Focus on Ancient Civilizations: Impacts Across Time

by Ifey Onwelumadu

Ifey Onwelumadu

The goal of Ancient Civilizations is for students to attain a deep understanding of the critical attributes of the culture of ancient civilizations and a sense of the impact of those cultures across time, with a focus on Greece and Rome. Teacher Jan Lanham is using, among other teaching strategies, class discussions, video clips, research time in the computer lab, readings, plays, interviews, timelines events, and simulation exercises.

At the beginning of the course, students made Greek regalia for their daily mini-productions of Greek plays. They also created bio-spots: concise, informative looks at significant Greek and Roman figures that provide information such as birthplace and birthdate, childhood influences, and contributions and impacts on their civilization. The students used the computer lab to research these great figures and were then tasked with interviewing each other. They simulated great Greek characters like Socrates, Pericles, Phidias, Homer, and Alexander the Great during the interview process and, while answering questions, educated the class about their personas.

Students perform a Greek play.

Other activities in the class include reading Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton, The Ancient City: Life in Classical Athens and Rome by Peter Connolly and Hazel Dodge, and Homer’s The Odyssey. Students have also researched and presented information on the daily life of their assigned ancient civilization.

One huge takeaway in this course is the belief that ancient Greek democracy had a deep influence on the design of politics and government in the United States. Many founders of the United States saw ancient Athens (the birthplace of Greek democracy) as an inspirational model. Understanding the influence of Greek democracy on the United States requires understanding the way democracy was understood by the ancient Greeks, including concepts like direct democracy, representative democracy, who counts as a citizen, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens. While wearing their regalia, the students debated propositions in simulated assemblies with a presiding officer whose duty it was to guide the proceedings and make the sessions go smoothly.

There is so much to this course and not enough space to share! I must not forget to mention that the Ancient Civilizations class has amazing, respectful, and intelligent students!