Husband and wife team Mexicolore is putting Aztec culture firmly on the map. Thomas Watson reports
Twenty-five years ago, pupils struggled to point to Mexico on a map.
Nowadays, many already know the Aztec name for the Mexican capital (Tenochtitl u).
So says Ian Mursell, co-founder of the Mexicolore travelling show, which has been providing key stage 2 pupils with Mexican experiences since 1980.
Ian and his co-founder and wife, Graciela Sanchez, provide pupils with a hands-on travelling museum, where they are invited to touch and feel a range of Mexican-themed objects.
"Everything we talk about has an artefact," says Ian. Some items, such as musical instruments, are realistic modern-day replicas, but the team boasts a large number of genuine objects of the period.
Some 95 per cent of the show concentrates on the Aztecs, a factor attributed to Aztec history now forming part of the national curriculum.
Most school visits are designed for KS2, but the Mexicolore experience also covers KS1 geography.
Pupils taking in the two-hour show are encouraged to participate in activities to demonstrate life as it was for the Aztecs.
They get the opportunity to dress up in traditional clothing and perform tasks such as cooking with Aztec utensils and getting to know the farming equipment used in Aztec times. They also get the chance to form a market scene, then try their hand at becoming Aztec scribes, before closing with a traditional Mexican song and dance. All of this is achieved in a single morning session.
The Aztec-themed show developed from humble beginnings, when Graciela Sanchez, a former ballet dancer, was asked to visit her daughter's school as part of a "what my parents do" day.
As Ian explains: "The demonstration went so well that the teacher asked her to do it for the whole school."
Twenty-five years later, the Mexicolore show has brought Aztec culture on an interactive basis to more than 100,000 children, and the team is now experimenting with video conferencing to spread the message all over the world.
* Mexicolore Stand: B539 www.mexicolore.co.uk