certaminis auctores gratulationes dant

The results of the CICERO Latin competition are now on the VICTORES page of the competition website and the competition organisers (Patrick, Markus and I) are delighted to be able to publish our congratulations.

The article on the ARLT blog about the level of difficulty of the questions gives the strongest proof possible that all the participants deserve sincere congratulations for their efforts : Judy Nesbit and I were most impressed by the standard of the UK entries. This really does show that 6th Form students relish a genuine intellectual challenge, and Latin is an area which can provide a challenge to be shared with students in different European countries!

I enjoyed designing the certificate which all contestants in the three countries will receive and the Curator of Corinium museum in Cirencester was happy to let me incorporate the photo of the Roman soldier's military Diploma into the design.

I still don't have details of the celebrations in Paris where they had a big prizegiving ceremony and cocktail party on Friday evening – there was a technical hitch at their end so the videoconferencing was cancelled! We couldn't have a big ceremony in the UK because of A level exams, so certificates and prizes have been sent out to the schools.

There are links on the UK page of the competition website to various articles and slideshows on the ARLT blog, and an account by one of the competitors.


Apollo's solar-powered car

Apollo's solar-powered car

Rick Riordan gives the Greek gods a fantastic makeover in Percy Jackson and the Titan's Curse, says Philip Ardagh

Saturday June 9, 2007
The Guardian

Percy Jackson and the Titan's Curse
by Rick Riordan
294pp, Puffin, £10.99

Ancient Greek mythology must be one of the most richly mined seams in the arts. The Romans liked the deities so much they bought the assembled company. Everyone from painters to poets has interpreted, reinterpreted, borrowed, distorted and generally plundered the immortals, half-gods and mere mortals who suffered as pawns in the gods' endless games, not forgetting the menagerie of fantastical monsters they all faced. Our language is littered with references to these familiar tales: the Midas touch, the sword of Damocles, a Sisyphean task, an Achilles heel, a Trojan horse. And such stories have been firm favourites with children too. Many of us were brought up on a staple diet of Sinbad and other movies of that ilk, with Ray Harryhausen's glorious stop-frame animation monsters somehow more frightening and more monstery than their computer-generated counterparts.

Then there were Roger Lancelyn Green's retellings of these myths and legends, and mesmerising tales such as CS Lewis's short story “Forms of Things Unknown”, which had Gorgons on the moon. Those ancient Greek creations got everywhere.

And now we have the bestselling Percy Jackson stories by the American author Rick Riordan, of which this is the third. Percy is Perseus, a demi-god or “half-blood”: his father is Poseidon, god of the sea, and his mother a mere mortal. His ballpoint pen becomes his trusty sword, his watch his shield. He's a 21st-century teenage hero.

But how can the stuff of such legends translate to modern settings? Very well, it seems. Take Apollo, for example. He explains that he and Artemis are sun god and moon god, due to downsizing. The Romans “couldn't afford all those temple sacrifices, so they laid off Helios and Selene and folded their duties into our job description”. As for the dilemma that the sun has proven to be a big fiery ball of gas rather than a chariot driven across the sky, Apollo has a comeback for that too: “it depends on whether you're talking astronomy or philosophy . . . This chariot is a manifestation of the sun's power, the way mortals perceive it.” Does that make sense? No? “Well then, just think of it as a really powerful, really dangerous solar car.”

So it's funny, but it's also very exciting, with the gods behaving in that disgraceful and unpredictable way that gods do. Then there are the really bad guys. If you're familiar with these ancient characters, you'll be impressed by how Riordan handles them. If they're new to you, it's a gripping introduction.

By choosing this approach, Riordan also gets around a perennial problem fantasy writers have when conjuring up monsters: new ones are often pale imitations of those that have been around for thousands of years. Percy Jackson gets to face the oldies but goldies, the original greats, in some very exciting encounters. Sure Chiron, the good guy Centaur – half human/half horse in appearance – sleeps with curlers in his tail, but there's plenty of page-turning action as those from Camp Half-Blood (which includes Artemis's band of teenage-girl hunters) face the threat of Titans, the “old gods”.

The cover nearly put me off before I'd even started, though it may be what draws some children to the book in the first place – it includes a skeleton in combat gear, and a bottle of tomato ketchup – but it's the storytelling that will get readers hooked. After all, this is the stuff of legends.

· Philip Ardagh's Eddie Dickens trilogy is published by Faber

Cross-curricular project – build an aqueduct

From the Leominster Champion. The article has a large black and white picture of the aqueduct.

Do as the Romans do Southeast students recreate an ancient marvel

Combining a little bit of math, social studies, science, and English, seventh graders from Southeast Middle School built a modern day classroom aqueduct.

“We learned vocabulary, algebra, measurements, we learned social studies, how the ancient Romans used the aqueduct and what they used it for,” said participant Samantha Greeno.

Aqueducts as we know them today are most commonly associated with the aqueducts developed by the ancient Romans. According to ancient texts, the Romans had 11 major aqueducts, all built between 312 B.C. and 226 A.D. It has been calculated that in imperial times, when the city's population was well over 1 million, their distribution system was able to provide over one cubic meter of water per day for each inhabitant.

After learning about the ancient aqueducts and seeing pictures of them, students then drew out blueprints to assemble their own modern day aqueduct.

Since the actual aqueducts are significantly taller and longer, the students had to scale down the size of theirs; it is one-100th of a Roman aqueduct. As the aqueducts were made to transport water, using arches and slopes, the Ancient Roman slope was a drop of 1 foot for every 200 feet or 1/200. Southeast students used a slope of .25 inches for every foot or .25/1 a basic plumber's slope. Their classroom system runs from one end of math teacher Paul Healy's classroom to the opposite end of social studies teacher Wilma Kibler's room (40 feet long, 8 feet high, 2 feet deep with 9 arches and keystones.)

Originally, the students thought they were making individual, table-sized ones; so did the teachers.

“I thought they would be small desktop ones,” said Kibler. “When he asked to borrow the truck to go to Home Depot, and came in with skill saws and jig saws, I knew they would be big.”

Healy said it was more practical to build one large aqueduct and it would give every student the opportunity to be involved in constructing it.

“The little ones, we wouldn't have been able to put water in. This one actually works,” said seventh-grader Maisa Moreira.

Healy came up with the idea to build it, bought the supplies, and made all of the cuts of wood for the students. He then brought the pieces in and let the students take it from there.

“It took a lot of planning and engineer work,” said Kibler of the prep work Healy did.

He credits the students for their hard work though.

“They did an excellent job with it. They are very proud of it, they love showing it to other students,” said Healy.

Kibler said it is the first year the team of teachers has done something like this. Along with her and Healy, were science teacher Carl Adams and English Language Arts teacher Kevin Grutchfield.

“It is amazing how it ties into every content area,” said Healy.

The students also received a lesson in trial and error as well.

They quickly learned the pipe had to be sloped down for the water to flow through. The students run water from the sink in one classroom to a trash barrel at the end of the aqueduct in the other classroom.

About 90 students worked on the project over the past few weeks during class time.

Now that the students are done, they want to share their project and knowledge with the rest of the school.

“It was a lot more then filling out worksheets,” said Greeno. “We still got our math and science work done.”