As the school year wraps up, some fifth graders are preparing to move from protective elementary schools to more grown-up middle schools. For the area’s Waldorf school students, that transition includes spears and hand embroidered tunics at the tri-school Greek Pentathalon.
A group of students stand evenly spaced, heavy black discs at their feet.
A teacher yells, “Lay of the land!” The students scan the area to make sure no one is near by.
“Present to the gods!” she commands. And each picks up a discus and looks to the sky, where Mount Olympus looms as the home of the classic Greek gods like Zeus and Hera.
“Find gravity and throw when ready!”
The students position their feet wide apart and twist their bodies before hurling the discs.
The crowd of 5th grade students and parents is eerily quiet for a sports event.
“Well, we’re supposed to be quite because this event, you’re not allowed to cheer for separate people,” explains Anchorage Waldorf fifth grader Ali Powell. “Because it makes people feel bad because sometimes parents aren’t here or friends aren’t here that they know.”
Ali explains that the original Greek Pentathlon was held more than 2,500 years ago during times of truce, when Greek warriors would take a break from slaughtering each other to instead compete in sports. The five different events, discus, javelin, wrestling, long jump, and running, taught the Greeks useful skills for warfare.
Ali says this event is teaching her more about Greek history than she learned in class. “Yes this cool. It’s reenacting history, so. History is one of my favorite subjects.”
Winterberry Charter School music teacher Kyle Van Derschrier attends the event dressed as Zeus in a gold tunic with white powdered hair. He says the yearly event is also a rite of passage for the students as they move from learning about myths and legends in younger grades to history and fact in older years.
“They will be a lot different in sixth grade than they were in the fifth grade. We see a big difference between the fifth and sixth grade year.”
Further down the field at Goose Lake Park, fifth grader Jonah Doniere prepares to throw a javelin.
“Yeah, it’s sharp on both sides, so it’s very dangerous.”
On command, he glides his hand over the smooth red pole and grips it in the center. He looks around, colors flashing from the stitches of the tunic he embroidered himself. He tosses the pole. It arcs through the sky and sticks into the ground a few feet away. He’s ready for war. Or at least the sixth grade.