Imagine the Roman Colosseum made of LEGOs.
Elizabeth Solomon did.
Unable due to COVID19 to work side-by-side with her high school Latin 3 students at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, the Gloucester resident partnered with an innovative Australian teacher to create content that’s now being used by educators and viewed by students, worldwide.
The transition to remote learning happened just as Solomon was introducing authentic Roman poetry to her high school Latin 3 class, a mission both nuanced, challenging, and best-suited to face-to-face instruction. Solomon, now in her 16th year at the school, sought out a more accessible way to remotely deliver elements of grammar and textual analysis.
She found it, in of all places, Sydney, Australia, where Anthony Gibbins, a classical language social media influencer at the 166-year-old Sydney Grammar School, had created "Legonium" a comprehensive interactive website with simple, story-based approaches to teaching, featuring the adventures of colorful casts of LEGO characters and sets.
When Solomon saw Gibbins' website, populated as it is with mini LEGO Romans in mini-LEGO Roman Empire sets and stories, she saw a teaching tool that could make Latin poetry accessible to 21st century American teenagers, and she did what good Latin teachers are always telling their students to do: carpe diem! (Seize the day!)
Reaching out to Gibbins, she started thinking creatively about how she might adapt his website to her teaching challenges. Experimenting with existing technology tools, and with Gibbins' permission, she used and adapted his LEGO-based interactive website to her teaching needs.
Using QuickTime to record accompanying narrative stories in her own voiceover, and Keynote presentation software to convert story pages into a movie, Solomon mixed in a soundtrack of music using iMovie, and the colorful Latin LEGO world and characters became part of St. John Prep students’ Latin 3 teaching curriculum.
Solomon is not alone in inventing new ways to make subjects such as Latin, which to students can seem pretty remote to begin with, more accessible in this time of remote learning.
"I am so proud and impressed," she recently tweeted, with the teachers who have progressed out of the fear zone to the learning and growth zones in support of their students over these weeks of #remotelearning!"
Solomon’s content now lives on Gibbins’ website and YouTube channel, and is shared across group social media platforms used by educators and students worldwide. Check it out at http://www.legonium.com/ianuarius/