Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Activity Box

About a year ago, I started putting together small activities that I could do with the kids (half hour-ish). I kept these packets in a plastic expanding file called the activity box. They have proven to be a big hit. I thought it might be interesting if I posted a recent one here. Sometimes the subjects are prompted by the kids asking specific questions. In this case, I wanted to continue our study of cultures, while discussing ennobling ideals.


What Athena represents:

Principle: Synthesis of reason and feeling, of wisdom, war, strategy, industry, justice and skill (contrast to Ares, Apollo, furies). Blending of male and female iconographies, accompanied by serpent (power) and owl (wisdom). Shown as a beautiful woman with armor and spear.

Artistic representations of Athena show us how people understood her:

Principle: Explain Greek use of pottery as art form. Ask kids to find Athena in the picture. What is she doing (battling Giants (possibly emphasize that they were thought to be wild, and obviously male)). Are Giants bigger than people? Do you think it would be scary to fight a Giant? Do you think Athena was afraid to fight the Giants? (This is to teach courage) The point here is to teach how to understand what the artist is trying to convey.

Optional use of Greek vase #2.

Cheat link for reference

Athena was so well-regarded by the people, they built temples for her. Show the front and back gilded Athena. Do you think it was expensive to cover the statue in Gold? Do you see the person in the temple? How big do you think the statue was? Note the scenes on her pedestal which tell stories of her experiences.

Principle: Though Athena was a goddess of war, she disliked fighting without a purpose and preferred using wisdom to settle predicaments. The goddess would only encourage fighting if it was for a reasonable cause or to solve conflict.

Skip ahead to Antonio Belluci Athena. What is the artist trying to tell us about her? Is she rich or poor? Is she a ruler (if they miss the point, play ‘where’s Waldo’ for the crown and scepter)? Note the background of the subdued giants.

Skip to simple artistic depiction. How do we know this is Athena? (This is iconography review. Spear, owl, armor, beauty are the hooks). What can we learn about Athena from this picture?

If you still have their attention, optional use of the Gustav Klimpt depiction of Athena. What do you see about the headdress? Note the triple crown. See the statuette in her hand. What do you think it stands for?

At this point, it is time to break from the lecture-type learning, and switch to something more of an activity. In this case -- coloring book pages:

Usually, after these kinds of activity box thingies, I try to work in reinforcement of the messages across the next few days. What would Athena do if she was afraid of the dark? How do you show courage? Pretend to be a monster and have the kids defeat you.


  1. I think that's really creative and smart. Do you feel like the messages are easy for the kids to absorb at their current ages? I took a Classical Mythology class in college and I'm pretty sure those people wouldn't have even been able to do the coloring sheets properly.

  2. I think it depends on your tone and presentation. Once you get their excitement going and they are engaged, they can absorb a lot. Small refreshers and follow-up questions cement the learning.

  3. Great presentation. Does Dandelion keep up with things almost as well at Star?