From the creation of democracy to the first Olympic games, the ancient Greeks helped shape western civilization for generations to come. Studying this period in history gives students a chance to learn the origins of sports, art and architecture, as well as link this new information to class subjects like literature, history and math. Simulations, creative writing and art projects all provide an interactive opportunity for your students to experience life in ancient Greece.
Democracy in Action
Ancient Greek democracy was significantly different from democracy today as women and slaves couldn't participate in the public assembly. Explain that your class is going to decide through majority rule where to go on your next field trip. Randomly distribute name tags reading either "popular assembly" or "servant" to all boys. Throughout the discussion, only call on students representing the assembly; if girls or servants try to speak, tell them they have no say in the decision. Use the simulation as a springboard for discussion about the social differences between ancient Greek and modern day politics and what events in history might account for developments in democracy.
A Greek Chorus Line
Before the theater capital of New York City, there was Athens, Greece, the birthplace of classical drama. In particular, Greek playwrights created the tragedy, a story where the main character's downfall is brought about by a fatal flaw like poor reasoning, a mistake or overconfidence. Students can work together in groups to create their own Greek tragedy. They then can write a script modeled after traditional Greek drama, using a chorus to set up and echo the story's events. Your class can hold its own festival of Dionysus, the god of wine whom Greek playwrights celebrated, and view each group's play.
Just like today, sports, politics, religion and the arts were cornerstones of Greek society. Combining creative writing skills with what they've learned about the period, students can work in groups to create a newspaper that portrays daily life in ancient Greece. The paper might include a current events section that features reports about important votes taken in the popular assembly and the grand opening of the Acropolis. A sports section could feature reports from the ancient Olympics, while a culture section's lead article might be a review of Aeschylus' new play.
In ancient Greek times, pottery was more than just something to hold flowers or food. Often, it showcased the beauty of geometry through bands, concentric circles and triangles, or retold scenes from classic stories like "The Odyssey" or mythology through carvings. After viewing examples of Greek pottery, students can model them to create pieces of their own. Making pottery can be an interdisciplinary activity as well as an art lesson; for example, a student might carve a scene from a Greek play you've read in class, or use a compass from geometry class to create their designs.
- The Interactive Media Lab at the University of Florida: Ancient Greek People
- Classroom Zoom: Simulation: Ancient Democracy
- City Dionysia: Masks, Costumes and Props
- PBS.org: The Daily Athenian: A Greek Newspaper Project
- University of South Florida: Greek Pottery Painting
- Grand Valley State University: Tragedy: The Basics
- New York City Department of Education: Ancient Greece: A Lasting Legacy
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images