The end of the Mayan calendar in 2012 has brought a renewed interest in Mayan history, culture, art, and architecture. Several movies (2012, Apocalypto, and others) have covered the Mayan and their calendar as a prophetic harbinger of the end of the world.
Various conspiracy theories about Mayan prophesies have arisen such as the coming of the Antichrist, Planet X slamming into earth, a cataclysmic pole shift, and aliens landing on our planet to re-inhabit the earth 
In reality, the Mayans probably didn't intend the end of this period of time to declare the end of the world. They figured their ancestors would simply create a new one for the next age to come. Most the current Mayan ancestors say it is simply the end of an era. Because the Mayans of that time no longer exist, we will never know for sure. The continuation of the world after December of 2012 has proven even to skeptics that the doomsday conspiracy theories were not true. In the meantime, we enjoy the intrigue and mystery of the Mayan culture.
The pyramid shape can be seen in a variety of structures including this archway in Ek Balam.
The Mayan civilization covered parts of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and El Salvador. There are conflicting dates on the existence of the Mayans. Wikipedia says their civilization existed from 2000 BC to 250 AD. Authentic Maya says they existed between 3000 and 2000 BC. to 900 A.D. Part of the conflict arises with differences in opinion of exactly what point a group of people are large enough to be considered a civilization.
Known cities of the ancient Mayan civilization include Tikal, Copán, Palenque, Cancuén, Uxmal, Kabah, Tulum, Sayil and Labná. It is important to note that these are not the original names of the cities. They were named by those who discovered the ancient ruins of each city. Mayans were ruled by kings and the Maya Court. Each Mayan city has its own unique form of art. Most of the cities incorporates some form of pyramid, whether it be a pyramid shaped doorway or an actual pyramid. Because the Mayan were an advanced civilization and were quite good at mathematics, art, and astronomy, we see glyphs and Maya numerals in many of the buildings. We see geometry included in the layout of each city and shape of buildings in quadrangles, rectangles, triangles, and squares. One way astronomy was used is that "astronomical observations and measurements led to the development of the Maya calendar, a system more precise than the Gregorian calendar we use today."  Chocolate was considered a delicacy and cocoa beans were used as money.
The destruction of the Mayan civilization was a gradual process that began around 800 A.D. Archeology in the fallen Mayan city of Copán shows that the Mayans over-cultivated their farmland and suffered from malnutrition. Buried skulls indicated severe anemia in 80% of all those that were found, including royalty.  No doubt this malnutrition also brought about disease. In other cities such as Cancuén there is evidence of attacks by a variety of invaders who spared no lives before they looted the area. To make matters worse, they poisoned the water supply by burying the bodies in the city cistern. Tikal was the last to fall as best we can determine now. Scholars are unsure what caused this area to collapse.  Some think that overpopulation and drought contributed to the decline. It is important to note that Mayans did not disappear after the collapse. The remaining Mayans spread out over a larger area in small communities and can still be found today among various South and Central American people.
Beautiful stucco work on a wall at Ek Balam.
The Art of the Mayans
Archaeologists have unearthed the oldest known Maya painting in Guatemala, a brightly colored 30-foot-long mural depicting the Maya creation myth and the coronation of the Maya's first earthly king.
(See image on the left. Click on image for full size) The paint-on-plaster image, 3 feet tall and nearly 2,100 years old, is several centuries older than other depictions of the creation story. The mural was discovered at the remote site of San Bartolo, about two days' hike north of the once-powerful Maya city of Tikal.
The painting shows a surprisingly early flowering of the Maya civilization, well before the classical period that began after A.D. 250. "The first part of the mural illustrates the Maya creation story. Four deities represent the creation of water, land, sky and paradise. At the center, the maize god crowns himself king. Archaeologists said they were having trouble deciphering the glyphs of the much earlier Mayan script." 
Like Egyptian hieroglyphics, we have not only Mayan glyphs in stone, but also various texts. Below you see one of the few collections of pre-Columbian Mayan hieroglyphic texts known to have survived the book burnings by the Spanish clergy during the 16th century. There are only three other codices, the Madrid, Paris, and Grolier. The codex below, the Dresden Codex, contains astronomical calculations, and astronomical data. As you can see, these hieroglyphics are an art form into themselves.
Mayans create words using a Syllabary, not an Alphabet. Words and phrases are created using bold brush strokes. Narrative paintings are used throughout the codices and become phrases themselves. Maya words are formed from various combinations of nearly 800 signs, and each sign represents a full syllable. If you want to study Maya hieroglyphics in detail, download the study guide by Inga Calvin.
The Maya also valued sculpture not only as an art form, but also as a reflection of themselves, their lifestyles, and culture. Their sculpture was created from carvings in wood, Obsidian, bone, shells, Jade and stone, clay and stucco models, and terracotta figurines from molds. They used their sculpture in trade as well as decoration.
Ornate relief sculptures by the stairs up the pyramid in Teotihuacan.
A common form of Maya sculpture was the stela. "The Maya somehow transported enormous stones through the jungle from distant quarries, apparently without the aid of either wheeled carts or beasts of burden. Artists then used only rudimentary stone tools to execute the intricate carvings, before raising the ponderous sculptures to their present vertical positions. The largest in the Maya world is Stela E at Quiriguá, that weighs an astonishing 65 tons and stretches 10.5 meters in length, with sculptures covering its 8-meter panels. The Stelas were large stone slabs covered with carvings. Many depict the rulers of the cities they were located in, and others show gods. The Stela almost always contained hieroglyphs, which have been critical to determining the significance and history of Maya sites. Other stone carvings include figurines, and stone or wooden lintels (Right), known only from Tikal and El Zotz, with different scenes. The Maya used a great deal of Jade and Obsidian in their art. Many stone carvings had jade inlays, and there were also ritual objects created from jade. It is remarkable that the Maya, who had no metal tools, created such intricate and beautiful objects from jade, a very hard and dense material. In a workshop of Maya sculpture, the subject matter had to conform to local tradition; elements of style such as viewpoint of the figures, gesture, depth of relief, and the treatment of faces had to be recognizable as local art, and the artists observed the specific regalia worn by rulers. Subject matter and style were bound by tradition. The earliest Stela-Altar monuments, were plain, such as in Monte Alto in the Pacific Lowlands, the site of the Famous early Preclassic "Fat Boys" or Barrigones, and home to a Giant Head unique in Mesoamerica, now vanished." 
Mural in basement at Cacaxtla. Notice that the color red is the dominant color used in this mural.
A Maya painter was called ah tz'ibob ('they who paint'). They were also master calligraphers and signed their work. The ah tz'ibob were highly valued members of society. Lesser valued were those who painted in caves or used simple graffiti. The most typical colors found in caves were black and red. The black color was derived from charcoal and manganese. The red color came from iron-rich clays found in the caves themselves. The Maya words tz'ib or tz'ib'al refers to painting in general. 
Due to the humid climate of Central America, few Mayan paintings have survived to the present day. A beautiful turquoise blue color, Maya Blue, has survived through the centuries due to its unique chemical characteristics.
Today, oil paintings by the Maya people of Guatemala are usually painted in the "naif" style. Two regional styles exist, based primarily on the name of the village in which the style of painting originated. One style region centers around the small villages on the south side of Lake Atitlan. These painters are primarily of Tzutujil Maya origin. Their paintings tend to be of a bright and colorful style, using a palette of primary colors. A second style region centers around the Cakchiquel Maya town of Comalapa. These paintings often have a more subdued palette of colors, with more emphasis on tans and browns.
The board, used in ancient times to play a game known as patolli, was discovered at the archaeological site of Dzibilnocac in Campeche, during restoration work conducted in the Central Tower Building A1 [Credit: Herbert Ortega/INAH]
Archaeologists carrying out restoration at a site in the southeastern state of Campeche discovered a Mayan game board dating from more than 1,000 years ago, Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History said.
A member of the team that found the artifact, Heber Ojeda, estimates the board was used between the 7th and 10th centuries during the Late Classic period of Dzibilnocac.
"It is an esgraffito scoreboard of approximately 50 cm on each side, which was discovered on the floor of the second highest space" in the building denoted A1, the archaeologist said.
Etched into the surface of the board are 58 rectangles of varying sizes and players would have used beans as game tokens, Ojeda said.
One of his colleagues, Judith Gallegos Gomora, said the board was designed for patolli, a game of chance described in Mayan codices and colonial Spanish chronicles.
She added, however, that the board bears a resemblance to the Maya quincunx, a schematic representation of the universe, and would likely also have been used for divination. 
On May 10, 2012, the oldest known Mayan painting, calendar and astronomical tables, was discovered in a shallow cave in Guatemala. Scientists say it dates from early 9th Century, pre-dating other Mayan calendars by centuries. The find is located at the ruins of Xultun that were first discovered in 1912. 
Art Lessons on IAD Involving the Mayans
Story Pots - Ceramic hand-building lesson in pre-Columbian flavor at the Middle / High School level.
Art of Mexico - A collection of lesson ideas at different age levels including Mayan Glyphs.
Monument to Ah Cacau in Tikal, more than likely the last Mayan city in existence.
These links were reviewed and selected as among the best Mayan links that will be useful in an educational setting. Links always change and if you find that one is dead or goes to an inappropriate site, let us know.
Maya Adventure - The Science Museum of Minnesota presents Maya Adventure, a World-Wide Web site that highlights science activities and information related to ancient and modern Maya culture.
Maya Archaeology - This site is loaded with resources and free downloads. Information on Mayan ethnobotany and ethnozoology, iconography, ceramics, architecture, and epigraphy. Of special interest are the 3D views of the Copan Museum in Honduras.
Mayan Architecture [Archive] - Archaeologists have identified several Mayan architectural styles that help them place the Maya geographically as well as temporally.
Mayan Arithmatic - This site includes three pages of Mayan arithmatic discoveries and systems. Place values, symbol for zero, and addition are included.
Mayan Art and Architecture - A curriculum page by Carlisle Public Schools. The Maya were one of the few civilizations where artists attached their name to their work.
Maya Art Collection - from Jay Kislak Foundation (5 pages of images). Ceramics, stone and more. Great figurative pieces.
Maya Calendar - This site has information on their calendar and their use of mathematics.
Maya Civilization - This site by Crystalinks has a lot of information of Mesoamerica.
Maya Initiative - This is Getty's Conservation Institute that includes many images of their architecture as well as conservation projects to save ancient artifacts and buildings.
Mayan Symbols - This page is useful when incorporating Mayan symbols into art work.
The Maya - This site includes information on their gods, agriculture, diet, and architecture.
Mayan Ceramics [Archive] - With pictures of Mayan ceramics that portray deities, ball games and other events of Mayan life.
Mesoamerican Archives [Archive] - This site was created by David R. Hixson, a graduate student in Tulane University's Department of Anthropology. It has hundreds of high quality images useful to teachers.
Palenque Archaeological Ruins - Palenque, located in the northwest of the Maya lowlands,
is considered as one of the most important archaeological sites of Mesoamerica. As in other Maya areas, here there was a vigorous development in religious and civil architecture, as well as in art and crafts.
The Sport of Life and Death, The Mesoamerican Ball Game - This site is great for your more kinesthetic learners. It includes an interactive look at the Mayan ball game and details such as the uniform they wore and the rules of the game. It also includes a video re-enactment of the game.
Yucatán Peninsula - This site by Barbara McKenzie includes images of ancient Mayan ruins in the area. You can navigate through an interactive map.
DVD / VHS
Maya: The Blood of Kings [VHS] - This 48 minute video is part of the Time-Life Lost Civilizations TV series, with Sam Waterson narrating. It uses video of actual locations, some with reenactors depicting the scenes from Maya life, as well as some computer generations; all put together is a very professional, entertaining way. Says teacher Craig Savery, "There is coverage of the ball game, blood-letting rituals, the Maya writing system and calendar as well as the central role of kingship to Maya society. The video does not make the mistake of stating that the Maya collapsed. It is accurately illustrated that although there was perhaps a regional collapse."
Apocalypto [Blu-ray] - This movie is probably not appropriate for most students. Teacher discretion advised. This intense, nonstop action-adventure transports you to an ancient South American civilization, for an experience unlike anything you've ever known. In the twilight of the mysterious Mayan culture, young Jaguar Paw is captured and taken to the great Mayan city where he faces a harrowing end. Driven by the power of his love for his wife and son, he makes an adrenaline-soaked, heart-racing escape to rescue them and ultimately save his way of life. Filled with unrelenting action and stunning cinematography, Apocalypto is an enthralling and unforgettable film experience.
Although much of the movie is fiction, it is based on facts gleaned from archaeology and study. In the movie, the Jaguar is shown as one of their gods. A group of Mayans believe that disaster will befall them for killing a jaguar. You can read a little about the Mayans and Jaguars. The movie shows Mel Gibson's interpretation of the decline of the Mayan empire. The film has authentic Yucatec Maya spoken throughout the movie, although most of it is spoken by Native American actors. Although Spaniards arrive at the end of the movie, in reality all the Mayan cities were abandoned by the time they arrived. You can read National Geographics' take on the authenticity (or the lack of) in Gibson's movie. (Also see portions of the movie with commentary) It includes some important additional facts about the Mayans.
National Geographic's Lost Kingdoms of the Maya [Also on VHS] - According to teacher Beeman Rhodes, "I have seen some educational videos on the Maya, but I believe this is the best one I have come across so far. I was looking for a good educational video on the Maya to prepare a group trip to Honduras. We did an excursion to Copan, and the knowledge from this tape enhanced our experience. Compared to other videos about the Maya, this video was the best in the story telling of the history of the Maya and today's exploration with archaeologists I have been to other Mayan ruins as well, and I am still in awe of their lives and culture. If you plan on going to Copan or any of the other ruins, definitely this would be a good video to check out."