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The Kid Should See This, Odyssey Earth


3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th


Science, Social Studies, Biology, History

Resource Types

  • Videos, 7 minutes, 50 seconds, CC, Subtitles
  • Articles and Websites

Regional Focus

North America, South and Central America

The Maya Milpa Cycle, a Sustainable Forest Gardening Method

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  • This engaging video explains how ancient Mayan farmers cultivated forest gardens, a practice that continues to influence the way that modern Mayan farmers grow crops today.
  • Students will learn that this sustainable farming method prevents erosion and requires no plowing, pesticides, or fertilizers.
Teaching Tips


  • In a world where "new" is often synonymous with "better," this video will challenge students to see the value of learning ancient and traditional methods.
  • The video includes engaging footage from the forests of Belize and Mexico to sustain student interest. 

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should be familiar with the terms archeologist, agriculture, monoculture, biodiversity, erosion, sustainable, and mechanized.
  • Teachers may wish to pause at 3:08 so that students can read the definition of the word milpa.
  • An advertisement pop-up might appear at the bottom of the video. 


  • Art or science classes could make visual representations of a milpa. Students could choose to draw, make a collage, or make three-dimensional models to explain how the 14-year cycle works. 
  • Earth science and biology classes could compare and contrast the Maya Milpa Cycle with industrialized Western farming practices, particularly how they differ in their effects on water quality, biodiversity, and land use changes. 
  • Other resources on this topic include this lesson plan on farming and the climate, this video about regenerative agriculture, and this article about how forests absorb carbon.

Scientist Notes
Monoculture and mechanized, industrial agriculture has been both beneficial and harmful to humans. This video showcases Mayan forest agriculture and explains how it is much more sustainable than current modern practices. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
      • MS-LS2-5 Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.
      • 5-LS2-1 Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Geography
      • D2.Geo.4.3-5 Explain how culture influences the way people modify and adapt to their environments.
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