In the Classroom

How to use this book in your classroom

As with any great text, there is a plethora of ways to use this book in your classroom.

Explore below for some ideas, and watch for updates on a future Teaching Guide to be published!

Use Margarito's Forest for:

  • Read alouds on Earth Day
  • Math lesson on Mayan Number systems
  • Spanish language study*
  • A model for art collages*
  • International celebrations
  • Teaching environmental awareness
  • Introducing the concept of sanctuary to young people
  • Teaching empathy and inclusion
  • Teaching the importance of storytelling
  • Introducing an interview-a-relative project
  • Understanding the impact of conflict
  • Introduce a classroom to gardening

* See examples of student work below


Discussion Questions/Activities


  1. Dona’ Guadelupe told Esteban that caring for the land and respecting all of creation were the traditional ways of the Maya. She said she had learned these traditional ways from her father, Don Margarito. What are some important things that you have learned from your parents?
  2. As a child Margarito liked to go exploring in the woodlands to find new and interesting plants and animals. Where do you like to go exploring? What discoveries have you made in these places?
  3. Margarito’s questions about plants and animals led him to the village holy man, Don Calixto. When you have questions, where do you go to find answers?
  4. Don Calixto taught Margarito how to count the days and follow the cycles of the earth in planting and harvesting. Why do you think the ancient Maya needed to count the days? How do you think the Maya learned to predict the cycles of the seasons? What in nature can you use to tell things about the seasons?
  5. When the army came to destroy Dona’ Guadelupe’s village, she fled into the jungle with her two young children. But Don Margarito would not leave his land, and he was killed. Throughout history there have been people with the courage to die for what they believe. Can you think of any other people in history who have been willing to die for their beliefs?
  6. When Dona’ Guadelupe fled into the jungle with her two young children, they survived by eating weeds and roots. How did she know which plants she could eat? Do you know any wild plants that you can eat?
  7. People in the village laughed at Margarito for planting trees instead of planting more corn and beans. But he was not bothered by their teasing because he believed that his forest was important. Have you ever been teased or taunted by someone who did not agree with what you were doing?
  8. When Dona’ Guadalupe and Esteban planted his seedling, they lit a candle to ask the Earth’s blessing. Lighting a candle when planting was a Maya ritual that Dona’ Guadelupe learned from her father. Does your family have any rituals?
  9. The Mayan people held a deep love and respect for the land. If we adopted the Maya way, how would we live differently in our community?
  10. Why is it important to plant and care for forests? What do they contribute to our lives or to the condition of planet earth?

Education Resources

If you would like to learn more about trees you can go to this website: http://extension.illinois.edu/trees1/16.html

Here is a fun scavenger hunt activity that you can do with your class: http://ellenjmchenry.co/botany-scavenger-hunt/

Student Work

How the book has been used

This is an example of an art and Spanish language project that was done in a 2nd grade classroom at a public school in Chicago. The students read the book, created their own versions of the illustrations, and practiced their writing by copying the captions in English and Spanish.

These are selected pages from Elliot Papczun's illustrations from Spanish class. Note the Mayan numeration, Spanish and English captions from the story, along with the details in the illustrations that correspond to the original.

This reinforces various ways to tell a story-- in various languages, through images, and with different number systems.