SPOTSWOOD, NJ - From the legend of Pandora's box to the 12 labors of Hercules to the origin of the Olympics and beyond, Appleby Elementary students spent the majority of the fourth marking period immersing themselves in the culture of Ancient Greece. Since Greek mythology is a part of the school's Language Arts curriculum, a large part of the time was spent learning about the myths that made up the culture of Ancient Greece.

Ancient Greeks believed strongly in gods, goddesses, mortal heroes and heroines as well as monsters. Myths explained everything from the culture's religious practices to weather and beyond. Most Ancient Greeks recognized 12 major gods and goddesses or Olympians, including Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Demeter, Athena, Ares, Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Hephaestus, Hermes and Dionysus. The earliest versions of Ancient Greek myths are more than 2,000 years old and many still make their rounds today.

Appleby fifth graders learned all about the afore mentioned Olympians. The curriculum incorporated Homer's "Illiad," which was about the epic war between Greece and Troy that introduced the Trojan Horse. In the classroom, students read and discussed the myths as well as created their own. At home, each student was assigned a project and a report to complete on some aspect of Greek mythology. The in-school and at-home study culminated with Greek Day on June 8.

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All of the student projects and reports were on display in the Appleby School library. Many students created board games centering around a Greek myth. One game utilized the myth behind Pandora's Box, which sent a multitude of plagues and evils into the world when Pandora opened it, leaving only hope inside. Another game was set against the backdrop of the Trojan War. Several poster boards showcased the first Olympics while others highlighted how the influence of Ancient Greek mythology still pops up today.

Fifth grade students donned togas along with their teachers and spent time in the library playing the Ancient Greece themed board games and taking a look at fellow classmates' projects and reports. Parents were invited for part of the Greek Day festivities to enjoy the displays as well.

Many of the togas were handmade, using bed sheets while others improvised with long t-shirts. A few students sported store-brought togas. Many had grape leaves in their hair. Even siblings got into the act. Three-year-old Ashley Vivona, whose big brother Andrew is in Kristen Tempera's fifth grade class wore an adorable toga of her own and had a blast playing board games along with the older kids.

Greek Day concluded with students, teachers, parents and siblings heading back to their individual classrooms to sample some Greek food. Class moms pulled together varied menus that included baklava, pita chips, grape leaves, Greek salad and lemon Greek cake among others. Some kids were adventurous and sampled new things while other played it safe and stayed with the grapes and cut up vegetables. Pita chips were also a good option for students that didn't want to experiment with new foods. One mom in Tempera's class sent in a couple of popular dishes from Jimmy's Greek American Grill on Summerhill Road in Spotswood.

Students definitely seemed to enjoy the tour through Greek mythology and its influence on modern day culture. 'How to make a toga' was most certainly a popular Google and YouTube search for fifth grade parents as they tried to figure out how to make a wearable toga for Appleby's Greek Day 2017. Now, they will be prepared if they have younger siblings when it's their turn to be Greek for a day in fifth grade.