What a day! Last Friday we attended with Pentathlon for all area Waldorf schools’ fifth graders. It was held a Live Oak Waldorf School in Meadow Vista and it was nothing short of spectacular in every way. Honestly, I couldn’t be more impressed with the way this event came together. Approximately 300 fifth graders from 12 classes joined together in a spirit of peace to compete in five athletic events. This is the culmination of their studies of the Ancient Greeks and Greek mythology. They have studied and trained hard for these celebratory games.
Before the games began, there was a very stirring opening ceremony. Prior to arrival, the children were divided into five Greek city states, depending on temperament, and each had its own color. So our class of 26 competitors went into five different cities. Each city had a set of parent and teacher judges, who were specially trained before the Pentathlon to judge the five athletic events.
They rang a gong to quiet the crowd. We were welcomed to this special day of fellowship and competition. Musicians played lyres and sang. The Olympian gods were invited to witness. The children chanted and sang in both Greek and English, in honor of the gods.
The gods were invoked to bless the event and to inspire the athletes to do their very best, to let their highest selves come forward in their conduct for the day. Aphrodite, Poseidon, Artemis, Zeus, Athena, and Apollo each gave speeches, calling on the athletes to hold in their hearts peace, beauty, courage, compassion, fairness, friendship, and good sportsmanship. I just let the tears roll down my face. It was perfect. (Thomas, Janelle, Suzi, Steve, Anne, Sandy—I wish you could have seen this!)
As part of their main lesson studies in class, each class wrote odes to the gods, and then chose one student to read his or her ode aloud to all assembled on this special day. The poems were marvelous and full of epithets for the gods and imagery evocative of the Homeric hymns. The whole ceremony set a beautiful tone for the day and by the time it was done, there was no doubt in my mind that these kids were transported in spirit, and were the embodiment of the Greek ideal of ἀρετή—excellence—for the duration of the Pentathlon.
Then the athletes processed, carrying flags of the color of their city state, around the entire field.
In the center of the field, the gods assembled around a giant torch. A child ran a small torch around the length of the field, entered the center, and then Zeus lit the big torch to officially begin the games. Such pageantry! Such effort! They really spared no expense to make this day a marvel.
Naturally, Ian and I followed our own sweet fifth grader around and snapped shots of him competing. (He’s in dark blue with a ponytail.) I also tried really hard to get pictures of all the fifth graders from Sacramento Waldorf School. I don’t know how to say it really—they were truly inspiring. They gave it their all.
I know for a fact that our fifth graders have been training all year for these events. They had great form and confidence, having practiced discus and javelin, long jump, and both dashes and long runs.
After each event was done, the whole city state trooped up to Mount Olympus to receive the awards of the gods. Laurel wreaths were given for first, second, and third place. And two wreaths were awarded to athletes who exhibited excellence in Beauty, Grace, and Style.
These children just flew!
Lucas won a laurel wreath for Beauty, Grace, and Style in the long run, which was a race around the entire field. I am so proud of him!
Javelin was the final event and all four corners of the field were used at the same time. Hay bales were put up to separate the areas. Here is Lucas getting ready to throw the javelin. Both of his throws were good and stuck, making them count. For a little while he was in first place, but then other children got greater distance with their throws. I think Lucas would really like to continue with this sport.
Every athlete received a medal for participating. Some kids won several wreaths; many won none. But I think everyone had an amazing day.
There was a closing ceremony, of course. The gods were thanked for attending. Each of them spoke about the noble qualities they saw in the children: perseverance, bravery, honor, kindness, fellowship. They chose a winning ode, and one more laurel wreath was awarded to the poet.
The day was challenging, long, and tiring for the athletes. They were physically competing from about 10 to 4, which is a long time for 11- and 12-year-olds to stay focused and follow the rules. They comported themselves with such maturity and determination, even when struggling or disappointed, and also with camaraderie and good spirit. Oh, the GLORY!