Getting a taste for Classics
June 24, 2016
The soldiers of the opposing armies line up, shields at the ready, spears and swords brought to bear.
Each side is set up in a phalanx, the box-shaped formation with overlapping shields for protection.
However, these are no Spartans or Athenians. The shields are made of cardboard. The spears are pieces of wood and the swords are foam. These so-called combatants are elementary school students taking part in an Enrichment Studies Unit (ESU) course, the first offered by the Department of Classics at Queen’s University.
While the course may be new, it has been very popular with both the students and the instructors. Each of the five spring sessions – four for students in grades 7 and 8 and one for high school students – filled up quickly.
In the course, participants explore various areas of study in Classics, from ancient warfare to pottery reconstruction, from reading Latin to liver divination.
Matt Chandler, a master’s student and one of the instructors, says that the reaction to the course has been positive and that each group of participants “has been completely different.” One group loves the warfare and hates the pottery reconstruction, while the next is drawn to the pottery and not so fond of reading Latin. However, they all seem to love mythology, he says, which is covered on the first day.
The ancient warfare unit is aimed at taking the students through the evolution of warfare through the centuries and how technology and tactics have influenced who wins and who loses. It’s hands-on, experiential learning.
“You go from these archaic formations that had no unity into the Spartan phalanx and you can clearly see that it is better,” Mr. Chandler explains. “Then there’s the next level, where they have completely different weapons, it’s again more tactically sound, obviously better. The students can see that by doing it.”
It’s also the one part of the course that is performed outside and that has grabbed the attention of passersby, including other ESU students
“It’s been great,” Mr. Chandler says. “I feel like we’ve designed a good course. We cover a lot of the basics and do a pretty broad overview of what we do (in Classics). I think they’ve learned a lot.”
The course has also been beneficial for the instructors.
“It’s a great opportunity for graduate students to get some experience in curriculum development and teaching, especially for those who want to go on to a PhD,” says Mary Smida, administrative assistant for the Department of Classics.
The Enrichment Studies Unit has been providing experiential educational opportunities to elementary and secondary students since 1987. A variety of courses are offered, introducing participants to the Queen’s experience in programs such as engineering, medical science, business and commerce, fine art and much more.
For more information on courses and schedules, visit the ESU website.