By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published May 27, 2010
Last fall, St. Pius X Latin honors teacher Susan Belmonte asked her students for ideas for a class video project. Several months later, students were lining up around the track to participate in the school’s first chariot race.
“I wanted the project to be student-driven, not simply assigned by me,” said Belmonte. “We narrowed the topic down to entertainment and then more specifically gladiatorial fights and chariot races. A student casually asked if we could have an actual chariot race. That was the spark!”
“I was surprised by how enthusiastic my colleagues were in helping me put the race together,” she said. “There were probably 150 people there from the school and the wider community. I already have ideas for next year’s race, and many have told me they are looking forward to it.”
Belmonte said the students determined how the project would be graded and she provided all of the details regarding specs for the chariots and other requirements. The project was two-fold with one part including a video of the teams building their chariots, training and preparing and then the actual race itself.
The class has been studying various aspects of Roman culture for three years and the chariot race was particular to the chapter the class happened to be in at the time. Belmonte hoped an event like this would create an experience that the students will still talk about when their own children are in high school and hopefully it will start a tradition at Pius within the Latin program.
“I have been teaching for 15 years and have never done something like this,” said Belmonte. “Most important, I have never had a group of students be so excited about a class assignment. We will never forget it.”