Nathalie Roy and Bob Simmons are pictured at Monmouth's Fox Classics Lecture in 2022, which Roy presented
MONMOUTH, ILLINOIS (August 15, 2023) — Monmouth College has received a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to help US teachers instruct their students about everyday life in ancient Greece.
The grant was the brainchild of Monmouth classics professor Bob Simmons and Louisiana high school classics teacher Nathalie Roy.
The NEH grant will fund Simmons' and Roy's application to hold a summer institute titled "The Ancient Olympics and Daily Life in Ancient Olympia: A Hands-On History." The event for K-12 educators will be held July 7-20, 2024, on Monmouth's campus. More than two dozen teachers from around the nation are expected to attend.
"It will allow them to learn some hands-on things that they can teach in their classes," said Simmons, who will focus on the Olympics portion of the institute. Roy, who teaches at Glasgow Middle School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, will address daily life topics, and there will be other instructors, as well.
Receiving one of the $175,000 "K-12 Institutes for Educators" program grants is a significant accomplishment, as the NEH received 51 applications and made just nineteen awards.
"This was a hugely time-consuming, complicated application, and it has pulled in many people," said Simmons. "Thirteen additional instructors — including five Monmouth faculty members, one alumna, and one current student — have committed their talents to help us carry out the institute. We are incredibly relieved that our efforts were received as they were, especially since 32 of the 51 total applicants were rejected."
Two leaders in the classics
Simmons and Roy are both leaders in the idea of presenting opportunities for hands-on learning in the classics, and their paths have crossed before, including when Roy gave Monmouth's Fox Classics Lecture in 2022.
During that talk, Roy discussed elements she teaches in her "Roman Technology" middle-school course. She researched and developed the course, in which her students recreate the products and processes of ancient Roman daily life through experimental archaeology and hands-on labs.
"We got a lot of information about the ancient world from texts, and there was not a lot written about daily life," said Roy. "Where are the voices of women, of children, of craftsmen, of enslaved people? So one thing this project really does is give a voice to people in the classics world who normally don't have one."Roy's ancient STEM approach has been a hit at her diverse school, and she has also became a national phenomenon. During the pandemic shutdowns of 2020, she partnered with Excellence through Classics Live to offer free, hands-on lessons for schools nationwide on such topics as Roman catapults, mosaics, and makeup.
A National Board-Certified Teacher, Roy has been recognized for excellence by several prominent organizations. She was the Louisiana State Teacher of the Year, won the Award for Excellence in Teaching at the Pre-K-12 Level from the Society for Classical Studies, and received an Award for Outstanding Promotional Activity in the Schools from the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, all in 2021.
Simmons is also an award-winning teacher of classics. Earlier this year, he received the award for Outstanding Teaching at the College/University Level from the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, as well as Monmouth's prestigious Hatch Award for Excellence in Service. He also published his first book, Demagogues, Power, and Friendship in Classical Athens: Leaders as Friends in Aristophanes, Euripides, and Xenophon.
For many years, Simmons has incorporated hands-on experiences in his college classes and the immersive Classics Day event he's overseen five times at Monmouth since joining the faculty in 2014. The College's sixth Classics Day will be held September 30.
Simmons has also used elements of Roy's ancient technology research during this month's Summer Opportunities for Intellectual Activities program on campus. His SOFIA students have created their own papyrus and ink, learned what makes Roman concrete last for millennia, and worked with materials to create their own mosaic, among other activities.
“The NEH is a big deal”
The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal agency created in 1965. It is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States.
"The NEH is a big deal," said Simmons. "It's one of the few agencies in the country that funds the humanities to any conspicuous degree. Receiving this grant for this level of funding is pretty gratifying."
Other NEH-funded summer institutes and workshops for K-12 schoolteachers and college faculty will cover such topics as the history of the 1964 Freedom Summer civil-rights project in Mississippi, teaching Asian-American history through community-based archives, and Kansas City during the Jazz Age and Great Depression.