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Student revives Latin study at Mohawk

  • Mohawk junior Aaron Nelson, who has taken Latin as an independant study course, has helped to introduce an online-supported Latin course to Mohawk. Recorder/Diane Broncaccio.

    Mohawk junior Aaron Nelson, who has taken Latin as an independant study course, has helped to introduce an online-supported Latin course to Mohawk. Recorder/Diane Broncaccio. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mohawk junior Aaron Nelson, who has taken Latin as an independant study course, has helped to introduce an online-supported Latin course to Mohawk. Recorder/Diane Broncaccio.

    Mohawk junior Aaron Nelson, who has taken Latin as an independant study course, has helped to introduce an online-supported Latin course to Mohawk. Recorder/Diane Broncaccio. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mohawk junior Aaron Nelson, who has taken Latin as an independant study course, has helped to introduce an online-supported Latin course to Mohawk. Recorder/Diane Broncaccio.
  • Mohawk junior Aaron Nelson, who has taken Latin as an independant study course, has helped to introduce an online-supported Latin course to Mohawk. Recorder/Diane Broncaccio.

BUCKLAND — If you think one student can’t make a difference, just talk to Aaron Nelson, a junior at the Mohawk Trail Regional High School.

When he enrolled at Mohawk as a sophomore last fall, there were no Latin language courses offered. And now there is one — with a dozen Mohawk students already signed up for it.

Nelson had transferred to Mohawk from another school where he had already taken Latin 1, and he wanted to continue.

“I really love the language, ” he said. Nelson learned that the University of Cambridge had an online independent learning course, and he signed on for Latin 2 at Mohawk as an independent study course. Mohawk French language teacher Roxanne Trombly, who had studied Latin when she was in high school, served as Nelson’s adviser.

“I found I had a lot of people ask me how they could take Latin,” said Nelson. So he started tutoring a group of eighth-grade students in the ancient language of Rome, during study hall.

Nelson said he went onto Cambridge University’s website, and learned that the school, one of the oldest in the world, offered course materials and online tutoring services for schools that want to offer Latin. So Nelson proposed starting a class to Mohawk Principal Lynn Dole.

“She really wanted to make this happen,” he said.

Why Latin?

When asked why so many students would be interested in a language that’s no longer widely spoken, Dole said she believes there is increased interest in Latin as a way to better understand our own language as well as the Romance languages, like French and Spanish.

“This is a generation that came of age with Harry Potter, and I think there’s an appreciation of the scholarly tradition of literature.” Dole thinks students may enjoy the ability to read an ancient passage in its original language.

“I think it’s very exciting that we’ve got a growing number of students who want to engage in this,” she said. “It connects them to a global community that is studying Latin.

This isn’t the first time Mohawk has offered Latin, says Dole, who had taken it when she was a Mohawk student, back in the 1980s.

“This is a resurrection of this language instruction — based on student interest and initiative,” Dole said. “We’re very glad we were able to respond to this student enthusiasm.”

The program is called the Cambridge School Classics Project, and offers “partnership school status” for schools that want to use it to offer Latin to their students. Greek and Latin are considered “classical” languages.

“We’re in the process of getting all the details,” she added.

Using iPads to study Latin

Dole said Mohawk is still formalizing its agreement with the university, but 12 students are already signed up for Latin 1. Mohawk will be offering that this fall and Latin 2 in the spring. Trombly will be teaching these courses, using iPad apps and online videos provided by Cambridge. Also, the university offers online video conferencing.

“The online tutoring support will supplement what is happening in real time,” she said.

Mohawk has an “iPad cart” that holds and charges batteries for 20 iPads. These have been used for Mohawk’s environmental science courses, and will also be used in the Latin class, Dole said.

According to Nelson, who has used independent study materials from Cambridge, the course uses 99-cent e-books that can be downloaded onto the iPad.

“I’m going to be taking Latin 3 and 4 through Independent Study, and I’ll be tutoring the others as well,” he said. “I hope next year I’ll be taking Latin 5 and 6, or an advanced placement course.”

“This is something that has really evolved through Aaron’s interest and initiative and through the support of the teacher,” said Dole.

“Another piece of this has been watching Aaron demonstrate his leadership. Last year, he was working with eighth-graders who very proudly demonstrated their translation of a (Latin) passage.”

Dole said this wasn’t the first time that Mohawk had developed a year-long program sparked by student interest. Last year, Joshua Rode of Heath took an independent study program in film making and was able to get an internship in film set construction, helping build a set for local filming of “The Judge.” The independent study he initiated led to the creation of a film class this year at Mohawk, taught by teacher Michelle MacInnes.

“It’s a pattern, that we’ve been able to be very responsive to students’ interests,” she said.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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