Thursday, April 15, 2010

It's All Greek to Me.

It’s a Really Big Show


It dominates the wall outside the 4th grade classroom and brings color, history, geography, and references to some of the greatest stories ever told. It depicts places that are well known in the present day, some sites that are famous spots of the ancient world, and other locations that exist only in the epics of Homer. It has become a conversation piece for parents, students, and visitors in the 3rd and 4th grade hallway. It is...the Giganto-Map of Greece.

The annual Greek study is a highlight of our 4th grade program. A significant component of this unit is an intensive study of the geography of the Mediterranean region, with an emphasis on the Ionian peninsula. Most years, the students have engaged in individual mapping projects. This year, Mrs. Holman decided it was time to take an intriguing idea from concept to reality. “The Giganto-Map helps the students relate images to place in a physical way,” she said.

To start the project, the class met to discuss all the places they had learned about through their study of the Iliad and the Odyssey, as well as their investigations of Greek history and modern culture. They generated a long list of locations to mark on the map and divided the sites into three categories: Ancient, Modern, and Homeric. Each student then chose one of the places to research and illustrate for the large map. Mrs. Pace and Madame Brabo assembled the land and water images, and the whole class helped to locate the 25 spots.

Colorful index cards are now affixed to the map. The images and written descriptions on these cards are wonderful demonstrations of the students’ ability to combine information that they have gathered from research, class discussions, and their careful reading of the Homeric epics. Each location on the map is numbered to correspond to a longer description on the map key. “The map project really helped us tell the story [of the Odyssey] through pictures,” Mrs. Holman said. The children know the difference between the places that exist only in the epic poem and the sites that can still be found today. They also know that some real places transcend legend: there really are Minoan runs, but there most certainly was no real Minotaur; and Mount Olympus, though it is the tallest mountain in Greece, was not the home of living gods. The students are justifiably proud of this beautiful display of knowledge, and they will happily describe the map, the sites, and their work to any interested visitors.

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