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Live history lesson is all Greek to McParland students
These sixth graders, determination written on their faces, try to go for the win in this game of tug-of-war during Olympics Day at McParland School. Unfortunately, they lost to the other team. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

The story of one particular ancient civilization is no longer all Greek to the George McParland School sixth-graders.

They lived it – for a day, sans the gourmet. But they learned a lot of things Grecian including memorizing the Greek alphabet, playing in competitive games – non-Olympic types through they kept the Olympian athletic spirit and sportsmanship – such as Frisbee throw (as close to a discus throw as they could come up with), tug-of-war, and short and long sprints. They dressed up – not just the students but their sixth-grade teachers, even Vice principal Kathleen Stevens who was christened by the sixth-graders as Athena, the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, among other things – in tunics that they fashioned themselves out of drapes and bed sheets, with the exception of teacher Casey Cavanaugh who confessed his eye-catching crimson red-and-white costume was purchased online by “my significant other.”

Like its ancient counterpart, the students’ Olympic Games started with teams marching in groups – from Athens, Corinth, Sparta, Argo to name a few – gathering in the school’s courtyard, followed by the running of the Olympic Torch (a plastic toy torch with tapered bright orange ribbons looking like flames in the breeze), and teacher David Reagan declaring that the games have officially begun. Doing the honors of bearing the Olympic Torch as they around the campus were students Dylan Stokes, Amanda Perry, Kris Moreno and Tiffany Liebelt.

Many of the day’s events were not all Greek to Reagan. As a serviceman in the 1970s, he actually lived for more than two years in Greece and so was able to relate to his students some of the custom flavors of Greece while they were learning Greek history, the mosaic arts and the Olympic Games.

There was a special reason why the vice principal was in costume and how she ended up being christened Athena by the students.

“I visited their classroom each day,” she explained, while they were studying ancient civilization. During those visits, every student who was able to recite to her the Greek alphabet received an extra credit.

“It’s not that hard; it only took me a day” to memorize it, a grinning sixth grader Austin Buschow said.

Several students said they already had the alphabet memorized when they were nine years old. As it turned out, they learned it from their older siblings. One student said she learned it from her brother when he was in college. A group recited it to the tune of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” much like young children say their ABCs in the familiar tune.

“It’s a lot of fun for the kids,” smiled Stevens as she listened to some of the students proudly displaying their knowledge of the Greek alphabet.

“It’s history come to life,” said teacher Cavanaugh as he wrote down the winners of the different games.

He said he is working on starting a Renaissance Festival at the school as part of that history-come-to-life lesson. McParland, after all, is the home of the Knights, he pointed out.

So it’s just fitting that the school should have a Renaissance Festival. “I’m gonna make it happen,’ he vowed.