East College Says “Salve Omnes” to Young Latin Scholars

Rachael Franchini ’19, Associate News Editor

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Taught by a mixture of Dickinson professors, high school teachers from surrounding areas and Dickinson students, Latin Club offers free Latin instruction for children in grades K-8 for one hour each week.

According to Christopher Francese, professor of Classical Studies, the purpose of the club is “not to be fluent in Latin, but to give them a positive experience…to teach them words that have English cognates…to help them be better in English…[and] to learn about grammar.”

The classes have approximately 10 to 15 students each, and the course material varies by grade level. According to Francese, the K-1 classes learn about Roman monsters, gods and myths; the 2-3 classes learn simple Latin phrases such as basic questions, numbers and calendar words, as well as learning myths; the 4-5 classes learn about grammar in both English and Latin as well as increased study of the language and culture; and the 6-8 classes learn Latin grammar, vocabulary, translations and Roman culture.  At this level, a textbook is used to supplement the classes. All classes take place in East College from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. every Monday that Dickinson classes are in session.

Latin Club also takes learning outside of the classroom.  Every year, the students go to the Planetarium on campus and learn about the Roman myths through the constellations. Additionally, around Christmas time, the club learns about the Roman feast of Saturnalia through games and stories.

“It’s really a community of people who are interested in the same thing,” says Francese.

The K-1 level is taught by Joelle Cicak ’16 and Seth Levin ’19.  The 2-3 level is taught by Michelle Hoffer ’17, Tyler Richey-Yowell ’19 and Tim Nieuwenhuis ’17.  The 4-5 level is taught by Own Rapaport ’17 and the 6-8 level is taught by Ashley Roman, who is a high school teacher at Camp Hill.

“The [Dickinson] students do a great job,” comments Francese. “It gets their feet wet to see how they like teaching in classrooms.”

According to Francese, Latin Club is supported by the Roberts Fund for Classical Studies, and Latin Club teachers are paid for their work.

Francese, who asserts that “starting languages early is best,” began the Latin Club program in 2010 after noticing  that area elementary schools did not offer Latin instruction. Francese made a flyer, went to local elementary schools and spoke with principals to publicize the program.

“The response was really strong,” Francese states.  “The parents love it, the kids really enjoy it and we’re offering an opportunity not available in the local schools.”

Tracy Aichele, parent of students in Latin Club, says in an email to Francese, “I just want to express my appreciation for the Latin Club for kids on Mondays.  When I signed the kids up, I got a groan from them; now, if I suggest that we might miss it, I get a groan!  They are having a lot of fun. What a wonderful opportunity.”

The idea behind Latin Club, Francese says, is to “keep it a positive experience where the kids have fun…we try to not be too serious.”