If you didn’t know you were in the Founders Classical Academy of Lewisville gymnasium, you’d think you were transported back in time to Athens, Greece circa 776 B.C. The second-graders donned tunics and competed in four modified, indoor-friendly events including the foam dart javelin throw, the soft discus throw, the bean bag shot put, and a scooter chariot race as they competed in the school’s Second Annual Greek Olympic Games on April 13.
Four weeks before the opening ceremony, the second-graders began studying the Core Knowledge history unit of Ancient Greece. At the classical school, this subject is embraced and celebrated as students learn about Greek ideas, words, art forms and patterns of government going back more than 2,000 years.
The competition was set up where each of the three second-grade classes competed against themselves in each event for a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winner and then the first place winners from each class (city-state) competed for overall champions. The winners were given a wreath made from an olive branch, similar to the winners of the ancient Greek games.
“We are lucky to have the parental support we do at this school as they contributed the food, helped us with the games, made the wreaths, and made the tunics from sheets for their children,” said Rachel Difurio, second-grade teacher.
This was a unique and sentimental day for one parent as she watched her son, Maximos, compete in the games. Grace Tsarouhas and her family moved to Texas from Sparta, Greece only seven months ago. Grace began working with ResponsiveEd as a customer advocate in the information services department and her sons were enrolled in a typical ISD school, one in second-grade and one in third-grade. After learning of the education model offered at a Founders Classical Academy school, she made the switch and believes her two sons are adjusting easier to their new home because of it.
“I was thrilled for the curriculum; what they study is like what they studied in Greece,” said Tsarouhas. “Before they came here, the material didn’t challenge them and there wasn’t much to learn. But here, the variety of what they get to learn is marvelous.”
Maximos did put his foot down when it came to picking his costume for the Olympics. Grace says that he is proud to be from Sparta and wanted to wear the tunic of a Spartan warrior, not the Athenian tunics that most of his peers would be wearing.
Alicia Dockins, a fellow parent at FCA Lewisville, says that her children got to know Maximos when he first enrolled in the school and was learning the ropes at his new school. “I told them to look for kids who were struggling and maybe needed a friend,” said Dockins.
Dockins now has two students at the school and will make it three when her youngest child starts kindergarten next year. One son is in second-grade with Ms. Difurio and her oldest daughter, who currently is in fourth-grade, was also taught by Ms. Difurio. Dockins says that the staff is continuously supporting the students’ education, even after they move on to the next grade.
The games encouraged students to learn the importance of teamwork and supporting each other as they cheered on the classmates. The FCA Lewisville gym was full of excitement as the students jumped up and down, clapping and cheering for their classmates.
“I learned a lot of stuff from learning about ancient Greece, like how hard work pays off and to never give up. My favorite thing I learned was how the Greeks would often use brains over brawn to win their battles,” said second-grader Caleb Pratt.
“I liked when our teacher read the Iliad to us. I liked how in the story people fought for their city-state and each other,” said second-grader Jhanvi Gannamaneni.
After the games and awards, students and parents enjoyed a Greek-themed buffet and reflected on their recent Greek studies.
“I love the marriage of the classical, rigorous education with the hands-on experiential learning,” said Dockins. “Events like this promote participation from student competitors and spectators along with parents who helped organize and judge and the teachers who tie it all back to the classical education curriculum.