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The first Olympics, reenacted at Platteville High School
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The freshman World History and Geography students at Platteville High School recently competed in the first Ancient Olympic Games.

The students competed on a team representing one of the ancient Greek city–states. Before the games could begin, each student was responsible for researching his or her city–state and creating with other team members a flag that represented the city–state’s values and culture. In contrast, the athletes competing in the ancient Olympics would have promised on oath to Zeus that they had been training for their event for 10 months.

After the opening ceremony presentation of the flags, it was time for the games to begin.

The ancient games would have started in the hippodrome with chariot racing, however getting horses into a PHS classroom proved too difficult, so the class began with the javelin throw, modified for safety reasons. The next event was boxing, which involved memorizing as many items in a box as possible in 20 seconds.

Following boxing was a pankration tournament, which was the ancient greek version of mixed martial arts or ultimate fighting. In the classroom, due to the inability to receive a sanction for this type of tournament, the students competed in a rock/paper/scissors elimination tourney.

The next event held the most honor in ancient Greece, the sprint race. In the classroom, rubberbands did the racing, though the class did keep the tradition of naming the next games in honor of the winning athlete.

The final event was perhaps the most difficult, a long-distance race. This event was modified into a grueling pencil-sharpening competition. The finish was thrilling each class period as students strained to sharpen their pencils in a race to become champion, because as in the ancient games, there was no prize for second place.

After the events were finished the students journaled from the perspective of an athlete at the real ancient Olympic Games.

“They did an outstanding job seeing the games ‘through the eyes’ of ancient Greek athletes,” said teacher Jacob Crase.

To extend the depth of the assignment, the students also journaled about the games from one of three different perspectives assigned in English class, where they are reading The Adventures of Ulysses and studying Greek literature.

“Students showed incredible insight as they journaled about the games from the perspective of Zeus, who the games were held in honor of, or as military leaders who were using the games to judge the strength of their army,” said Crase. “Overall, I was genuinely impressed by the ways students demonstrated a strong connection to their different roles, the classroom activities, and the information they had learned about the ancient Greeks.”