“I took Spanish for four years and I don’t think I’ve learned as much as I have in that class as I have in just two months.”
Ballestrini has turned his introductory Latin class at Connecticut’s Norwich Free Academy into an alternate reality. The students’ job: to save the world by joining a shadowy organization on a quest to find the Lapis Saeculōrum that was part of an Ancient Roman society.
“Mr. Bal told us this isn’t school anymore,” says 10th-grader Caroline Scheck. “He told us, ‘You’re on a mission to save the world.’ Naturally, we all thought he was crazy. He even asked, ‘Who thinks I’m crazy?’ and a few of us raised our hands.”
But there’s a method to the madness. “It’s a mix of a role-playing game and an alternate reality game,” Ballestrini says. Students play the role of Romans in a reconstruction of ancient Pompeii (or ancient Rome) and have to learn to think, act, create and write like a Roman in order to win the game. And those are the same goals of any introductory Latin course.