch roof support to run between them parallel to the long side of the oval. This will be the roof ridge beam.

Attach the remaining 20 roof supports using metal ties and contact cement. They should rest above the wall supports and lay against the roof ridge beam. Attach a 5-inch stick horizontally along the straight side of the oval midway between the top of the wall and the roof ridge beam. Using the 3-inch pipe cleaners, connect these two horizontals around the curved ends. The roof supports are now complete.

Cover the roof and walls with the burlap ribbon leaving an opening for the door. Hold in place with dabs of contact cement.

Mix the plaster of Paris with water according to directions. Dip the newspaper strips in the plaster and wrap around the vertical walls leaving the opening for the door. Allow to dry.

Attach the raffia to the burlap of the roof using contact cement. Once dry, trim the raffia to follow the roof line so that it looks like thatch. The model Mayan house in now complete.

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The horizontal supports are historically accurate but could be removed to simplify the project. Most walls were painted white, but children could paint Mayan hieroglyphs and symbols as well.