It’s a Classic! Ancient Greece K-12 Resources
The past is never dead. It’s not even past.
- William Faulkner
The above quotation by William Faulkner was trotted out one year by one of my high school history teachers. Someone in class had been muttering about the “uselessness” of learning ancient history, and Mr. Short’s head snapped around to stare at the offending student. Mr. Short then quoted Faulkner to the class, and asked us what we thought it meant.
A fairly lengthy class discussion ensued, with we students ultimately concluding that, despite the centuries that have passed, humans from antiquity are pretty much the same as humans today. We still argue about politics, raise families, try to improve our lots in life, seek entertainment, and so forth. Some of the external contexts may be different, but we have much in common with our classical forebears.
It’s human nature to want to know where we come from, and where we may be headed in the future. Although ancient civilizations and their life experiences may seem light-years away from contemporary life, students can clearly identify with some of the social and political problems that classical civilizations faced. There was much violence, for example, among the Greek city-states, and a portion of the general population relied on government aid to survive. Discrepancies between social classes often caused friction, as did government corruption and the misuse of political power. When learning about the ancient Greeks and their affairs, today’s students can immediately draw parallels between ancient Greece and our contemporary society and its challenges. In studying how ancient peoples such as the Greeks responded to various events, students are able to see how society has evolved (or not), and how various actions regarding complex economic and social pressures can result in either positive or negative outcomes.
Contemporary life owes much to the ancient Greeks. The concept of democracy began in Greece, and many of our standards concerning art, beauty, literature, and architecture have been deeply influenced by the ancient Greeks. Using their advanced math skills, the Greeks developed land surveying methods and mechanical innovations such as gears, screws, and rudimentary cranes for lifting heavy objects. They were master city planners, instituting the grid pattern for streets in urban development. They developed extensive plumbing systems, including showers, as well as central heating. The sheer number of inventions, awe-inspiring artwork and architecture, advancements in mathematics, and literary contributions in the way of plays, poems, speeches, and so forth make lessons on ancient Greece a cross-curricular bonanza.
This week, I’ve selected three cross-curricular resources on ancient Greece for all grade levels. We’ll also be featuring many more resources on the topic in all subject areas all week long on our Gateway Twitter and Facebook pages, so please check those pages often. Also, my colleague Peggy continues with her summer slide busters this week, with lots of good ideas.
The Greek Alphabet: More Familiar Than You Think!
Subjects: World History, Language Arts
In this lesson, students learn about the ancient Greeks, and how they lived. They will also compare the similarities between the Greek alphabet and our own, and learn about some other things we’ve inherited from the ancient Greeks. This lesson was produced by EDSITEment!, a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities that offers educational resources to parents, teachers, and students.
The Influence of Religion in Ancient Greece
Subjects: World History, Religion, Writing, Visual Art
In this unit, students explore the role of religion in ancient Greece through their artwork, theatrical productions, festivals, the Olympic Games, and myths. Students will also compare the influence of religion in ancient Greece to the influence of religion in modern society. This resource was produced by The Center for Renaissance & Baroque Studies at the University of Maryland College Park.
Coming of Age in Ancient Greece
Subjects: Visual Art, World History, Language Arts
This unit contains three lesson plans on ancient Greece. Students will examine images of and read stories about the Greek hero Herakles and understand how myths were used as part of religious rituals, as entertainment, and in education. The second lesson finds constellations and explores the myths surrounding them, while in the third lesson, students study the myth of Perseus and Medusa, and draw their own amphora vases to retell the story. This resource is a product of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College.