I am utterly indebted to the cooperation and cheerfulness of the Bedales students who have joined in wholeheartedly as we have kept our classes in Latin (and a bit of Greek) going! When we started in the latest lockdown I wasn’t sure how well we would get on – but we have all coped with the challenges of poor internet and strange work stations in our various homes (mainly by laughing when things go wrong – what else could we do?) Looking back over the past couple of months I am intrigued by the good progress we have made, in all the year groups from Block 3 to 6.2.
What’s made this happen? I can think of a few factors. The fact that Latin and Greek are ‘dead’ languages has helped – we don’t depend on the immediacy which is a key positive part of learning a modern language. There is the fact that in isolation students have had more time (with fewer distractions from other students around them!) to work at their own pace, and had the courage to ask for help whenever they needed it. Above all our progress has been helped by the sheer goodwill of all the students (and sympathetic and supportive parents – thank you!) right across the year-groups.
We have accepted that things would go wrong, technologically; we wait. We have coped with strange differences in time-zones and the issues that brings. We have accepted that working from home is challenging and if for any reason a student can’t find the set text book they used only two days before, we give them time to get it; and if it has been buried under something we find something else to do which usefully helps us make progress. And progress we have… to my delight (and relief, let’s be honest!)
I am looking forward to being back in a classroom and seeing students without strange backgrounds on their screens. It will, I admit, take some adjustments. But there has been more thriving than surviving and I hope that everyone involved – myself included – has come out of the experience with lots of lessons learned about how we learn and how we can motivate ourselves when we are ‘back to normal’, however the new normal looks.
And to close, here’s a challenge to all the Bulletin Readers. This is a passage from our Block 3 workbook, with a quiz at the bottom – put the sentences in the right order.
To help you, I am including Siena’s completed storyboard. Try it for yourselves!
On 28 February, those of us in the 6.1 Classics class visited the British Museum’s Troy: Myth & Reality exhibition. It was an extraordinarily well curated collection of anything and everything relating to Troy, in order to help us better understand The Iliad by Homer.
The museum had lots of ancient pieces of art and stories relating to Troy. They had lots of vases and other items of treasury dating back roughly 4,000 years. The artefacts came from museums across the world and also reflected that these stories have inspired artists, sculptors, potters, writers and musicians of every century. A highlight was the massive wood-framed Trojan horse that hung over the main room to bring us into the Trojan world.
It’s been a hands-on week in Classics classes this week. Block 4 students have been putting the finishing touches to their miniature triumphal arch (pictured above), which they made last week from the same sand and cement mix that was made to use the Pantheon and Colosseum in Rome. The class has been studying major monuments – from Stonehenge to the Romans – and this was an opportunity to try their hand at the Roman technique of making a mould and filling it. It seemed a fitting way of wrapping up this module of study before they produce their extended essays.
Block 4’s Ancient Civilisations class had a hands-on experience during a rare sunny spell this week, when they tried to replicate the methods which were probably used by the Ancient Egyptians to lay out the base of the Great Pyramid.
It is less than 0.05 degrees off true north, apparently, and its sides do not vary by more than 5 centimetres in their total length of 230 metres! So, how was it done?
Well, with sticks (or in our case, pencils) and string, and a lot of patience. There was a great sense of teamwork and a bit of fun in the open air as well as a practical appreciation of just how impressive – and patient – the ancient monument builders were!
To complement what we can learn in class and from books and the internet, the ‘Famous Five’ who make up this year’s Ancient Civilisations BAC cohort visited the neolithic – and now World Heritage – sites of Avebury Stone Circle, West Kennett Long Barrow and Stonehenge itself.
The weather held fair – well, mostly – but the opportunities to ‘connect’ with these extraordinary monuments constructed 4,500 years ago were seized to the full! All the sites provoked thought and deep reaction – one student commented “I found it interesting that people put the rocks there and we don’t know why”. Stonehenge itself provoked mixed reactions, from “smaller than I thought” to “bigger than I expected”!
At Avebury, there were several expressions of making a ‘spiritual connection’ with the place, especially at a tree marked with ribbons by New Age devotees. Perhaps the most memorable experience was ‘being spooked’ by going into a 5,000-year-old tomb at West Kennett, and then eating lunch on top of it, with vistas spreading all around and fine views of Silbury Hill.