Subscribe to my mailing list and receive a free copy of Aesop’s Fables on Stage
If you would like to sign up to our mailing list and receive a free copy of Aesop’s Fables on Stage, click here.
Journey to Ancient Greece: A Mantle of the Expert Drama Workshop
Aim: In this workshop, the children will take on the roles of expert archaeologists and historians tasked with exploring and uncovering the rich history, myths, and culture of Ancient Greece.
Materials Needed: Props for archaeology (like faux artifacts, excavation tools), costumes, art supplies, and materials to create a “Greek museum”.
Introduction (10 minutes): Introduce the scenario: the children are part of a world-renowned team of archaeologists and historians who’ve been commissioned by a museum to create an exhibit on Ancient Greece. They’ll need to conduct research, unearth artifacts, and prepare presentations on their findings.
Role Assumption (10 minutes): Discuss what it means to be an archaeologist or historian. How do they work? What are their responsibilities? This sets the stage for the children to take on their roles as experts.
Archaeological Dig Activity (20 minutes): Set up a faux “dig site” where children can “excavate” replicas of Greek artifacts like pottery, sculptures, and coins. Each artifact can have a tag with some information about its historical context, which children can later research further.
Research and Preparation (30 minutes): The children should then research more about their artifacts and Ancient Greece’s history, mythology, philosophy, and lifestyle. Encourage them to use books, online resources, and even create imaginary interviews with prominent Greek figures.
Here is a list of some famous characters, both historical and mythological, from Ancient Greece:
- Socrates: An influential philosopher who is known as one of the founders of Western philosophy.
- Plato: A student of Socrates and the teacher of Aristotle, Plato was a philosopher and the founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.
- Aristotle: A Greek philosopher and polymath who made significant contributions to a number of fields, including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theater, music, rhetoric, psychology, linguistics, economics, politics, and government.
- Alexander the Great: A military genius who created one of the largest empires in the world by the time of his death.
- Hippocrates: Often referred to as the “Father of Medicine,” he is credited with establishing medicine as a profession distinct from philosophy or theurgy.
- Homer: The legendary author of the epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey.
- Zeus: The king of the gods, god of the sky, lightning, thunder, law, order, and justice.
- Hercules (Heracles): A divine hero, the son of Zeus, known for his strength and for his twelve labors.
- Achilles: A hero of the Trojan War and the central character of Homer’s Iliad.
- Odysseus: A hero of the Trojan War and the protagonist of Homer’s Odyssey, which recounts his 10-year struggle to return home after the war.
- Perseus: The legendary founder of Mycenae and a demigod renowned for his exploits, including beheading the Gorgon Medusa and saving Andromeda from a sea monster.
- Athena: The goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, strategic warfare, mathematics, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill.
- Apollo: God of the sun, the light, the music and prophecy.
Remember, some of these figures are based on mythology and may have different attributes or stories depending on the particular source or interpretation.
Creating the Museum Exhibit (30 minutes): Children can now prepare their exhibits. They can make placards explaining their artifacts, create scenes depicting Ancient Greek life, or prepare performances enacting Greek myths or philosophical debates.
Here are some of the most well-known ones:
- The Creation of the World: According to Hesiod’s “Theogony”, in the beginning, there was only Chaos. From Chaos came Gaia (Earth), Tartarus (the Underworld), and Eros (Love). Gaia gave birth to Uranus (Sky), who became her mate and covered her on all sides. Together they created the Titans, the Cyclopes, and the Hecatoncheires (giants with a hundred hands).
- Titanomachy (War of the Titans): This is the story of the battle between the Titans, led by Cronus, and the Olympian gods, led by Zeus. Zeus and his siblings ultimately won, banishing the Titans to Tartarus.
- The Twelve Labors of Hercules: These are a series of episodes concerning a penance carried out by Hercules, the greatest of the Greek heroes.
- Perseus and Medusa: Perseus, a demigod, was sent to kill Medusa, a monster who could turn people into stone with her gaze. He was successful and later used her head as a weapon.
- Theseus and the Minotaur: Theseus, a prince of Athens, volunteered to be one of the youths sacrificed to the Minotaur, a creature with the body of a man and the head of a bull, and managed to kill the beast.
- The Odyssey: The epic poem by Homer follows the hero Odysseus as he journeys home from the Trojan War, facing numerous trials and tribulations along the way.
- The Iliad: Also an epic poem by Homer, “The Iliad” tells the story of a few weeks during the last year of the Trojan War, focusing on the hero Achilles.
- Orpheus and Eurydice: Orpheus, a legendary musician, journeyed to the underworld to bring back his wife, Eurydice, who had been bitten by a snake and died. He was allowed to take her back to the living world on the condition that he not look back at her until they were out of the underworld, but he failed to keep the condition.
- Pandora’s Box: Pandora, the first woman on Earth, was given a box (actually a jar) and told not to open it, but curiosity got the better of her, and when she opened the lid, all the troubles and evils of the world flew out, leaving only Hope inside once she quickly closed it again.
- Daedalus and Icarus: Daedalus was a skilled craftsman who, along with his son Icarus, was imprisoned in a tower. He crafted wings made of feathers and wax for himself and Icarus to escape. Despite being warned not to fly too high, Icarus did so, the sun melted his wings, and he fell into the sea and drowned.
These stories formed a large part of Ancient Greek religion and provided moral and practical lessons for people. They also helped explain natural phenomena and the origins of the world and humanity. For more Greek myths click here.
Presenting the Exhibit (20 minutes): Once the exhibits are ready, children take turns guiding the group through their displays, explaining their artifacts, and possibly performing their Greek myth enactments.
Here’s a list of some of the most famous and significant Greek artifacts:
- Mask of Agamemnon: Found at Mycenae and supposedly belonging to King Agamemnon, this artifact is a gold funeral mask dating back to the mid-second millennium BC.
- Antikythera Mechanism: This ancient Greek analogue computer was used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses decades in advance. It’s a complex clockwork mechanism composed of at least 30 meshing bronze gears.
- The Parthenon Sculptures: Also known as the Elgin Marbles, these sculptures adorned the Parthenon in Athens and are considered some of the highest achievements of Greek sculpture. They include the metopes, the frieze, and the pedimental statues.
- The Venus de Milo: This ancient Greek statue is believed to represent Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty.
- The Winged Victory of Samothrace: Also called the Nike of Samothrace, this second-century BC marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike (Victory) is one of the most celebrated sculptures in the world.
- Dipylon Amphora: This large grave amphora was used as a grave marker in the ancient Athens cemetery of Dipylon. It features geometric patterns and shows funerary rituals and processions.
- Bronze statue of Zeus or Poseidon: This is a nearly life-sized, over 2-meter tall bronze statue of either Zeus or Poseidon, made around 460–450 BC. The statue holds either a thunderbolt (if Zeus) or a trident (if Poseidon), but the object is missing.
- The Riace Bronzes: These are two full-size Greek bronzes of naked bearded warriors, cast about 460–450 BC that were found in the sea near Riace in 1972.
- Disk of Phaistos: This is a disk of fired clay from the Minoan palace of Phaistos on the island of Crete, possibly dating to the middle or late Minoan Bronze Age (second millennium BC). Its purpose and meaning, and even its original geographical place of manufacture, remain disputed, making it one of the most famous mysteries of archaeology.
- Knossos Palace Artifacts: Knossos is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete. Several artifacts, including beautiful frescoes, tablets, and the throne room, have provided valuable insight into Minoan culture.
Please note that while many of these artifacts can be found in Greece, particularly in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, some are held in other countries due to historical circumstances, such as the Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum.
Discussion and Debrief (10 minutes): End the workshop with a discussion about what they’ve learned about Ancient Greece. Talk about the importance of history and archaeology, and how it helps us understand our past.
Conclusion (5 minutes): Wrap up the workshop by praising the children for their hard work and excellent archaeological and historical skills. They have now experienced a bit of what it’s like to be an archaeologist and historian, and have developed a deeper understanding of Ancient Greek culture.
Note: The activities and timings are flexible and can be adapted based on the age group, number of children, and available time. This Mantle of the Expert approach will allow children to learn about Ancient Greece in an engaging, immersive, and hands-on way.