The Achievements and Challenges of Peru
(These lessons were originally posted on the Odyssey Worktrek website and with that site gone, many of these links are no longer accurate.)

The Odyssey is extremely grateful to the teachers at Bay Breeze Educational Resources for contributing these lessons for your use! Special thanks go to Maureen Carroll and Laurel Blaine.


Learning objectives for students

This unit is intended to focus on some of those aspects of Peruvian life and history that are of great significance to understanding the people of Peru today and their situation. By using or adapting the core lessons and activities, your students will learn about the following:

Students will be encouraged to develop a critical stance toward information. They will learn to evaluate evidence, consider sources, and study a variety of differing viewpoints. The goal for these lessons in the Teacher Zone is for students to develop an understanding of the culture of Peru and to develop critical thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

Lessons and activities for students


I. Introductory Activity - Finding Information on Peru and Assessing its Credibility


The purpose of this introductory lesson is for students to be exposed to the wide variety of information that is available about the country of Peru, and develop an awareness of how to determine a source's credibility.

Teacher Background:



Extended References for Peru


1. The first activity that students will pursue is a search for information about the country of Peru. Students will work in pairs for this activity. The information may be obtained through the use of the Internet, books or any other available resources. Any topic that contains information about the country of Peru may be used for this activity.

2. The student pairs will report back to the whole class on what they have learned, and discuss the sources of their information.

3. The class will be asked to develop a numerical rank order rating for all the sources they have obtained. They will discuss how to determine the credibility of a source.

4. The class will construct a rubric (a rating table- see example) that will consist of their decisions on how to determine a source's credibility.

II. Development and Peru


The purpose of this lesson is to develop an understanding of the concept of development and how it may be defined in particular cultural contexts. Students will be given the opportunity to think about the idea of development from a variety of perspectives. In the first activity, students focus on examining their own ideas about the concept. In the second activity, they will read two provocative articles in order to develop some beginning background knowledge about development in Peru. The purpose of the third activity is to situate understanding about development in Pre-Inca times and have students examine the nature of forces of change.

II.A. What is Development?


1. Students will brainstorm ideas about the word "development". The teacher will write these ideas on the board in the form of a map, with the word development at the center.

2. Students will be asked to situate themselves on the basis of numbers 1-5 to describe their position on whether development is "good" or "bad". A number 1 position would indicate that development is "good". A number 5 position would indicate that development is "bad".

3. Students will be asked to find someone who has a different number from them and spend ten minutes in discussion about their ideas. After five minutes, the students will be asked to switch roles and be able to clearly explain their partner's position.

4. The class will meet as a whole group and discuss any changes to be made to the class map as a result of their discussions. New ideas should be added to the "Development Brainstorming Map."

II.B. Development in Modern-day Peru


Reference Articles for Activity Two

  • -Newsweek (2/9/99) "In Search of a New El Dorado"
  • -CNN WEBSITE (2/28/99) "Behind the Innocence: Children in Peru Are Forced to Choose Between Brick and Book"


1. The students will divide into small groups. Each group will choose one of the following articles:

  • Newsweek (2/9/99) "In Search of a New El Dorado"
    This article examines investment in Latin America and compares today's investors with yesterday's conquerors.
  • CNN WEBSITE (2/28/99) "Behind the Innocence: Children in Peru Are Forced to Choose Between Brick and Book"
    This article describes how development impacts the lives of disadvantaged youths in Peru.

2. The focus of the group discussion should be on how each article addresses the notion of development. After 20 minutes, the class will meet as a whole and report on their small group discussions.

II.C. Forces of Change - Ancient Peru and the Modern World



1. Students will read the following excerpt about Pre-Inca cultures from von Hagen's book "Desert Kingdoms of Peru".

2. The teacher will pose the question: "Corn and civilization? What does this mean?"

3. The class will discuss the forces that change civilization and try to name modern day forces that have created change in civilization (i.e., technology, contact with other cultures, climate changes, war, disease, etc.) The class will compose a table entitled "Forces of Change" with the ideas they generate from discussion. The students will be encouraged to think of a symbol that represents each force of change they identify (for example, a computer may represent technology). The class will discuss how change may be characterized in different ways by different people with different perspectives.

III. Traditional Art and Architecture in Peru


The purpose of this lesson is to help students understand what art and architecture reveal about early Mesoamerica and Andean societies.

III.A. Reacting to Peruvian Art




1. Students will work in groups of four and visit some of the following websites that contain images of Peruvian architecture and art. Students will organize their groups according to the areas of ceramics and pottery; painting; masonry; textiles; and metal work. See above for suggested websites to begin investigations.

2. The students will be asked to respond to some aspect of what they have seen by composing a paragraph describing their reaction, comparing it to a piece of music they know, or linking what they see on this site to different aspects of their lives. The groups will chose a person to take notes on the discussion.

3. The class will meet as a whole group to discuss their findings, and look for commonalties in elements of art or architecture that students responded to.

4. The group will examine the elements they have chosen to explore and what they reveal about the role of art and architecture in the Andean culture.

5. Closing Activity:

A. Students will choose one particular piece of art or architecture that interests them.

B. Students will then choose one of the following story starters, and write a short story.

  • Imagine that you are a child living in Peru and you have been forced to leave your home to go to a new place because your village is having difficulty cultivating the rugged soil. Your parents have told you that you may only bring one item to remind you of your home. Write a story about the article you have chosen and include why you chose it, its significance to you; what it represents to your village; and memories you associate with it.
  • Imagine that your are living in ancient Peru. Choose a place that has special significance to you. Describe the place, what happened there, and why it is important to you.

III.B. The Nazca Lines - Pre-Incan Culture


The purpose of the lesson is to learn about the Nazca Lines.




1. The teacher will share pictures of the Nazca Lines with the students and have them hypothesize what they might be. These pictures can be obtained at the website noted above in Materials.

2. The teacher will share the background information about the Nazca Lines from the book by Kieran Falconer, Cultures of the World: Peru.

3. Students will work in pairs, and choose from the following activities:

Option One
  • Read the article referenced in Materials above that tells about tourists that ran over the Nazca Lines.
Option Two
  • Visit the website containing information about Maria Reiche, who has devoted her life to studying the Lines.
Option Three
  • Visit the two sites which provide an overview of different aspects of the Lines, and read about what interests you.
Option Four
  • Visit Yahoo, and type in "Nazca Lines" as a search word.
  • Visit different sites that explain how the Nazca Lines came about.

4. The students will be required to write five newspaper headlines that describe various elements about the Nazca Lines based on the information they have obtained.

5. The class will discuss the questions: How are the Nazca Lines related to other elements of Peruvian culture?

III.C. The Mochica - Pre-Incan Culture


Desert Kingdoms of Peru, The Mochica


1. Students will read the selection about the Mochica culture from "Desert Kingdoms of Peru".

2. The teacher will divide the class into small discussion groups. They will discuss the sentence, "The pottery of the Mochica's is their language…".

III.D. The Inca - Burial Artifacts


1. The class will divide into three groups. Each group will choose a burial artifact from each of the three sites listed above and describe how it is representative of the culture of ancient Peru.

III.E. Connecting with Inca Art and Architecture -
Commercials and Virtual Journeys


The purpose of this lesson is for students to integrate what they have learned about art and architecture in Andean societies and create a small project.


1. Imagine that you have been asked to film a commercial about the role of art and architecture in Andean society. Your commercial may only be one minute long. Your goal may be to capture the essence of what you think is most important in this society in an attempt to convince people to visit Peru. Students will work in groups of three. The product may be a drawing (like a storyboard); a written description of what images they would use; a picture with music in the background; a skit; or a variety of other types of ideas.

2. Imagine that you have been asked to create a virtual journey entitled either, "The Art of Andean Societies" or "The Architecture of Andean Societies". You should include all of the websites that one would visit in this journey, and describe why you have chosen these particular places.

IV. Incan Life and Society


The purpose of this lesson is to develop an understanding of a variety of different aspects of Incan society.

IV.A. Introductory Activity

Students will work in pairs and visit one the following websites that provide short summary overviews of Inca life and society.



Students should choose one aspect of Inca culture that interests them, and prepare a five minute presentation for the class.

IV.B. Organizational Structures


Excerpts from "The Organization of the Empire," by Alfred Metreaux.


1. The class will be divided into four different groups, each of which will be responsible for a different area.

Students will be given a copy of the chapter "The Organization of the Empire" in Mertraux's book.

They will be divided into groups, and each group may research a different segment of the society.

Option One: The Government


  • Read the excerpt on Government
  • Interpret the following statement:
"In fact, the Inca empire combined absolute despotism with a respect for the social and political forms of the subject people."

Option Two: The Peasants/Slavery


  • Read the excerpt on The Peasants/Slavery
  • Interpret the following statement:
"The soil needed to be rich indeed to support such demands; the confiscation were bitterly resented by the subject peoples. They did not forget their lost lands, and had no hesitation in reclaiming them from the Spaniards after the fall of the Incas."

Option Three: The Peasants/Family Unit
  • Read the excerpt on The Peasants/Family Unit
  • Interpret the following statement:
"What has often been interpreted as an example of Inca paternalism is no more than the application, on a governmental scale, of the rural tradition of helping one another, as strong today as it was four hundred years ago: the individual who benefits from the help of his neighbors is willing to supply their wants as long as they put themselves out for him."

Option Four: The Nobleman or Civil Servant
  • Read the excerpt on The Nobleman or Civil Servant
  • Interpret the following statement:
"Private property was acquired through gifts made by the Inca to those nobles enjoying his friendship, or to those whom he wished to reward for service in time of war or for great works undertaken for the public good."

Option Five: The Artisans
  • Read the excerpt on The Artisans
  • Interpret the following statement:
"Among a community's obligation to the Inca was the supply of various handicrafts".

Option Six: The Merchants
  • Read the excerpt on The Merchants
  • Interpret the following statement:
"In an agricultural and craft-based state, where the government restricted the movement of population and goods, and where all surpluses were sent to public storehouses by government order, one might suppose that trading, under the best conditions, cannot have been anything more than bartering."

IV.C. Assimilated Cultures


The purpose of this lesson is to gain an understanding of the ways in which the Incas assimilated other cultures as they expanded their empire. The lesson will be designed so that the students will understand the perspective of those who were assimilated. The goal is for students to understand the assimilated peoples' contribution to the Inca's achievement.



1. The students will read the excerpts on the Inca as conquerors for background information.

2. The class is divided into six groups: three representing a different village and three designated as Inca conqueror groups.

  • Group One
    Population: 20 Elders; 15 children; 12 young adult males and 8 young adult females; 10 married couples; 3 widowers and 1 widow.
    Attitudes: Main god is a sun god; willing to learn Quecha; not antagonistic toward the Inca empire.
    Agriculture: Difficult to cultivate terrain; difficulty feeding their village; llamas greatest asset; Potters and Weavers.

  • Group Two
    Population: 125 Elders; 130 children; 125 young adult males and 119 young adult females; 59 married couples; 20 widowers and 30 widows.
    Attitudes: Worship a sun god, and are not willing to put Inti before this god; not willing to learn Quecha; antagonistic towards the Inca empire
    Agriculture: Good irrigation system; able to feed their village with surplus; main crop is corn greatest asset: Knowledge of irrigation systems and terracing.

  • Group Three
    Population: 60 Elders; 65 children; 65 young adult males and 61 young adult females; 32 married couples; 10 widowers and 10 widows.
    Attitudes: Worship a moon god; will consider learning Quecha; unsure of how to deal with the conquerors.
    Agriculture: Main crops are potatoes and cotton; good years and lean years in terms of feeding their village greatest asset: Creation of architectural monuments.

3. Each group will give a short presentation describing themselves.

4. Each village will team up with a conquering Inca group. The two groups will enact how the conquering process will develop. They will negotiate based on the attributes of their individual villages. They will use background knowledge in these negotiations.

5. The groups will report back to the larger class on the results and process of their negotiations.

6. The class will be asked to compare the ways that the Inca empire assimilated others into their cultures with other situations that they may be familiar with in world history (for example, the Native Americans in U.S. history).

IV.D. Music


The purpose of this lesson is to expose students to the richness of Andean music.



1. The students will read excerpts from the Center for Music for the Americas that discusses Andean music.

2. Students may visit the websites as noted above in Materials where they can hear a variety of music clips.

One popular musical group is Inti Illimani.You can find information about their music by typing their name into a web search engine like, or by visiting your library for videotapes and audiotapes.

IV.E. Original Myths


The purpose of this lesson is to explore Inca origin myths.


Web Reference Site


1. The students will choose an Inca myth and read it.

IV.F. Incan Tales


The purpose of this lesson is to read short stories on Andean life to further an understanding of the culture.


Web Reference Sites


1. The students may choose either website noted in Materials above to read from.

IV.G. Inca Treatment of Conquered People


To understand the differences in the ways that the Inca empire and the Spaniards treated conquered peoples in Peru.




1. The students will read the passage "All Must Die," which is the original document of death edict for the Inca ruler Tupac Amaru II and his family.

2. The students will construct a Compare/Contrast Organizer. They will compare the ways that the Incas and the Spaniards conquered people. (Refer to the activity on "Assimilated People.")

IV.H. Incan Engineering, Technology and Urban Planning -
Roads, Labor and Taxation


The purpose of this lesson is to develop an understanding of the ways in which the Incas were able to create a vast and powerful empire. The lesson is designed so that the students gain knowledge of the Inca state by examining the road system, how labor was organized, and their accounting and taxation systems.



  • Group One: The Roads

  • Group Two: Engineering/Architecture

  • Group Three: The Labor System

  • Group Four: Taxation and Statistics


1. Imagine that your group has been given the task of working on furthering the Inca empire. Each group will be responsible for a different area and will report back their findings to the larger group about how their particular area will function in the expansion of the empire. The websites suggested provide a good start for gaining topic information.

V. Eurocentric Viewpoint


The students will understand the concept of a Eurocentric viewpoint (one of the National Standards for World History).



  • Three excerpts from:


  • "The Desert Kingdoms" of Peru by Victor W. von Hagen
  • "The History of America in 1792" by William Robertson
  • "In The History of the Incas" by Alfred Metraux


1. The students will read the excerpts from three different sources.

2. The class will discuss the meaning of these three statements as a group, as well as the following key questions:

  • What has the world lost by not having information about these ancient cultures?
  • Who decides what has value and will be preserved?
  • Who determines what is valued in art and ingenuity?
  • Who sets standards for a culture?
  • Is it possible for our culture to vanish?

3. The class will break into small group discussions and be asked to compare these comments to current day examples in our culture that typify these attitudes toward "others", by giving real world examples they may have encountered.

4. The class will come up with a list of at least ten suggestions to preserve cultures in the world today.

5. Using these ideas, they will be required to write a letter to either the editor of a newspaper, a company, or person, describing what they feel is the most relevant of these suggestions.

Lessons: Mexico Lessons - Guatemala Lessons - Peru Lessons
Zimbabwe Lessons - Mali Lessons - Egypt Lessons
Internet and Society Lessons - Youth and Society Lessons
Indigenous People Lessons

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