This week, 30 children arrived at Cheney School to take part in the Iris Project’s sixth annual classics summer school. This year, the theme was Greek myths featuring transformation, and the four Latin and ancient Greek classes were named after characters who had been changed into other things – Arachne, the expert weaver who became a spider, Cyane, the water nymph who wept so much she turned to water, Perdix, the clever boy who was turned by his jealous uncle into a partridge, and Daphne, the woodland nymph who became a laurel tree to escape the god Apollo.
For three mornings, children learned Latin and ancient Greek in lively lessons designed and delivered by our brilliant teachers Sif, Leo, Tarika and Phoebe, and their very helpful room assistants Noah, Hannah and George. In their classes, they learned ancient Greek and Latin words and grammar, as well as exploring aspects of civilisation and myth, such as Greek democracy and ancient monsters!
They also took part in a range of craft activities themed each day on a different set of sisters who were turned into animals. The first day featured the Minyades sisters, who were turned into bats for refusing to celebrate the cult of the god Dionysus. Students were able to paint models of bats, do fir cone weaving (fir cones being sacred to Dionysus) and make a thyrsus stick (a stick used by the followers of Dionysus).
On day two, the theme was the Heliades sisters. Their brother Phaethon was struck out of the sky by the god Zeus, after he borrowed his father the sun god’s chariot. The sisters spent so long grieving that they turned into poplar trees. Attendees created Roman mosaics of trees, chalked their own pictures of women turning into trees, and made sun god plates.
The final day featured the Pierides sisters, who challenged the nine Muses, goddesses of poetry, to a singing contest. This was very unwise, as they lost, and were then turned into magpies! Students were able to create bird masks and make their own lyres.
On the final day, some children came in costume, with some amazing examples of ancient characters and ideas. This year featured three Arachnes, a Daphne, a Cyane, a walking cover of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (the Roman poem which consisted entirely of myths about transformation), a person turning into a statue, and Medusa, who was responsible for turning many people into stone! There was also a huntsmen, Midas, and Narcissus, who turned into a flower after falling in love with his own reflection!
We are enormously grateful to all our volunteer teachers and helpers for running such engaging lessons, and to everyone who came to take part in this very unusual year.