No homework, no set times for attendance and a slave to take you to school: could this be one of the wilder ideas in a Year Six suggestion box? No, just an ordinary day in the life of an ancient Roman classroom.
As part of a unique time-travelling adventure organised by leading classicist Professor Eleanor Dickey and the Department of Classics, schoolchildren and families can experience ancient classrooms first-hand at the University of Reading from 27 June to 7 July 2017. Students will have the opportunity to become completely immersed in Roman daily life: dressed in Roman costume, they will learn to write with a stylus on a wax tablet, read from papyrus scrolls, work on Roman school exercises and try their hand at multiplication in Roman numerals.
Of particular interest to schools and pupils will be the differences between ancient and modern classrooms. In ancient schools there were no raised hands and the teacher never spoke to the class as a whole, only to individuals. Lecturers and students from the Department of Classics, as well as Institute of Education PGCE students, are currently swotting up on ancient teaching methods in preparation for what Professor Dickey describes as, “an event which we believe is unique in modern times.”
“The changes in the way children are taught now are massive, even going back 10 years. Well we are going back 2,000 years! There was no set curriculum – parents paid for what they wanted their child to learn – no set classes, year groups or times for attendance.
“But children wouldn’t get away with skipping lessons. The majority of parents sent their children to school with a slave who not only kept them safe on the way there but also reported back any errant behaviour.”
Professor Dickey continued: “No obelisk has been left unturned to create an authentic atmosphere, from Roman costumes to windows looking out on the River Nile.
“They’ll be no need for pupils to pack their papyrus as we’ll be providing all the equipment including tablets, the Ancient World kind, and reed pens.
“The Roman Empire is one of the most important periods in our history. The day promises to be fun and educational, for pupils and students alike.”
The inspiration for this event arose from Professor Dickey’s work on The Colloquia of the Hermeneumata Pseudodositheana, Europe’s most ancient children’s books. These were manuals written to help ancient Greeks and Romans get around in each other’s languages. They tell of a day in the life of a schoolchild and his teacher as well as containing numerous dialogues that shed light on daily life in the Roman Empire.
While much has obviously changed, some scenarios in the book will ring a bell now; from the daily tasks of shopping and banking, to a telling off for a husband returning home late a little the worse for wear.
The Roman schoolroom will appear at the University of Reading from 27 June to 7 July 2017. School groups, families, and individuals will all be welcomed. There will be a small charge, which will be waived under certain circumstances. There is capacity for around 20 people per hour in the school room and larger groups will be accommodated by revolving activities. The cost will be £5 per attendee for one school room visit and £10 for the whole day.
For more information about practicalities, including the schoolroom’s offerings and how it can further modern classroom objectives, see:
Booking is essential: please contact E.Dickey@reading.ac.uk to reserve a date and time.