Turning History


Story by Thomas Fickley, History Department Chair

In modern America, when we want to say we have been hard at work, we use phrases like “I have been at the salt mine” or “I was in the trenches today.” In Ancient Greece, the phrase “to make pottery” was a euphemism for hard work (1).


Students in the 9th grade Ancient and Medieval History class have studied ceramics throughout the course of the year, from their introduction to pottery’s place in the Neolithic Package to a more focused look at Greek vases, amphorae, and kraters in their current unit on the accomplishments of Classical Greece. These artifacts were practically useful for storage and transportation, but in the 5th century BC, they had also become known throughout the mediterranean as desirable works of art.


For lab day, Fine Arts department chair and pottery teacher Mr. Pallante brought in 9th grade history students to learn hand-made pottery techniques. After an overview of different types of ceramics from Africa, the Mediterranean, and Japan, Mr. Pallante helped students get their hands dirty creating coil-style pots. Each student rolled, coiled, and built as he or she gained tactile experience with an ancient form of craftsmanship. This project added a memorable capstone to students’ exploration of the classical art. Mr. Pallante finished the lesson with a demonstration on the potter’s wheel.


The pottery class is in its inaugural year at MSA, and already Mr. Pallante is using the studio to deliver engaging lessons across the curriculum.

  1. The J. Paul Getty Museum, "Making Greek vases," in Smarthistory, December 20, 2015, accessed November 9, 2018, https://smarthistory.org/making-greek-vases/.

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