Zeus Retires, Passes Lightning Bolt to Successor

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Sixth-grade students in Monica Klein’s social studies classes at John F. Kennedy (JFK) Middle School in the Bethpage Union Free School District researched and studied ancient Greek deities, culminating in a unique persuasive speech and debate project. They took on the roles of ancient Greek gods, goddesses, and heroes to try and become the eternal ruler of Olympus.

This came about when Zeus announced that he was tired of all the bickering on Mount Olympus and decided to retire to Florida. Naturally, Zeus needed a successor to rule, but alas, he decided not to name one. Instead, he decreed that each of the gods, goddesses, and heroes should use their persuasive abilities and powers (in the classic Greek tradition) to convince the mortals as to whom their new ruler should be. That divine being would then be awarded Zeus’s lightning bolts and powers to rule over the universe for eternity.

Each student prepared and memorized a full one-page, typewritten speech in the voice of their chosen character to convince others of their qualifications, which they delivered dressed as the god, goddess, or hero they were pretending to be. They also created campaign posters explaining why they deserved to be the next ruler of Olympus. The students then debated by challenging that character with questions and accusations that had to be defended.

Students in the audience were required to judge their peers on costume, speech, and persuasiveness. Some of the deities represented were Persephone, Athena, Poseidon, Iris, Hephaestus, Hades, and Apollo.

In the end, all agreed that Persephone, the goddess of spring, would be the next ruler of Olympus!