Gods Club uses the arts to teach children about ancient Western civilization: Egypt, Greece and Rome. The name “Gods Club” refers to the central importance of mythology, that is, polytheist religions, in the ancient world. Mythology provides a wealth of characters for club members to assume and makes study feel more like play.
Our first trimester is spent in ancient Egypt. As the goddess Isis, the teacher involves students in activities that balance scientific, social, artistic and mythical study. The Nile, represented on the floor in the middle of the room, places the classroom on a map of Egypt’s Old Kingdom of 3000 B.C. Tactile models, puppets and costumes introduce creation myths. As “gods,” students act out a mummification ritual with clay “bodies” and small plaster sarcophagi. The pyramid’s structure serves as architectural model and form with which to organize a social hierarchy of priests, government officials, nobility and peasants. Children accompany Egyptian music with rattles, drums and cymbals. At the end of the trimester, a feast of bread, honey and grapes is enjoyed.
Club members become Olympian gods as the map of Egypt turns into a Greek temple. A dramatic reading of the Odyssey introduces club members to the geography and spirit of ancient Greece. Daily physical exercise follows the opening ritual.
Students learn the importance of craft as they form golden death masks and clay amphorae and weave on wooden looms. They write a short original play and perform in papier mache masks, using handmade swords and shields. Making a tabletop Parthenon helps students remember architectural terms. The principle of democracy is introduced while the children cast votes on pottery shards.
Gods Club continues with immersion in the arts and sciences of ancient Rome. Reassigned Roman gods’ names, club members imagine the story of Romulus and Remus. Symbols of Roman wealth are represented with tile mosaics modeled after the pictures on floors found in Antioch. The “gods” use a level and clay arches to form a working model of an aqueduct. Small chariots race around in a game of Circus Maximus. Students take turns as emperors, citizens, senators and slaves. Decadence is celebrated with a Roman feast complete with slaves borrowed from another club. The temple becomes suddenly plain in our final days of the year, as the relatively somber tone of monotheism gains great influence. What joys and sorrows will the Jews and Christians bring?