London Towne Elementary held its first-ever Greco-Roman Festival last week, but it did it in a big way — complete with children in togas, tables full of authentic Greek and Mediterranean food and five student plays.
Participating were the fifth-grade classes of teachers Kimberly Perri, Caryn Jesko, Laura Moorhead, Mable Davis and Anne Semmler. And Semmler's class also built replicas of historic people and places, such as the Parthenon, the Coliseum, Cleopatra and the Trojan Horse.
Parents thronged to the school last Thursday, Feb. 21, to enjoy the feast and plays, and teachers, students and staff were thrilled with how well everything turned out. One of them, guidance counselor Sonja Poole designed the girls' floral headpieces and helped with play rehearsals.
"I am very proud of these young people," she said. "I've seen such hard work and dedication come from all of them, and I'm pleased to see plays that began so rough turn into something so beautiful. It's an honor to have helped."
The students just finished a month's study of ancient Greece. Because Perri teaches two social-studies classes, she coordinated the plays, "The Flight of Icarus" and "King Midas and the Golden Touch" — and had a wonderful time.
"It was incredible how much the kids pulled it together, memorizing all the lines and doing a great job for the parents," she said. "We came up with the idea for the festival as a team of teachers, to let the parents see what their children are learning, eat lunch, see a play and even get dressed up, themselves, if they wanted."
Parents made many of the scrumptious Greek casseroles, desserts, salads and other items for the feast, and local restaurants donated the rest. Instead of wine, grape and apple juice was offered. "I want to thank the teachers and parents for all their hard work," said Perri. "Without them, it wouldn't have been as successful."
Wearing a gold-trimmed, white toga made by his grandmother, fifth-grader Dan Godar, 10 1/2, prepared for his role last Thursday in "The Flight of Icarus." He played Dedalus. "I'm the genius that made a labyrinth for the king's son who was turned into a minotaur (half man, half bull) by Poseidon," he explained. "Theseus kills the minotaur because the king put people in with the minotaur to sacrifice and save his son."
As a result, said Dan, the king is angry and throws Dedalus and his son, Icarus, into the labyrinth and they don't know how to escape. "But the walls are open at the top, so I make wings out of wax and glue for my son and I, and we fly out of there," he explained. "But Icarus flies too close to the sun and his wings melt and he falls into the sea."
Dan said the play was a bit hard because he had so many lines, but he was looking forward to performing. He learned that "olives and grapes were the best things they grew in Greece, and the biggest island [there] is Crete — that's where we fly away from."
Jessica Yealy, 10, was excited about eating all the goodies at the feast, playing special games and seeing the other classes' plays — "The Stealing of Helen" and "Theseus and the Minotaur" — plus a student group telling the audience about Greek mythology.
In class, she learned about the ancient Greek temples and gods and what it was like then in Athens and Sparta. "In Sparta, people were trained to be soldiers," she said. "But in Athens, they helped their parents and, if they could afford to go to school, the boys would go. Jessica said her favorite Greek goddess was Artemis, the protector of all wild things. If she could someday visit Greece, she'd like to see "the temples and the Agora — the big meeting-place."
Katia Wingate, 11, was a chorus member, or narrator, in "The Flight of Icarus," saying: "Poseidon sent Minos a bull for the sacrifice." At first, she said, she was "kind of nervous standing in front of the other classes and parents when we were rehearsing. But it was fun to really get a chance to act like the real people. Just reading about them would have been boring."
If she could be a famous person from Greek mythology, she said, she'd be Theseus, nephew to Zeus, because "he slayed the minotaur." Katia thought the Parthenon was the coolest-looking building in ancient Greece "because it look different from the other buildings." If she got the chance, she said, she'd decorate it with ribbons, flowers and streamers.
Also a chorus member was Elvira Dimas, 10. She liked the Greeks' "creative dressing" in togas, headbands and sandals and said they sometimes carried little sticks called tridents to protect themselves. She especially liked Apollo, the god of the sun "because he told the truth and had beauty."
She learned that Sparta was Greece's largest city-state and that Alexander the Great conquered many areas. Said Elvira: "Greece and Macedonia were city-states from his empire, and the most important of them was Alexandria."
Holding a heavy ball to symbolize the world, Nathaniel Andre-Erwin, 11, portrayed Atlas. "He was a Titan and was really strong," he said. "He got in trouble because he helped the Titans revolt against Zeus, so he had to carry the world until the end of time." Nathaniel also learned how different Mesopotamia was from Greece and Rome.
He liked the Greek festival and plays because "it's hands-on learning, and you learn a lot more that way." He also liked Aries, the god of war, and would like to someday visit the Acropolis and Parthenon.
Alex Ventura, 10, played Hesiod, the author of "The Flight of Icarus." He learned that, in ancient Greece, "men took part in government and some trained to be soldiers, and the women helped their mothers." If could see a famous site in Greece, he said, he'd go to Mount Olympus — "the highest mountain in Greece and the home of the gods and goddesses."