My Temple with a Frieze: Learning from the Greeks and Romans

By Fritsche, Susan | Arts & Activities, January 2011 | Go to article overview

My Temple with a Frieze: Learning from the Greeks and Romans


Fritsche, Susan, Arts & Activities


My fourth-grade students study the art history timeline. This year, when it came time to discuss the Greek and Roman era, I looked for a project that would teach the students about the architecture of this period.

Both Greeks and Romans placed the building of temples and sanctuaries high on their list of architectural priorities, as these structures were a source of public pride. The temples were built as shrines for the all-important gods and goddesses of the ancient world. The Parthenon is a great example of this. The frieze on the Parthenon shows scenes from the Great Panathanaea festival, when the people of the city paid tribute to Athena.

No one knows who chose the subjects for the sculptures in Greek temples, but they show us what mattered to the people. Most temples had friezes, but the decoration of the Parthenon was by far the biggest, most complicated and most detailed.

At this point I described the Corinthian, Ionic and Doric columns to my students, with visual examples of each. To help the children remember which name went with which column, I had them stand and do an activity I created.

I asked each child to stand straight, put their hands to their head and wiggle their fingers, creating the Corinthian column, with their fingers representing the fine leaf details at the top. For the Ionic column, students tucked their hands at their waists and rounded their arms to create the curved rolled top of the column. Lastly, the Doric column, being the simplest in design, required the students only to stand straight and tall with their arms at their sides. This was a great visual to help them remember the names and understand the design of the columns.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

We also talked about how columns are widely used in today's architecture. Students were asked if columns appeared somewhere on their homes, which resulted in much discussion between students on the designs of their own homes.

Then, we discussed what a frieze is. A frieze (pronounced FREEZE) is a long, narrow band of sculpture that runs along the architrave of a Greek temple or building. Students were shown pictures of different friezes, and discussed what scenes would make up an interesting frieze.

Now it was time to begin designing our temples. This project took approximately 90 minutes, and can be broken into two class periods. First, each child received two 12" x 18" pieces of construction paper, one gray and one black. Scissors, pencils, glue and black markers were also distributed.

Together, we completed the steps of building the temple. …

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