“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
Living in Athens for 4 months may have been some of the best times abroad I have ever had. Despite living there in the worst time of economic and political turmoil Athens has seen in recent decades I found the people, places and food fantastic. Athens provided me with lifelong friendships, unparalleled educational opportunities, and the chance to professionally showcase the type of project-based, interdisciplinary unit planning that I use at THINK Global School.
Academically, my students spent most of the semester on two main projects. In an effort to blend past and present students began with investigating Homer’s epic poem the Odyssey, and eventually moved from Greek legends to their legacy in our first annual TGS Symposium. During our time in Athens, students created biographies on Greek gods, goddesses, and creatures along with three-dimensional sculptures to demonstrate their understanding of Greek mythology. We took class visits to the Acropolis museum to study stories of the gods and make modern day connections.
When planning for Athens, I proposed the outlandish idea of having our students read Homer’s Odyssey while on a boat recreating Odysseus’ path home through the Ionian Sea. Never in a million years did I think this would become a reality. Months after proposing the idea, my students and I were stepping aboard our ship to set sail on a five day journey through to Ithaca. We had discussions about chapters on the boat's top deck under the stars, we drew and re-enacted Homeric scenes,and spend countless hours contemplating the deep themes that Homer’s work evokes.
Students were asked to create their own personal Odyssey and they submitted iBooks that demonstrated their struggle to overcome Homeric themes. Upon returning home, we held classes at the Acropolis and Ancient Agora discussing the origins of democracy with guest speaker and historian Stravros Stavr. After a scavenger hunt around the Ancient Agora, the students met me for a lecture about the origins of Greek philosophy. I took off my shoes and taught the students about Socrates in the very spot that he once stood and taught Plato and Xenophon. We read excerpts from Plato’s writing on the trial of his teacher and the concept of ethics. We then read excerpts from Plato’s republic to spark our understanding of governance.
On the Acropolis, my international students wisely discussed the problems of democracy due to uninformed citizenry. Anecdotes from the United States, Ghana, South Africa, and Bhutan all provided unique perspectives on the implementation of democracy worldwide. We watched history unfold around us as Greece slid into economic turmoil, read some student reflections on the Greek economic crisis. Toward the end of the semester in Athens, the students began preparing their own oral presentations using rhetorical devices to present in Ancient symposium style for our first annual TGS Dialogos Symposium. To this end, we skyped with author of Thank You For Arguing, Jay Heinrichs, to learn about the history and implementation of rhetoric throughout the centuries.