The Odyssey of Learning: A Student’s Perspective

Mar 6, 2019 | All School, Build People Up, Come to Play, courage over comfort, Fine Arts, Middle School News

Written by Amelia K, Grade 6

Jumping off from our Greek Mythology unit, we began to focus on The Odyssey. We read books, sketchnoted, did in-class writing assignments, had discussions, and watched a play.

Let me take you through our sixth grade adventure.

On our first day with the unit, we started off by becoming pros at sketchnoting. Each sixth grader was given a graphic novel version of The Odyssey and was asked to read 10 pages at a time while taking sketchnotes. We also had in- class writing assignments. We were asked questions on a piece of paper (like a quiz) and wrote the answers down. We kept reading a few pages each night and taking sketchnotes along with it until we completed the book. By then, we had completed three in-class writing assignments.

The Odyssey is part of Greek Mythology. There are many versions of this story and every one of them is a little different. Basically, it is a story about a man named Odysseus and his wife Penelope. Their son Telemachus is just a baby when Odysseus leaves to go on a journey. He had to leave his home in Ithaca, to go fight in the Trojan war. Odysseus is away for many years. He finds land and goes through many tribulations. He loses his crew as time goes on. He misses his son and his wife. After at least 20 years, he arrives home to reunite with his family.

A week or two after starting the unit, we found out that Mount Vernon’s Middle School was doing a production of The Odyssey. I saw the audition poster and was certain that I wanted to be a part of it. I had a conflict with the rehearsals so I asked Miss S, the Director, if I could be on the makeup crew. Once I got the affirmative reply, I couldn’t wait! My Literature teacher Mrs. Menkus had been asked to co-direct the play which is something that she had never done before. After weeks and weeks of rehearsing and prepping, it was showtime. This particular production was a one-act play, meaning the story is told in only one act. I spent at least an hour and a half each night of the production on makeup along with a few parents and Ethan Ray, who is in the Upper School. I spent most of my time doing the makeup for Scylla – the sea monster! I got to watch the show one night and it was SPECTACULAR!! All of the hard work paid off and all of the actors were perfect for their roles.

After reading the book and then seeing the play, I realized how much the play expanded the character of Telemachus (Odysseus’s son). To start off, Telemachus was in much more of the play than in the book. He was shown as a younger boy and as an older boy. In the end, Telemachus was really confident. When Nick Schweninger, who played Telemachus, said, “I am your son, but I am also my own person.” It really helped prove that Telemachus’s character was a strong, independent man.

There were big differences in the ending. The first thing I realized is that there was no Penelope (Odysseus’ wife) in the play. In the book, she had a pretty big role, and she asked Odysseus about “the bed around the olive trees” to see if it was actually him. Penelope really added another dimension to the story. Without her, Odysseus’ return home wasn’t as exciting. Another big thing that caught my attention was that there was no Poseidon. In the book, one of the points on the journey is that Odysseus has to make peace with Poseidon. We miss that part in the play. I would say that the ending in the book was a lot more detailed and a lot longer than the one in the play. It must have been really hard to put the whole story in just one act.

At the beginning of our unit on Greek Mythology, I wasn’t quite sure if I would enjoy it or not. After some time I realized that it was actually something fun to learn about. When I heard that we were going to be reading the Odyssey, I was surprised that we were doing more Greek Mythology, but now when I look back, I really needed to know about Greek Mythology to understand the story!  

After this unit, I realized that there is more than one way to learn about something specific. I like that we can see things from different perspectives. I learn better that way!