What have the Romans ever done for us? Pupils at an Arnold Primary School have been given a fascinating insight into the answer to that very question as part of an unusual project involving staff and students at The University of Nottingham.
For one hour a week, a group of 17 youngsters at Arnold Mill Primary School have had the chance to immerse themselves in the sights, sounds and even tastes of Ancient Rome, as part of a weekly Latin club.
With help from academics and postgraduate and undergraduate students from the University’s Department of Classics, they have been finding out about everything from the politics of the Roman Senate to the spectacle and brutality of the amphitheatre.
The youngsters, all aged between seven and 11-years-old, have even been learning the native tongue of Rome and will have their new language skills tested to the limit when they present a 10-minute play entirely in Latin to an invited audience of parents, teachers, school governors and invited dignitaries later this week.
PhD student Cressida Ryan, who has been leading the Latin Club sessions, said: “It’s not a subject that you would usually see on a primary school curriculum but the reaction we have had to the club from the kids has been quite incredible, they absolutely adore it.
“It’s amazing what they have achieved so far. When I arrive for the sessions I am greeted in word-perfect Latin — I recently heard about one of our youngsters who has been teaching her family Latin phrases at the breakfast table and we have even had pupils asking us to recommend a good Latin dictionary!”
The Latin club started in November last year when head teacher Matt Lawrence, who has a personal passion for the subject, contacted Dr Helen Lovatt, associate professor in Classics at the University, seeking help in devising exciting ways to introduce some of the school’s most gifted and talented pupils to the wonders of the ancient world.
They came up with the idea of providing one-hour, practical sessions that would use fun activities to teach the children about all aspects of everyday life during the Roman Empire.
So far, their sessions have included exploring the issues surrounding slavery by pitting different types of gladiators — from Thracians to Greek hoplomachus — against one another in the Roman amphitheatre and learning the gladiator motto nos morituri, te salutamus (we who are about to die, salute you); devising their own system of Government and holding debates to examine the complex political power struggles of the Roman Senate; and a taste test of authentic Roman recipes to discover the important role that ingredients like salt and honey played in preserving food.
In addition, they also take part in a one-hour language session with Mr Lawrence, in which they have been learning basic conversational Latin phrases and grammar.
Matt Lawrence said: “The driving force behind this project is that I firmly believe that all children should have the opportunity to study Latin if they want to. As far as I am aware, we are the only primary school in the county which is giving its pupils access to this fascinating subject.
“It was also fundamentally about raising aspirations and showing these children that higher education and a university degree can be a route to a better life. I’ve already had one of the pupils tell me that she would like to study at Oxford or Cambridge and why not? It’s about making them believe that if they want it enough and work hard enough for it, anything is possible.
“Above all, we are grateful to the staff and students from the Department of Classics at the University, without whom we could not have run this project. They have been enthusiastic and supportive throughout the whole process and have, I believe, produced an exemplary model that could easily be used by other schools.”
The pupils will present a play written by Cressida Ryan entirely in Latin on Friday April 3 in front of an audience that will include Councillor Joyce Bozniak, Notts County Council Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Gedling MP Vernon Coaker and the Rt Hon Joan Taylor, Chairman of Notts County Council, as part of an official event to mark the opening of the school’s new £4 million state-of-the-art building on Cross Street, Arnold.
The play will be based on the idea of a Roman slave auction in which every character will represent a topic covered by the children during their club sessions, for example, a cook, a scribe, a gladiator and a teacher.
Later this month, the children and their parents will also have the opportunity to visit The University of Nottingham, take a tour of the campus, explore the University’s Museum of Archaeology and take part in activities run by undergraduates in the Department of Classics. Also planned is a trip to Cambridge to take in attractions including the Museum of Classical Archaeology, and a visit from a philosophy don at Trinity College, Cambridge.
The Latin Club initiative has been funded by a grant from the University’s Centre for Integrative Learning and a £600 donation from Gedling councillor Jen Cole. It also supports the University’s widening participation strategy to raise aspirations among children in the local community and encourage bright pupils from groups currently under-represented in higher education to consider university as a realistic option.
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Notes to editors:
The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 70 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
It provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy).
Its students are much in demand from 'blue-chip' employers. Winners of Students in Free Enterprise for four years in succession, and current holder of UK Graduate of the Year, they are accomplished artists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators and fundraisers. Nottingham graduates consistently excel in business, the media, the arts and sport. Undergraduate and postgraduate degree completion rates are amongst the highest in the United Kingdom.
Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.
The media is invited to photograph or film during a Latin Club session at Arnold Mill Primary School, Cross Street, Arnold, on Thursday April 2 between 2pm and 3pm. Please contact Cressida Ryan or Matt Lawrence to confirm attendance.