Olympics are finale of elementary school's study of Greece


BOONSBORO - Fifth-grade student Nick Hough sported mighty aspirations in April when he portrayed the mythical god Zeus during the Greek Olympics event at Boonsboro Elementary School.

"I want to make sure everybody is safe and there is no evil in the world," said Nick, 11.

On April 19, the young Zeus led a parade of divine Greek entities onto the Boonsboro High School track to open the festivities.

The school-wide event was the culmination of a multi-disciplinary study of Greek culture during which media specialist Laura McDowell, art teacher Jan Madsen, physical education teacher Ann Spurgas and music teacher Barbara Suffecool taught their students about Greek mythology and customs, artwork, music and athletics.


The ancient Greeks started the games at Olympia in about 700 B.C. to honor Zeus, according to the Ancient Greece Web site.

Following Nick as "king of the gods," fifth-grade students clad in handmade chitons - the traditional, robe-like garments of ancient Greece - descended Mt. Olympus as such deities as Athena, Ares and Aphrodite to oversee the Olympic games.

They passed living Doric column Ivy Snyder, 10, who stared from behind a full-length sheet of paper fashioned to resemble the common support post common in classic Greek architecture.

Nine muses - the beautiful goddesses said to have presided over the arts and sciences in ancient Greece - carried scrolls, masks and musical instruments onto a playing field carpeted with third through fifth-grade athletes from four Greek city-states.

Rachel Powell cradled her tablet as she depicted Calliope, the elder muse of epic poetry.

"I'm a fair voice," said Rachel, 10.

A group of Suffecool's music students performed "Hymn to the Muses," a song composed by Mesomedes in 117 A.D. Instead of playing the aulos - the main wind instrument in ancient Greece, Suffecool said, the modern-day musicians blew into recorders.

After a torch bearer "lit" the paper Olympic flame, the athletes kicked off the games with foot races. They also competed in the long jump and discus throw (with Frisbees) in their quest to win the coveted laurel wreath of victory.

The students ended the games with a chariot race in which two-student teams of drivers and "horses" raced to the finish line while trying not to break the crepe paper streamer linking driver to horse.

"We tried to pattern the games after the actual Greek Olympics," Spurgas said.

The show seemed to entertain the spectators - kindergarten through second-grade students clothed in tunics and crowned with laurel leaf wreaths - though they might not have fully grasped the event's cultural significance.

First-grade students Tessa Cassaro and Rusty Kopp said they didn't have much in common with the ancient Greeks.

"They ate olives," said Rusty, 6.

"They're different people than us," said Tessa, 7. "They lived a long, long time ago. Like 200 years."

Tanner Craig, 6, seemed most impressed by Greek apparel, such as the tunic he crafted from a pillowcase and decorated in Madsen's art class.

"You had to dress like this and wear sandals with backs in them," Tanner said.

Fellow kindergarten student Alex Henline said school policy put a damper on fashion realism.

"We're not allowed to wear shoes that show our toes in school," said Alex, 6.

Second-grade student Shawn Shroyer enjoyed watching the Spartans surprise the Athenians when a group of shield-wielding marauders crashed out of the Trojan horse that Madsen's top art students created from a refrigerator box, but Shawn wasn't sure what the Spartans had against the Athenians.

"They think they're silly," he said. "I forget why."

The young Olympians, gods, goddesses and spectators enjoyed such traditional Greek fare as olives, feta cheese, baklava and stuffed grape leaves in their classrooms at the end of the day.

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