It’s all Greek to the fourth graders at Germantown Friends School: The young classicists immerse themselves in the stories, art, culture, religion, language and history of ancient Greece for the entire school year.
They start the year reading Greek mythology, studying Greece in history, building Trojan horses in woodshop, painting Greek symbols in art, and learning Ancient Olympic sports in physical education class. “It’s the epitome of the thematic curriculum,” says fourth-grade teacher Margaret Fleisher.
It all culminates in the annual Greek Day Games and Feast. On Wednesday, June 4, the students, wearing hand-designed and -sewn chitons, processed to the GFS Fields carrying banners representing the Greek City-States. After prayers to the gods for courage, agility and speed, the Olympic games began. The Olympians competed in javelin, discus, long jump, relay races and a marathon run (of one mile), and concluded the events with a savory Greek feast. This GFS tradition has inspired a love of Ancient Greece for more than 50 years.
Ada Yeomans, a fourth grader in Sarah Walker’s class, said that her grandfather made a white chiton with a blue pattern when he was in fourth grade at GFS, so she designed a blue chiton with a white pattern in honor of him.
“Ancient Greece completely engages 10-year-olds,” says Fleisher. “The kids identify with the gods and connect with the stories.”
Fourth-grade teacher Mary Haon adds, “The students enjoy blending the world of creative imaginative mythology with the world of reality … they learn about archaeological objects as well as fanciful oral stories with humanized gods and things such as centaurs.
“GFS has a tradition of helping students learn about different cultures, teaching respect, being inquisitive and understanding the world from a different point of view. The kids see how history informs the present and they can use that information to make choices that make the world a better place.”