Before becoming a teacher I majored in Dramatic Arts: Theater at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. My love of theater began at a young age but I didn’t do much about it until I was in high school. Our high school had a rich theater program that found us thespians performing scenes from a plethora of classic works for English classes and other captive audiences – such as our parents on ‘scene night’.
It was at this time that I began my love affair with Greek Tragedies and Greek Mythology. I was given the role of Creon in the Jean Anouilh version of Antigone. My scene partner, the gorgeous and talented Margaret “Peggy” Iamunno, taught this fledgling actor about the story so I could begin to grasp the enormity and history of this amazing work. I have been hooked ever since and always credit Peggy with introducing me to a passion that has never subsided. I dove into a study that continues to this day and has grown to encompass comparative mythology and most notably the writings of Joseph Campbell.
I never imagined that this interest could be tapped in my teaching of young children, but I was wrong. It all began with a visit to The Metropolitan Museum of Art when our guide stopped the class in front of the tapestry (pictured above) depicting Diana (in literature the equivalent of the Greek goddess Artemis) bathing with her nymphs while Acteon looked on. Diana, none too pleased, changes him into a stag and he is subsequently devoured by his own dogs.
This story mesmerized the students and they kept referring back to it with such excitement. On this visit the museum generously provided us with a book entitled Pocket Dictionary Of Ancient Greek Heroes And Heroines by Richard Woff. I figured it was worth a shot to begin telling them some of these stories that I knew so well. I began with the story of Theseus, Ariadne, Phaedra and the Minotaur. High student interest led to descriptive explorations of...
*Odysseus (Cyclops, Circe, Helen, Paris, the Trojan War, the Sirens)
* Perseus (Medusa, Athena, Andromeda, Pegasus, the Harpies)
* Jason (Medea, Hercules, Talos, the seven headed Hydra, fighting skeletons) and many others.
This theme crept its way into all aspects of our learning and into the physical environment of the classroom. Students chose to label the tables or areas in the room by assigning the names of their favorite characters to each.
We created our own ‘tapestries’ using burlap and various art materials. Below are a few of the ‘tapestries’ that hang above each table. (Not pictured Cyclops and Pegasus)