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Reflections from our Youth Committee

By Tess Chernauskas

Echo and Narcissus- John William Waterhouse (1903)

After taking Latin both freshman and sophomore year, I developed a special appreciation for the language as well as its culture. In Ms. Cerulli’s class, we learned about the Roman Empire and classical Latin through the telling of enthusiastic stories and the drawing of vivid cartoons. While I expected to endlessly memorize every Latin case, I was soon delighted to learn that my Latin class was far from rigid and tedious. Every student’s favorite day of the week was Friday, because Ms.Cerulli would tell us an amazingly animated story with many visuals. This activity was so engaging and exciting for the class, we barely realized the multitude of information that was introduced to us. Soon, I found it so hard to believe that Latin was called a “dead language” for there was so much life in our class!

Therefore, in June when I was presented the chance to intern for Lupercal’s educational sect, I jumped at the opportunity. Going into this project was initially intimidating considering I did not know what to expect, nor if my Latin skills were up to par with those of the brilliant Lupercal leaders. However, my nerves soon ceased after our very first meeting when I met the leaders of our specific project, Emma Vanderpool and Maritere Mix, as well as my fellow intern Caroline Sun. They greeted me with a warm welcome and an exciting goal for the project: to create plans for middle school Latin students and make their class just as riveting as mine, while closing the gender gap in spoken Latin.

First, we wanted to make the lesson plans accessible to all Latin students as well as make them adaptable to the specific needs and levels of all who would like to utilize them. Caroline and I worked diligently to make multiple versions of lesson plans: some that utilized technology and others that only used basic materials found in any classroom. We also made room for choice within our lesson plans to guarantee that every student could absorb what they were learning to the best of their ability.

One lesson plan that I was particularly proud of was incorporating poetry into the story of Echo and Narcissus. The goal of this activity was to allow students to express their emotions about the various characters in the myth and open their perspectives to multiple interpretations of the story’s meaning. Through creating a haiku, students could choose adjectives in either English or Latin to describe the character they related to most. Caroline later created a similar lesson plan utilizing creative expression to convey the meaning of another myth, which I was also inspired by.

Not only do I think my collaborators and I will make an impact on students through this educational project, but this project has also made a lasting impact on me. I benefited greatly by exposure to different viewpoints and collaborating with others who have different perspectives. As a result, I gained a better understanding of how myths are applicable to our real life experiences, and how lessons learned within school can take us far beyond the Latin classroom. Caroline summed up our involvement in Lupercal well by connecting this experience to our own, stating, “It was really fun to be able to do some more research on the myths that I'd loved since I was a kid, while also writing a lesson plan for younger kids—I hoped that, by giving them fun activities to do, they would become interested in these myths and mythology like I did when I was young!”

Tess Chernauskas (she/her) was born in the Bronx in 2004. She currently attends school in Manhattan and loves spending time there. When she is not studying or working as a lifeguard Tess enjoys ballet classes and exploring the neighborhoods of New York City with friends.

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