Experiential learning

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
Chris Schaffer

GVL/Kevin Sielaff Chris Schaffer

Maddie Forshee

Last Friday, students at Grand Valley State University could be seen on the lawn outside of the Kirkhof Center throwing a discus, racing and even shooting a bow and arrow during the sixth annual Paleo-Olympic Games.

The Paleo-Olympic Games began in 2008 with a collaborative effort in the archaeology department, when both professors and students who had a shared interest for history and culture felt they needed an event where they could culminate all four disciplines of the classics department – history, archaeology, classics and anthropology.

Thus the Paleo-Olympic Games were born. The event includes educational demonstrations given by professors and alumni and games where students can play and learn about history.

Typically held on the third Friday in September in the East Field outside of Kirkhof, the Paleo-Olympics have come to be known as a fun student-run event for all who attend.

Kendall Farkas, president of the Classics Society, said Friday’s event saw a consistent number of students all day, and those students were a mix of people within the disciplines involved and students who had heard about the event and were interested in joining.

The event’s demonstrations included archery. Chris Shaffer, of the anthropology department, brought different types of bows and allowed students to experiment and shoot them. Shaffer brought bows from Africa, the Amazon and even one from medieval times. Another of the demonstrations was a hand-made Medieval armor suit, made by a GVSU alumni.

The last demonstration was done by Melissa Morison from the classics department. Morison did an ancient Roman liver reading, trying to predict how the GVSU football team would do in the game against Ferris State University.

“It’s how (the ancient Romans) would determine the will of the gods, by looking at nature and studying animals,” said Megan Esparsa, president of the archaeology club. “They open up the liver and essentially it’s a map where different parts mean different things.”

Many of the games at the Paleo-Olympics were based on team-building. One of the games held during the event was a hoplite relay, based on ancient Greek army formations where soldiers had to move as a singular line. Students made themselves shields and tied their ankles together in an effort to work as a team and learn to move together.

Other activities held throughout the event were a Roman ball game, pottery reconstruction, shield making, discus throwing and Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Farkas said her favorite event that day was the bow and arrow shooting.

“I loved being able to actually shoot the bow and arrows, especially the medieval longbow,” she said.

Both Esparsa and Farkas said they were happy with how the event turned out, and hope that it gets more attention from students in upcoming years.

“I think if you’re looking at human activities (from the past) and you’re actually able to do them, we can relate better,” Esparsa said. “It’s a good way to relate to other people and learn about the past in a fun way that doesn’t have to be in a classroom.”

Farkas agreed, and said that aside from being educational, the event itself was fun.

“It’s a bunch of students coming together and having a good time,” she said. “Why not get involved and shoot a bow and arrow?”