It’s that time of year again – the crops are in, the days are growing short, and the winter solstice is approaching. Red hats and epigram-laden gifts are everywhere; priests are unfettering Saturn’s wooly bands, and everyone is thinking of past ages more golden. This year there seems to be a trend sweeping classroom doors across America (just look at Pinterest!) and so we come to the subject of my blog article today – ad ostia ornanda.
A door is not much different than a bulletin board, really, but your audience is wider. You can reach not only your own students but anyone who passes by. Our school did a contest this year between teachers, and the result was a school full of interesting and amazing design work and creativity as teachers and students cooperated and competed. It’s certainly a great way to build community, and you could always suggest a small competition in your own department if you don’t think the whole school will go for it. It’s also a great chance to sell, if even in a small way, Latin’s unique draw as a language to students who might not know how amazing it is.
How did I do my door? I followed these simple steps. First, I assigned two classes with responsibilities over the door. One, my senior Latin 5, was responsible for the basic design. The first idea, Saturn dressed as Santa eating elves was perhaps sadly but rightfully rejected, and instead they decided on a holiday theme that incorporated Latinate elements: a Janus on top of the tree; a holiday abies whose trunk was covered in Greek decorative designs; a scroll volute with Io Saturnalia written upon it. The other, Latin 4, made ornaments with their favorite or at least apt Latin phrases and then “hung” them on the tree with glue and tape. Most of the more complicated pieces (the Janus, the scroll volute) were made easily by projecting an image on my whiteboard, adjusting its size, and then putting a piece of colored paper on the whiteboard held up by magnets for easy tracing. Everything took about two class periods of work, so it’s not a big imposition on your class time and you’ll be earning dividends in classroom community building.
If you aren’t interested, or aren’t allowed, religious themes pagan or otherwise, try doing a winter theme ala Horace Odes 1.9. Imagine a majestic mountain covered in snow, its trees burdened by heavy snow and a river glittering with ice. Above the gods battle using storms. Move to the foreground where you see a cozy house and, inside the window, a man and woman sitting by the fire with a glass of wine in their hands. If you like, throw in some Latin from the poem, making sure to show the word picture imagery of alta…nive…Soracte and gelu…flumen…acuto.
Why not make a whole winter unit, while you’re at it? Ovid’s Tristia 3.10 has some great brumic diction describing the horrors of Tomis (e.g. lines 21-22: saepe sonant moti glacie pendent capilli, et nitet inducto candida barba gelu). Or study the constellations that appear in the winter. Manilius’ Astromicon is too hard for most high schoolers, but it’s got some great imagery and info about what kinds of associations the Romans had with the winter months. Hey, that’s another idea for a decorated door…