Moctezuma's Zoo

What does it matter if Moctezuma had a zoo? Learners consider the question to decide whether the Aztecs were an advanced civilization or if European colonialism brought civilization to them. Using images of primary sources, including Aztec maps and Spanish letters, budding historians evaluate the claims of an anonymous blogger, also developing their ability to critically evaluate sources.

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CCSS: Adaptable
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Instructional Ideas

  • Create a fishbowl discussion to analyze the documents using the discussion questions
Classroom Considerations

  • Teachers may access lesson by creating a free Stanford History Education Group account 
  • Requires computer access for all class members to fully view the documents

  • Images and documents are intriguing and invite exploration
  • Questions included with the resource are analytical and develop important historical thinking skills
  • Easy to use lesson ideas in a variety of contexts with other documents

  • Sources are not edited for classroom use, and some do not have translations, requiring direct instruction or teacher curation