CARLISLE — Some say Latin is a dead language, but try telling that to 68 children from several Cumberland County school districts who gather in Dickinson College’s East College building every Monday night to study the classical language.
The club kicked off this past Monday and continues through April 28. The club’s first incarnation came a few years ago when Christopher Francese, a classical studies professor at the college, wanted to teach his twins Latin.
“I have a hard time teaching anything to them, much less my favorite language,” he said.
So, he gathered about 25 children in grades 3-5 for the first Latin club.
After a hiatus in 2012, the club is kicking it up a notch with the help of Ashley Roman, a Latin teacher at Shippensburg Area Senior High School. There are two groups of students each for grades kindergarten through second grade and grades 3-5. There is also one group for middle school students in grades 6-8.
The program is supported by the Dickinson College classics department, through the Roberts Fund for Classical Studies. This fund will be used to purchase materials for crafts and other activities.
The after-school club is more than just language repetition. Roman said. There will be an emphasis on cultural aspects, such as food and drama, as well as learning mottoes, expressions and English words that come from Latin. Children also will work on illustrations of Latin phrases to save as keepsakes of the club experience.
All of the children will be treated to a planetarium show at which the teachers will take about the myths associated with the various constellations.
Francese said it’s more club than class, so the instructors are there to have fun while they teach.
“We’re definitely going to teach them how to talk to their pets in Latin,” he said.
Assistants for the programs come from both high school and college classes. Roman said Shippensburg has an active National Honor Society, which also has a community service requirement. Some of the assistants for the Latin Club are fulfilling that requirement. Other assistants have an interest in continuing in the classics, and the club is a way to explore that.
“A lot of their interest in doing this is to give back to the community,” she said.
Roman said Latin programs, which provide a foundation for future language study, are thriving in Shippensburg and Mechanicsburg.
“Where there is a good teacher, Latin thrives,” Francese said.
Francese said the Latin Club also addresses the lack of a program in the Carlisle Area School District, and he commended parents for bringing their children to the club to prove there is an interest in the language.
“If we’re ever going to get Latin in Carlisle school district, it will be due to parents,” he said.
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