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Hands-on Learning About Life in Ancient Greece: The Friends’ House

Hood Quarterly, autumn 2003
Lesley Wellman, Curator of Education

Coming of Age in Ancient Greece offers an unprecedented exploration of childhood in ancient Greece through the study of art and artifacts. To complement and enhance visitors’ understanding of the objects in the exhibition, the museum has developed an extensive hands-on learning area for visitors of all ages called the Friends’ House. Inspired by the design of typical Greek homes, it contains a wide range of materials that enable visitors to learn by doing.

By reclining on a chaise, examining a basin and strigil, and trying on a tunic called a chiton, visitors can learn where children slept, how they bathed, and what they wore. Abacuses, wax writing tablets, and a loom allow visitors to practice their sums, penmanship, and household skills just as boys and girls in ancient Greece did. Pots and utensils enable visitors to learn how food was stored and prepared and what people in ancient Greece ate and drank. Replicas of ancient toys allow adults and children to try their hands at knuckle-bones (very similar to our modern game of jacks), tops, dolls, and other games that were enjoyed in Greece 2,500 years ago. By handling tools and reassembling a broken vase, visitors can learn about the equipment and techniques used by archaeologists in their excavations and research into cultures of the past.

The Hood has provided this exciting resource area because museum visitors learn best when they are offered a range of ways to access the intellectual content of art. When resources foster discussion and appeal to children and adults, when information lends itself to a variety of learning styles, and when choices allow visitors to shape their own learning experiences, people spend longer engaged in inquiry and learn more about the art on view.

So be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to explore the Friends’ House. We hope that what you see, do, and read inside will enhance your understanding of how objects in the exhibition were used and what they tell us about people in ancient Greece.

The museum is deeply grateful to the Friends of Hopkins Center and Hood Museum of Art, without whose generous support the house and its contents would not have been possible. We thank them for the vision and dedication that enabled the museum to offer this innovative learning resource to all of our visitors.

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