Celebrating culture of ancient Greece

Every year at David Starr Jordan Middle School, there comes a time when sixth-graders are called upon to put down their books and put on a toga.

Students arrived at school on Friday draped in white sheets and wearing laurels in their hair.

The annual Greek Day celebration gives students at taste of what things were like in ancient Greece, Principal Mary Margaret Kljunak said.

"This really brings Greece to life," she said, observing students as they participated in their version of the Olympic Games. "The sixth-graders study ancient Greece, and we want them to experience what it was like."

The annual event started five years ago when Jordan teacher Laura Vineyard decided her social studies class needed a break from the daily grind.

"It helps them understand that what they're learning applies to the real world," Vineyard said. "Everyone really enjoys it."

Vineyard starts out the day with a play written years ago by one of her social studies classes. The play follows the story of Narcissus and Echo, using all the tricks of ancient Greek theater.

"It's a funny story and it has the whole idea of what a Greek chorus was," she said.

During the morning assembly teachers gave the title of "Zuess" and "Hera" to the two best-dressed students in the school.

Planning the Greek outfits helped some students picture what life was like.

"I wouldn't want to be Greek ? you don't get to wear good shoes," said 11-year-old Tony Arellano. "You have to wear sandals."

Ancient Greece was very rocky, added 11-year-old Angel Lesigues.

"There were pointy rocks that could cut your feet," he said.

Tony was concerned not only about the inconvenience of the shoes, but about the ease with which Greeks could die.

"You'd get killed really easily ? there wasn't much armor," he said.

When students took to the fields for their own mini-Olympics, however, they had the luxury of changing into gym clothes and tennis shoes.

"They didn't have the same kind of technology as we do," said 11-year-old Salina Lohacharoen.

The students divided in to city/states to participate in a range of activities including javelin toss, sprints and a wheelbarrow, or "chariot", race.

"It took us seven seconds," beamed Haley Schulman, 11, after wheeling her upside-down friend across the finish line. "After we reached the finish line I dropped her, but we had already made it over."

The students were also treated to an outside production of "The Odyssey" and a lunch of traditional Greek food.

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