A Recipe For Democracy: Ancient Greek Democracy Lesson Plans

Students can learn about the historical and modern day significance of democracy through Ancient Greek Democracy lesson plans.

By Kristen Kindoll

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Democracy Lesson Plans

                                                                              

Civic lessons on the topic of democracy can be as dry and brittle as the ancient documents that support the government institutions. The political model is very complex, and can become staid with its dense subject matter.  Children don’t have to be lost in the hypnotizing realm of boredom. With a dash of engaging democracy lesson plans, a smidge of activity, and a pinch of concrete examples, students can be whipped into a frenzy of delight at the prospect of free choice and its history. The next several articles will give suggestions to help parents and teachers bring these concepts to life.

The basis of democracy, and even the word itself, come from the Ancient Greeks.  You could spend days discussing each theory developed by the great minds behind democracy. They not only came up with democratic theories, they also developed many scientific, architectural, and artistic ones as well.  With cultures as expansive and varied as the Ancient Greeks, a quick overview only looses the richness of the history, and what these minds of long ago brought to our modern times.  The following lesson plans delve into the political and philosophical origins of democracy in a way that allows students to truly explore this concept.

You can begin by handing children slips of paper with colored or coded symbols. Do not tell them what the symbols or colors mean. Sort the group according to similar color/symbol. Then reveal the sections:  women, slaves and free men. The free citizens of Athens are just a small population of the city state representing a greater whole.  The free men will vote whether everyone will eat baklava, or hummus and pita.  In this way children get a taste of some Mediterranean delicacies, as well as having to deal with the reality of their choice not being taken into account or valued.  The voting occurs using pebbles dropped into a pot. 

Ancient Greek Democracy Lesson Plans: 

How Does the Civilization of Ancient Greece Continue to Influence Us Today : This lesson has a great additional exercise in Lesson Three—The Beginnings of Democracy.  End this section with a historical outline of the who, what, why of the origins of democracy.  Many libraries or corresponding text books have great historical information for reference. The students gather in a circle to become an ancient philosophical troop. 

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave  : This lesson sets the stage to allow children to understand the mindset of the time.  Reading excerpts from the Republic is another way to impart the philosophical foundations.  It is important to reinterpret the language into modern speak.  It not only helps with comprehension, but also helps to demonstrate that writing and words have a storied history.

Daily Life and Schooling and Greek and Latin Roots are prime instructional tools to illustrate how our present vernacular is influenced by ancient root words.  The corresponding activities provide a nice balance over an overall investigation into a week long or intensive day of democracy immersion.

 


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Kristen Kindoll