Library Day 2 – Masks & Mayan Folklore

by Melissa Mejia and Camlin Vinayagamoorthy

Library Day 2 was a great success! We led the program for Grades 4-6 which entailed a dramatized oral storytelling performance based on David Wisniewski’s The Rain Player, a Mayan folktale about the power of unity within a community. The story explores the relationship between humans, nature, and wildlife all depending on one another to end the heavy drought that has threatened their existence. In our adapted version we also added the role of the library in providing the humans access to information on how and where to find the wisdom of the animals in the rainforest. In the library he discovers that he needs the strength of the Jaguar, the silent speed of the Quetzal, and the resourcefulness of the Cenote to defeat the wickedness of the Rain God. It was a silent dramatization with a behind the scenes narrator so that students only experienced the visual performance of the volunteers who were each wearing a unique mask that differentiated their characters to the audience. There were also sound effects and music which the students enjoyed. 

Following the performance students were invited to create their own mask inspired by Mayan folklore, however some decided to personalize their mask in a unique way such as adding pharaoh inspired beards, blushed cheeks, and emoji inspired expressions. If time permitted certain groups were also given the opportunity to participate in a hands on scavenger hunt that would reinforce their knowledge of the library collections.

Our goal with this program was to connect literacy as a vital part of the community through Mayan folklore that depicts a positive relationship between humans, wildlife, and the library. Students learned about the preservation of the Mayan culture through the storytelling performance and the mask workshop while also learning about the preservation of the library materials through a scavenger hunt that teaches them how to properly navigate the library. What we learned throughout the performances was that students were thrilled to see a different form of storytelling unfold right before their eyes.  The efforts from the students in creating their own personalized masks showed us that ultimately they each had their own story, and by creating and wearing that unique mask they gained the confidence in sharing their own story.

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