When Spotsylvania County Schools started cutting middle school language classes, one student in particular was quite upset. Paige Receveur’s younger brother wanted to take Latin at Freedom Middle School but there weren’t enough students signed up for the class. Receveur states that her brother “saw me in Latin in at Riverbend High and wanted to, I guess, follow in my footsteps.” Unfortunately there were only seven students in the class and, according to Receveur, the class needed twenty students to run. So after attending the 2012 National Latin Convention and hearing a workshop on hosting language outreach programs, Receveur came up with an idea to help boost interest in Latin and in turn, boost class enrollment.
“Coming up with the idea was easy,” said Receveur, “it was putting into practice that was work.” Helping her implement her outreach idea was her Latin teacher and Riverbend High Latin Club sponsor, Mark Keith. “Paige got the idea for the camp as an extension of the outreach program she started in the fall,” replied Keith. “She is very interested in helping younger students find the excitement of the language. Learning Latin helps understand our debt to the ancient world and how it impacted our modern world.” Keith goes on to say the learning Latin “helps with our modern language and vocabulary” and is a “great preliminary for taking the SATs and any pre-law and medicine.”
Receveur created the Ursus Outreach program in the fall of 2012 where upper-level Latin students went to the neighboring elementary school and taught mini lessons to two 5th grade classes. “Ursus is the Latin name for bear, and Riverbend’s mascot is the bear, so we thought it was a great name,” beamed Receveur. “And the summer camp is an extension of our school program.”
The Ursus Outreach Summer Camp offers crafts and activities for 1st through 7th graders. One young camper named Atlee said that it was “fun to learn about Greek and Roman gods and goddesses.” She went on to explain that her favorite goddess was Artemis and she painted a flower pot with an arrow “because she’s strong and a hunter”. The children’s activities included drawing, reenacting a gladiator march, and completing a Latin scavenger hunt.
The Ursus Outreach is helped by Riverbend High School’s Latin students and the national Ascanius Youth Classics Institute. Kevin Jefferson, Director of Student Programs, said, “Our main focus is creating programs for Kindergarten through 8th grade students to help get the word out about Ancient History and the Classics.” Jefferson goes on to say that programs such as Receveur’s make the Classics “fun and relatable to today’s youth.”
Receveur sums up her passion for the program stating that “we can target the younger students, around 5th grade, by putting much of the psychology behind the critical period in learning languages. We have to reach them young.” Receveur is taking her passion on to college where she will attend Ohio State in the fall pursuing her Classics major.
For more information on the Ursus Outreach Program, click here. For more information on the Latin program at Riverbend High School, click here.