Dr. Matthew Fitzjohn (University of Liverpool) reports on Grand Designs in Ancient Greece, a public engagement project funded by the AHRC and the University of Liverpool which involves cross-curricular teaching and learning through play at primary and secondary school levels.
Inspired by my research on houses and households in the Greek world, my interest in digital humanities, and a love of small plastic bricks, I created the project Grand Designs in Ancient Greece in 2015. The main aim of the project has been to create schemes of work and classroom activities to encourage pupils at Key Stage (KS) 2, 3 and 4 (ages 7-16 years) and A Level students to develop their knowledge of archaeology and Ancient Greece. A further aim has been to promote pupils’ interest in Ancient Greece (Classical Civilisations and History more generally) by integrating learning about Ancient Greece with other subjects including English, Design and Technology, Geography and Computing.
Since 2016, I have been working with Peta Bulmer (postdoctoral researcher and the main LEGO builder on the project). We have been collaborating with teachers at nine schools in England to explore and devise cross-curricular teaching resources based on my research. Responding to teachers’ needs, we have created teaching resources and classroom activities that cover content including archaeological methods, house construction and decoration, as well as the lives of children and women in the past. We have visited schools and helped teachers to lead the activities but the majority of our resources have been used by teachers leading their own classroom activities.
The lessons on Ancient Greece are actively cross-curricular and bridge the gap between arts and humanities teaching and Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects, with learning through play. The project is putting the arts into STEM teaching in order to build up a ‘head of STEAM’ in classrooms. Many of the activities have been created to include the use of LEGO or other non-branded plastic building bricks. This has included learners building models of houses from Olynthos and using their knowledge of daily life in Ancient Greece to write their own stories about the past, and to illustrate them with storyboards or produce stop-motion films of their model creations.
LEGO is also used to help pupils to learn about Pythagoras’ Theorem. This comes in very handy when they work as ‘archaeologists outside the classroom‘ to create archaeological grids and carry out surveys.
By thinking through and designing classical floor mosaics using LEGO tiles and analysing the geometrical features of houses, students learn about Ancient Greek art and architecture. Through these activities they also tackle problem-solving maths activities that enhance their skills in numeracy, measurement and comprehension of scale. The use of multimedia teaching and practical activities aim to make lessons that are of interest to all students of different ages, abilities, skills and interests.
The project would not have been possible without financial support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology at the University of Liverpool, and it would not have been such a success without the fantastic support of the teachers at our partner schools: Liverpool College, Liverpool; Carfield Primary School, Sheffield; King Henry VIII School, Coventry; Kempsey Primary School, Worcestershire; Patcham Junior School and Patcham High School Brighton; and the Priory Lewes. We are currently developing links with other schools, not only across the UK but also in Serbia and Italy.
You can download the primary and secondary resources from the TES website, here.I am keen to develop the resources and learn about how people may have used them, so please leave feedback or suggestions on the TES pages about the resources once you have seen or used them. If you would like to find out more about the project or get in touch with me directly please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Matthew Fitzjohn