In January, five sixth grade students from the Hellenic Classical Charter School in Brooklyn, NY traveled abroad for a six-day research expedition. Led by Mr. Petros Fourniotis, theatre-dance coordinator of HCCS, the students visited the New Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece and the British Museum in London, England. They also analyzed the Parthenon Sculptures and gathered information to help inform a special theatrical performance for the New York City History Day Fair. They will present their performance in a competition at the History Day Fair this Sunday, March 6 at the Museum of the City of New York.
The National History Day program provides students with opportunities to develop critical research, thinking and communication skills through the study of history. Under this year’s theme of “Exploration, Encounter, Exchange,” the students created a script entitled “Lord Elgin and the Six Sisters.” Their research concentrated on the controversial removal and transport of the Parthenon Sculptures from Greece to Britain, by the Earl of Elgin, in 1801.
After hearing the ancient Greek story of six sisters who were so close to one another and Athena that she turned them into statues to be together and by her side forever, the “Caryatid” – the six female statues originally used to support the porch of the Erechtheion Temple at the Acropolis in Athens – intrigued them. One of the original six “sisters” was removed by Lord Elgin and is now on display in the British Museum. “It is said that you can hear the cries of the five sisters if you visit the Acropolis at night. The students were so emotionally attached,” Fourniotis said. “They wanted to focus their research on that.”
The students were enthused about the project and what they were able to explore. “At the British museum, we watched a video about how the statues were discovered. The tour guide let us over the ropes for a closer view to see the extreme detail,” sixth grader Athena Bardis said. “Doing this research has helped me learn about primary and secondary sources and I want become a historian one day.”
Anjalise Rodriguez said she was speechless at how beautiful Greece is. “Everything was so beautiful and different from New York. It was breathtaking, it was amazing being there for the first time.”
The research trip also include a guided tour of the Acropolis and interviews with both the President of the New Acropolis Museum, Dr. Dimitrios Pandermalis, and Senior Curator of the British Museum Dr. Ian Jenkins, who is an expert on Ancient Greece, specifically Ancient Greek sculpture.
This is Hellenic’s second year performing in the New York City History Day Fair. Last year, a group of students performed in the junior category, won the city competition and came in first place for the state, They then represented New York in the national competition, held in Washington D.C., where they placed in the top 50.
“Our second year going in, we’ve spent a lot more time on research,” explained Fourniotis. “If we win first or second [place], we will go to State. if not, we try again, we hope for the best. But we’re in it to win it.”
Check their performance out at this year’s New York City History Day Fair on Sunday, March 6.