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  4. Exploring the New City of Rome 2 Class

This year, Dr Rebecca Raynor and I have had the privilege of rolling out a brand new history course at St Stephen’s. ‘City of Rome 2’ is conceived as the second part in a two-year sequence, from grades 9 to 10, covering the Ancient and Early Modern periods. It has replaced the old ‘Roman Topography’ and ‘Med-Ren’ classes familiar to St. Stephen’s students for decades. This course, the fruit of years of planning by the Classics and History departments, gives St Stephen's students the unique opportunity of exploring their native or adopted city up close, first hand, and in a fresh perspective.

Through four units, each a single marking period long, we approach Ancient and Early Modern Rome in context, using the methods and concepts of Geography, Economics, History, and Art History. The units correspond to the four subjects students will select among for group 3 of the IB (note: we do not offer IB Geography at SSS, but Environmental Systems and Society). Students are assessed using standards-based criteria modeled on those used by the IB. Students engage in individual and collaborative learning activities, such as mapping, material culture analysis, source criticism, mock trials, and essay writing. Each marking period has one summative project, which students undertake in steps through formative work and feedback. The aim is to develop research skills, critical analysis, and argumentation from evidence, all invaluable to success in the IB.

The choice of Early Modern Rome is well suited to developing these skills because, quite simply, it is embarrassingly rich in sources. Our landmarks include the artistic monuments of the Renaissance and Baroque as well as the new scientific and geographical horizons that mark the advent of our modern world. We embark on a journey into that world through field trips that approach the city as our textbook and laboratory. The richness of Early Modern Rome is never an end in itself but a vehicle for acquiring new skills, knowledge, and understanding.

We also set out to approach the city and its wider history from a fresh perspective, or rather multiple perspectives, through the eyes of such figures as the sixteenth-century Muslim traveler Leo the African or the painter Artemisia Gentileschi; the seventeenth-century convert Queen Christina of Sweden or the mystic and holy woman Saint Teresa of Avila. Students develop a more nuanced and critical awareness of how the city, its history, and identity, have been shaped through an encounter with the non-Roman world by people of diverse backgrounds, continents, and religions. In this age, Romans also began to engage self-consciously with the many traces of the city's ancient past visible around them - drawing inspiration but also framing their experiences in dialogue with that past, with lasting implications for the city we live in today.