WASHBURN, Maine — A few days before Halloween, freshmen at Washburn District High School dressed up in interesting costumes — not for trick-or-treating, but for extra credit.
“We just finished reading ‘The Lightning Thief’ by Rick Riordan, which is based on mythology,” said English teacher April Flagg. “It pretty much takes the ancient myths of all those Greek gods and goddesses and brings them into modern times so you have all these people that we’ve learned about our whole lives as children brought into this amazing novel. The kids loved it. When I was in school, we learned from a really long and boring book, and this one’s phenomenal and it introduces the big gods like Ares, Hades, Zeus and Poseidon.
“When I first read the book and ordered it, I was thinking on the first day of school, ‘What can I do to make this really click with them?’ and I thought of having them dress up,” she said.
The students chose the Greek characters they wanted to emulate.
“I’m really happy with the response. Even though those who participated are receiving extra credit, I think most would have dressed up just to do it,” said Flagg, noting that 80 percent of the students in her two English I classes dressed up.
“They’ve had so much fun, and the greatest part about today was not just the learning that they’ve done — because they researched their costumes to make sure that they were appropriate — but it was having kids asking who they are and my students talking about the gods and goddesses with other students that was phenomenal,” she said. “I told my students, ‘Imagine next year when the freshmen do this and you’ll be able to talk to them about it and tell them who you were.’”
MacKenzie Hartford dressed as Apollo, the god of music, poetry, plague, oracles, medicine, light and knowledge.
“Apollo is my favorite god because he was the protector; he brought the sun during the night and he was a musician and entertained the gods,” said Hartford.
Complete with a laurel wreath and lyre, Hartford made his own costume. He said he got some “interesting looks” during the school day.
“Some people were really interested in what we were doing and others were upset that they couldn’t do the same,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in Greek mythology, and this has been a great learning experience. I learned a lot about my character.”
Carsyn Koch fashioned her outfit after Artemis, goddess of the hunt, forests and hills, and the moon.
“Artemis is one of the goddesses known for having an untamed spirit. A lot of the goddesses were ruled around by the gods, and Artemis was one of the few that chose to be a maiden forever and to make her own rules,” she said. “She didn’t have affairs, and she had her own group of followers — a group of fellow huntresses. I liked how she was an individualist.
“I would do it again. It’s fun being another character,” said Koch. “The Grecian things are really exciting to me. The thought of running around with all this jewelry and a pretty dress and acting commanding and saying, ‘Sit. I’m a goddess’ has been fun. You get to bring out your creative side.”
Carmen Bragg said she could identify with Hestia, the goddess of the hearth.
“She’s one of the most forgiving goddesses and is very humble to everybody; that’s why she’s so likable, and I thought that kind of reflects my own personality,” said Bragg, noting that other students commented on her “fiery” dress.
“People have liked my dress, especially the flames; I added them myself,” she said. “People have complimented me, so that’s good. This has been a lot of fun.”
Perhaps no student garnered more attention than Taylor Blackstone-Thompson, who dressed as Rhea, the mother of gods. With a strategically placed pillow under her dress to give the appearance that she was pregnant, Blackstone-Thompson said she enjoyed the experience.
“Rhea is the goddess of fertility. I think it’s really cool that she brought a lot of the gods and goddesses into the world. I’ve always loved kids, so it was a fit for me,” she said. “People are asking me many questions like, ‘Why are you pregnant?’ I’ve been getting a lot of weird looks, but I wanted to be able to be the goddess so I could feel what she went through.”
Flagg said the dressing-up component of the Greek mythology unit will “absolutely be done next year.”
“It will become an annual event,” she said. “The cool thing is that once my students now are seniors, we’ll have four classes that will have done it. Imagine the conversations that will occur then.
“The idea that we can get kids so excited about a book that they’ll dress up as a character is pretty amazing,” said Flagg. “I’m very happy and I’m glad they had fun. For me, it’s all about the kids.”