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Murray Journal

Viewmont Sixth-Graders Go Greek

Mar 09, 2016 02:01PM ● By Bryan Scott

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Murray - Viewmont sixth-grader Emma Thompson had heard about the Trojan horse and wanted to learn about it. So when her teacher said they needed to have a research project as part of their unit on ancient Greece, she read about it.

“All the soldiers got inside it and entered into the walled city that way,” Emma said, who also made her own Trojan horse model out of popsicle sticks. “It was pretty cool how they thought that out.”

At the conclusion of the six-week Greek unit, the classmates in Anne Renz’s class held a Greek Festival on Jan. 29 where they sampled Greek olives, dolmades and baklava; watched their debate; and shared their projects and models of temples student groups created out of clay.

“Making the temple was my favorite part. It was easy to work in our group since we all get along and have good sportsmanship,” Emma said.

Renz said that the unit is a cross-curriculum study that incorporates writing, research, oral presentation, social studies, history, art, math and skills in leadership, responsibility, collaboration and following directions.

“While we study the unit, we immerse ourselves in it,” she said. “For a period every afternoon, we think and act Greek. We can earn pretend Greek money, we adopt an ancient Greek name, we simulate what it’s like at that time so we gain a better understanding.”

Renz assigns groups and each group then becomes a Greek city, or polis. In addition to creating a model temple, the polis selects an Aesop fable to perform for the class, complete with props.

Each student also participates in a debate based on their short essay writing assignment, which is a persuasive argument on a topic Renz assigns, such as, “Should slavery be abolished in ancient Greece?” Students research their topic and are assigned a position to write, then present their standpoint. They share information, such as the fact that people can become slaves when their parents sell them or if they’re kidnapped by another polis, and then their viewpoints, which were the slaves can be treated well and help with factories or in villages or they could treated like wild beasts. The students’ debate is videotaped and shared at the Greek Festival.

“I wanted them to think about the issue in times of ancient Greece, not modern America,” Renz said.

A favorite part of many students was to create a project, which they could work on at home over the winter break. Student choices varied from temples to board games, mosaics, pottery and even a rap song, “I am a Greek God,” which Renz played at the Greek Festival.

Classmates Ezra Roundy, Nathan Lewis and Caden Selph all chose to create weapons — a sword, shield, helmet and spear.

Nathan said that it took him 10 hours to paper mache a plastic saucer to create his shield. It also included a leather strap.

“The Spartans usually always had their shields,” Nathan said. “It protected them in battles.”

Caden said that one of their primary weapons was the spear, while Ezra said that they used swords at close range.

“I learned bronze and steel are some of the strongest metals and that is why they made their weapons out of those,” he said. “They had more duels than wars.”

Renz said that by giving students a choice in their project, they were more eager to learn about it.

“We want kids to be empowered. It’s huge to empower a 12-year-old, and they went to town on this and learned a lot more than they realized,” she said.

At the Greek Festival, families could see their projects and their clay temples as well as ask questions of the students, many dressed in togas made from sheets. At the end of the festival, the students taught their families how to perform a Greek dance.

“So many students come back when they’re grown up and say they still remember their Greek names and what they argued in their essay and debate. It’s a high-point for my sixth-grade class and it’s very powerful,” Renz said, who has held a Greek Festival in her class annually for about 20 years. “I hope they now see the big picture and they understand the contributions made by this civilization and how we built our world on the shoulders of great thinkers like Socrates and Aristotle.”