Ancient Greek history, culture comes to life at Camden Rockport Middle School

By Susan Mustapich | Apr 12, 2017
Photo by: Susan Mustapich Arianna Hanson illustrates the myth of Hercules and the Hydra, during the opening day of Greek Week at Camden-Rockport Middle School.

CAMDEN — Camden-Rockport Middle School eighth-graders competed in challenges inspired by the culture of Ancient Greece.

During the Greek Week events, the students were sorted into teams representing Athens and Sparta, and earned points for their city-state.

During opening ceremonies April 5, students participated in Olympic competitions, Persian War games, column building, vase painting and more.

"Opening day is a way for students to engage in learning about the ancient Greeks using multiple intelligences," said social studies teacher Marsha Norwood, who is the creative force behind a new approach to Greek Week, which unites academic and cultural arts studies.

"Students participated in the Olympics, Greek mask-making, engineering columns, and solving brain puzzles like Pythagoras and other Greek philosophers," Norwood said. "Outside, students braved the cold to play "Persian War Games," a series of soccer and running challenges inspired by the battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, and Salamis.

"We learn in the spirit of the ancient Greeks through integrated classroom activities and project days," Norwood said. "The goal of Greek Week is to engage students in the pursuit of inquiry and competition, two things the ancient Greeks valued."

Art teacher Kristen Andersen was happy to be able to integrate her classes with the curriculum on Ancient Greece. Her students learned about how the shape of clay vases and the purpose of the vases had a direct correlation in ancient Greek society.

In art class, students studied and made Amphora vases for storing and transporting wine and food, Hydria vases for drawing water, and Krater vases for mixing and cooling wine. They leaned about vases used for cosmetics, and even vases used by athletes. One type of vase used in athletics almost looks like a modern water bottle, but was used to contain oil in ancient Greece.

On April 5, students worked in teams to illustrate and paint mythic figures and stylized border patterns on 4-foot high paper-mache vases to gain points for their team. Other students created functional clay vases, decorating them with imprinted patterns and with paint.

In science class, students tested maximum load by stacking books on a base of columns, sometimes until a column collapsed.

In the gym, students representing Athens and Sparta choose captains, who then figured out who would complete in a variety of races. While teachers Dana Southworth and Aaron Henderson kept time and scores, students showed competitive spirit and a sense of good humor throughout the Olympic-style challenges.

In the four-lap race, students ran wearing helmets and carrying "bludgeons," which were actually "pillow Polo bats." Other students ran a mini-12 lap marathon, while a team of four counted their laps, and everyone else cheered on their team members.

In the horse and chariot race, captains wisely choose stronger students as horses, who then did their best to race timed laps while pulling their riders. Horses and riders cooperated by hanging on to their end of a hockey stick, which served as the "rope" to connect them. Riders successfully remained on their small, four-wheel carts, which wasn't easy as the horses swung them around turns on the "track."

At the end of Greek Week, eighth-graders engage in tournament style debates, in which they compete to determine which city-state is superior. Students learned about persuasive language and the connection of persuasive speech to Greek philosopher Aristotle, who wrote about the use of ethos, logos, and pathos. Using persuasive speech, students conduct these debates in class, and volunteers will present their debate on Friday, April 14 at the closing ceremonies.

Courier Publications reporter Susan Mustapich can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at

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