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Myths and fables, modernized in skits, videos and puppets

When tasked with creating his own modern-day take on god and goddess myths, Mason Clark came up with Electro, god of electricity. Electro is famous for saving a town from a giant, Mason explained, and his power is “shooting electricity out of his hands.”

Classmate Vivian LaMange has a pet vizsla at home she is rather fond of, so her 21st century woman to worship is Valda, goddess of the gentle, yet energetic Hungarian dog breed.

Teacher Larry Frazier clearly enjoys his students’ creativity

All of Larry Frazier’s sixth-grade social studies students got to conceive of their own gods and goddesses during a recent four-week unit on ancient Greece. They also studied  myths and fables — which they acted out via group puppet shows, videos and live skits — and made flip-books for various gods/goddesses from the cultures of Greece and Rome, Egypt and the Norse.

Puppet shows and skits came with timeless morals, such as “A small gain is better than a large promise,” “If you seek to do harm, harm will come to you,” and “Appearances can be deceiving.”

“They have come up with amazingly creative myths over the years, and I’ve seen some tremendous artists really enjoy the chance to use their talents in a new avenue of expression,” Frazier said.

Ronen Dujovny with the puppet for his group’s skit

Enduring Themes

Frazier, who is in his his 42nd and final year of teaching, said he has done the unit “for many years, but can’t put a number on it.”

“I’m always surprised how reflective the students’ work is of our modern culture, just as this material reflected the ancient cultures,” he said. “The students deal with the expected technology, games and modern products, but many of them also deal with social issues such as divorce, families, heroes and good deeds, among others.”

He said students also see connections to the past in ways they hadn’t previously thought about, by recognizing enduring themes in product advertisements, the solar system, words in our language (“cereal” comes from Ceres, the goddess of agriculture), fantasy literature, movies and games.

Frazier said uses an interdisciplinary approach to social studies whenever possible.

“This format touches on so many more skills than traditional lessons would: skills such as writing, research, use of technology, visual artistry and creativity, public speaking and group work. It really enhances student interest and has, I feel, a very positive impact on their learning.”

Extra Credit Myth: The god of Google Fights Fake News by Sawyer Bouwkamp 

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.

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