The scene was set–a classroom in complete disarray. Tables overturned. Chairs stacked against the wall. Butcher block paper and markers at each station. The puzzled looks of students walking by and colleagues stopping to chat before school were priceless. What happened in here?
Fun was only one bell away. After learning the background details of The Iliad and the events leading to the Trojan War, my juniors were about to embark on an epic journey. Bell. Cue the music.
Come with me now…
There was some confusion and initial hesitation, but those who understand the hero’s journey acknowledge there is no honor in refusal of the call.
And then it happened. Imaginations took over. High school juniors rediscovered their love of play. Armies formed and the competition was on. With pride on the line, one courageous warrior after another armed him or herself with an art supply. Tasks were assigned as ship builders rearranged their furniture. Others looted the classroom for additional supplies, finding creative uses for common objects.
Much like the Greeks prior to departure for Troy, students attempted to raid the camps of other armies to claim greater wealth or territory, but most were turned away by a watchful defense (Don’t worry, parents. Zeus did not allow any running with scissors).
With immortality awaiting, armies finalized their ships and set sail across the Aegean Sea. But prior to launch, proud warriors paused for a photo. Not only would their names be remembered, their faces would be enshrined on Mount Olympus (or at least on Twitter).
I did not anticipate the extent to which my students would take this activity. The crafty gatherers even remembered the toy box–a popular treasury of props in my classroom. Rightfully, the greatest heroes earned the finest armor.
The results were impressive–innovative–and fun. The energy of this memorable activity provided momentum to propel the rest of our literary unit of study. Teachers cannot take these opportunities for granted. For all we know, our students’ world of trials and challenges might seem like ten years of war, attacked with sickness, fatigue, and loss along the way. There might be no divine intervention nor favorable winds behind their homeward return. We are in a position to be our students’ mentors. Let’s find the inspiration to make their educational journeys epic.