Learning Life: Greeking out at Duke School

Jan. 13, 2013 @ 06:36 PM

The ancient Greeks sit at computers, draped in self-fashioned chitons, waiting for fact sheets and speeches to print.
Well, maybe they’re not that ancient.
They’re sixth-graders at Duke School, in the midst of a unit on ancient Greek history. Teachers have divided the students into groups, each known as a “polis,” to represent a prominent region.
They’ve been decorating boxes and designing badges to represent their groups. But on Thursday morning, it was time for heralds in each polis to make a presentation to their peers.
Bella Cude serves as herald for the region known as Megara. She stands before classmates and give a speech promoting her group’s region.
“To start off with,” Cude says, “Megara has an advantageous geographic location. Because Megara is located on the narrow strip of land connecting Pelopenesia with Attica, Megara has the power to bargain with passing armies for money.”
The region enjoys great wealth because of its textile industry too, she explains. They settled the eastern Mediterranean and founded the city of Byzantium. One of its great engineers oversaw construction of a 3,432-foot-long tunnel through the heart of a mountain. Megara started its own philosophical school inspired by Socrates. And, eventually, Megara minted its own coin emblazoned with the image of Apollo and embarked on a massive public building project.
Bob Robinson, a Duke School teacher who studied Greek and Latin in college, said he really enjoys immersing his students in this phase of human history.
During this unit, Cude and other students will learn about ancient medicine, mathematics, drama and philosophy. They’ll put on four dramatic performances as part of the culmination of the project, Robinson said.
“We’re all going to really focus on revolutions in thinking, ways of being and understanding the world,” Robinson said. “I introduce them to the pre-Socratic philosophers who tried to attribute the origins of things, the universe and everything in it, to physical causes or really, in some cases, conceptual causes other than divine.
“It will blow their minds and be a real stretch for them.”

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For this series, The Herald-Sun chose four students and their families to follow through the 2012-13 academic year to explore what these different opportunities for learning are all about.
The students are:
--Cameron McNeill, a junior at Riverside High School, part of the Durham Public Schools system.
--DeVon Eaddy, a freshman at Research Triangle Charter High School, a public-supported charter high school.
--Bella Cude, a sixth-grader at Duke School, a Durham private school.
--Henry and Scarlett Edwards, home-school students in Chatham County.