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  4. Discovering Our City with the City of Rome Class

City of Rome introduces ninth graders to their city through weekly field trips to sites such as the Roman Forum, ancient aqueducts, the Circus Maximus, and local museums such as Palazzo Massimo alle Terme which houses an impressive collection of classical sculpture. In addition to quizzes and written field trip reports, students have several opportunities to deepen their knowledge of specific topics through exhibitions. This fall, the City of Rome classes split into groups of 3 to 4 students to study the importance of water in ancient and contemporary Rome. Students “researched different water-related topics such as the Trevi Fountain, the Roman Aqueducts, the Roman baths, and Tiber River, as well as fishkeeping and fire fighting.

The project was kicked off with a lecture by Jens Koehler, a water archaeologist at the American University of Rome (AUR) and visits from AUR’s graduate students. With the help of the AUR Master’s in Sustainable Cultural Heritage students (including myself), the St. Stephen’s students made research plans, researched the historical background of their sites, found old photos from the 1800s in the British School of Rome digital photo archive, and, finally, visited the sites to take photos and interview staff and visitors.” The projects culminated in an afternoon exhibition which remained on display in the school cortile for a week. This project gave students a unique opportunity to study sites and monuments they may walk past every day but know little about. Selina, a current ninth-grader, chose to study the Baths of Caracalla for precisely this reason; in Selina’s words, “I walk past every day but [until last week], I had never actually been there.” This spring, City of Rome students will organize a second exhibition on “Rome’s forgotten monuments.”

City of Rome comprises six units: the year began with a unit on the Romans and their environment which included the water monuments project. The students are currently studying Roman art and architecture. In January, the students will begin a unit on Roman religion before starting the “Rome - from village to empire” unit. For this month and a half long unit, which begins in February, students will study power and different types of government, such as monarchies, republics, and empires. Late March and April will be dedicated to “August and his successors.” In April, the students will participate in the international Medusa Mythology Exam. To conclude the year, students will study ancient economics, which will not only help them better understand the structure of Roman trade and taxation but will also provide them with a solid foundation in basic economic theory.

Recently, I shadowed two City of Rome classes on their field trips to the Forum Boarium and the Roman Forum to get a better sense of what it’s like to be a City of Rome student.

On a sunny December morning, sixteen students gathered in the shadow of the Temple of Hercules in Rome’s Forum Boarium, an area just across the street from the famous Bocca della Verità. The teacher, Marije Van Der Vorm, passed out worksheets featuring architectural plans and drawings of essential artistic features of Greek and Etruscan temples. Worksheets in hand, the students, divided into four groups to answer questions about the Forum Boarium’s two primary attractions: the Temple of Hercules and the Temple of Portunus. First, the students had to determine whether the temples in front of them were executed in the Greek or Etruscan style. Matching the temple plans on their worksheets to the structure in front of them, the students explained to me how they had classified the Temple of Hercules: its circular shape, interior cella, and free-standing marble columns identify it as a Greek temple. On the other hand, the monumental front staircase, made of travertine, sourced from nearby Tivoli, and the engaged volcanic tuff columns (partly embedded, partly projecting from the wall) of the rectangular Temple of Portunus are signature features of an Etruscan temple. Once the students had successfully classified the temples, Marije called the groups together to discuss the history of the Forum Boarium. In ancient Roman times, this valley, nestled between the Palatine, Capitoline, and Aventine hills, boasted a bustling cattle market. The name “Boarium” comes from the Greek word “bous” meaning bull. Its strategic location along the Tiber River made it easy for merchants to bring goods from all over the empire to sell at the Forum Boarium.

The Temple of Portunus is dedicated to the god, Portunus, one of several Tiber River gods. The Forum Boarium was the perfect location for the construction of such a temple because religion was more important to ancient Romans than almost anything else. It would have been unthinkable for  business-savvy Roman merchants to set up their stall at the cattle market without first making an offering to one of many Roman gods, in the hope that the god would bless their assets and maximize their cash flow.

We know so much about the Romans and their daily lives because they have left behind monuments, some of which have been exquisitely preserved. But why are these particular temples so well preserved? And “why,” as one student asked, “were the columns not taken and reused for a different site?” As the ninth grade students have learned, the Romans frequently looted columns and building materials from ancient sites for the construction of new churches. At one point, one hundred and fifty columns were even taken from the Baths of Caracalla and reinstalled in St. Peter’s Basilica. Marije explained that these temples are so well preserved today because, when Rome became a Christian city, the temples were reused as churches. In fact, if you enter the central cella of the Temple of Hercules, you can still admire the frescoes painted above the small altar.

That same December day, I also joined Inge Weustink’s City of Rome class for their field trip to the Roman Forum. We began our tour on the Via Sacra, an ancient Roman road made of dark-gray basalt and volcanic tuff, two local stones found in Rome. The stretch of the Via Sacra, which runs through the forum, is the last piece of this ancient road used for triumphal processions. In antiquity, Roman generals paraded down the Via Sacra to celebrate victories in battle. This section of the Via Sacra, which runs from the Arch of Titus to the Arch of Septimus Severus, runs directly above the Cloaca Maxima, an Ancient Roman sewer that still functions today. Just above one unusually large sewer grate, along the Via Sacra, one can find an unusual monument: a shrine to Venus Cloacina. Here, Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, is worshipped as the goddess of the sewer. Ancient Romans prayed to Venus Cloacina in the hopes that she would keep the sewer clean and running smoothly. Continuing along the Via Sacra, we arrive at the base of our focus for the day: the Roman Curia. This former Roman senate building has been well preserved because, like the Temple of Hercules and the Temple of Portunus, it was repurposed as a church. The first Roman Senate House was built during the time of the Roman monarchy, around 500 BC. Julius Caesar moved the Curia to its current location, in the Roman Forum (though he never lived to see the finished Curia because he was assassinated by Roman senators on March 15, 44 B.C.). The current Curia is a restored version, built by Diocletian after the fire of 283 AD, of Caesar’s Curia lulia. While the Curia is currently closed for restoration work, the sheer size and monumentality of this brick structure (built to house the meetings of Rome’s six hundred senators) are enough to give you a sense of its importance to Roman civic life.

Like the Forum Boarium, the Roman Forum served multiple functions: it was a meeting point, market place, sacred space, a place of memorialization, and, most importantly, the headquarters of the Roman government and its law courts.

For 1000 years, Rome was the most important city in the ancient world. Today, Rome is a UNESCO World Heritage site, an open-air museum, and a lively multicultural city home to students, professionals, diplomats, artists, and writers from all over the world. Millions of tourists come to Rome each year to spend a day or a week visiting Rome’s monuments and studying its myths; but for our students, Rome is home. City of Rome affords St. Stephen’s students an opportunity not only to explore this home but, through written assignments, field trips, and two exhibitions, students learn how to direct their curiosity about life to greater depths of understanding and lifelong learning. City of Rome is just the beginning of their education.

Environment After CoVid 19
Chapter 1: The World Around Us

Opinion: A New Perspective on the Environment After CoVid-19

There are ducks in the Barcaccia, dolphins inquisitively approaching Italian harbors and weeds colonizing urban spaces where human feet no longer tread: nature reconquering lost spaces is one of the short-term effects of this pandemic.

By Jan Claus Di Blasio, Gardens and Sustainability Coordinator

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Chapter 1: The World Around Us

Some Notes from Isolation

Who else has begun to think of their lives as divided into the BC (Before Covid) and DC (During Covid) eras? Oh, those simple things we took for granted: catching some fresh air during a short afternoon walk in the park. Having a coffee at the corner bar. A long, leisurely weekend lunch with a friend. A spontaneous decision to go and see a movie. For that matter, a spontaneous decision merely to go and pick up milk and laundry soap at the grocery store.

By Moira Egan - Creative Writing Teacher
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Chapter 1: The World Around Us

I’m 15 and Quarantined in Italy—You’d Be Surprised What I Miss

I was in Latin class when the Italian government announced the closure of schools two months ago.

By Anthony Avallone '23
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Chapter 1: The World Around Us

Romance in the Time of Coronavirus

Right-wing populists are romantics. I know; that sounds strange. You probably imagine romantics staring out over misty moors, their hair blowing at an attractive angle, but make no mistake—Orban, Trump, Bolsonaro, Salvini, Le Pen? They’re romantics too.

By Jen Hollis - Former St. Stephen’s IB History Teacher
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Chapter 1: The World Around Us

How a Virus Interrupted the Daily Routine at a Day and Boarding School

On Thursday, March 5th 2020, an unusual silence settled into the hallways, classrooms, and dorm rooms of St. Stephen’s School.

By Natalie Edwards '14 - RA and Dean's Office Assistant
Chapter 2: Creative Writing

Winners of the Keats-Shelley House Poetry Contest

In May, two St. Stephen’s students, Leila El-Zabri and Isabella Todini, won both of the prizes in the Upper School category of the Keats-Shelley Poetry Contest. This year’s judge was Jackie Kay, award-winning poet, author, and the current Scots Makar (the Scottish Poet Laureate). Ms. Kay was extremely impressed with the technical facility and emotional depth of our students’ work.

By Moira Egan - Creative Writing Teacher
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Chapter 2: Creative Writing

Creative Writing

Ms. Egan is proud to present work that has been done in her Creative Writing Classes in the Fall and Spring Semesters. Enjoy!

red dragon
Chapter 2: Creative Writing

Children of the Red Dragon

By Ilaria Chen, Grade 10
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Chapter 2: Creative Writing

The Golden Children

By Sofia Ghilas '21
Chapter 4: Fall Trips 2019

Fall School Trips 2019

Welcome to our interactive Fall trips 2019 photo galleries. Click the albums for a visual journey through our adventures!

Chapter 3: Short Stories in Italian | Italian language

Viaggio intorno alle nostre camere

By Rossano Astremo - IB Italian Teacher
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Chapter 4: Fall Trips 2019

Why We Take School Trips

When students enter St. Stephen’s as 9th graders, they will attend eight trips in the course of their career. Trips are an integral part of our identity, and one of the most frequently cited distinctions when Head of School Eric Mayer speaks with parents and students.

By Cortile Staff Writer
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The Molecular Genetics program at St. Stephen's was introduced in 2018 in partnership with Adamas Scienze as a five-year initiative. Adamas Scienze is part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Monterotondo, Italy that specializes in bringing university-level science to high school students.

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Chapter 5: Departments | Classics, The Lyceum

An Archaeology for the Five Senses: A Lyceum Evening

On Monday evening, a group of students, teachers, alumni, and friends of St. Stephen’s gathered in the library to explore the sights, sounds, and, most importantly, the smells of Ancient Roman cities with Ann Kolosky-Ostrow, a Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Brandeis and recent Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Rome.

By Natalie Edwards '14 - RA and Dean's Office Assistant
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Chapter 5: Departments | International Baccalaureate (IB)

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By David Rosales '16
city of rome
Chapter 5: Departments | Classics

Discovering Our City with the City of Rome Class

One of St. Stephen’s’ signature courses, Roman Topography, got an upgrade this year. The new course is called City of Rome. In the past, students were required to take either Roman Topography or Latin 1. Beginning in Fall 2019, all ninth graders take City of Rome and choose between three classical languages: Latin, Classical Greek, or Arabic.

By Natalie Edwards '14 - RA and Dean's Office Assistant
cortile sofia peng
Chapter 6: Student Life | Student Ambassador Program

Hi, I'm Sofia Peng, and I am a Student Ambassador!

I think that being a Student Ambassador made me grow so much. As a student, I concentrated mainly on my academics, yet I was never a talkative and outgoing person at school because I thought I wasn't a fluent English speaker. As it is not my first language, I have never really managed to speak comfortably around people other than my friends without feeling nervous about being judged. I always had a hard time dealing with my self-esteem and I doubted myself.

By Sofia Peng '22
Chapter 6: Student Life | Students Love Tech!

The iLab is the Place to Be at St. Stephen’s!

I think it would be safe to say that the Innovation Lab, the ILab for short, is my favorite place in the entire school. It allows for anyone with an interest in tech, design, or anything similar to enjoy themselves while also learning at the same time and pushing themselves beyond what they thought they were going to be able to do, ever.

By Valerio Pepe '22
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Chapter 6: Student Life | Students Love Tech!, Formula 1

Life in the Fast Lane

When you think of Formula 1, you probably don’t think of engineering, aerodynamics, economics, marketing, and design yet these are just a few of the components that go into building the sleek race cars that characterize the sport.

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Chapter 6: Student Life | Student Clubs, Chris Smalling

Tackling Inequality

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By Laith Zehni '20
writing awards
Chapter 7: Scholastic Writing Awards

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, 2020

Again this year, St. Stephen’s Creative Writing teacher Moira Egan is delighted to present the work of her students, who achieved wonderful success in the Scholastic Art & Writing Competition for 2020. This year, students in Grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 garnered 10 Honorable Mentions, 6 Silver Keys, and 2 Gold Keys.

By Moira Egan - Creative Writing Teacher
Grade 9 award
Chapter 7: Scholastic Writing Awards

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards 2020

By Moira Egan - Creative Writing Teacher
Grade 10 award
Chapter 7: Scholastic Writing Awards

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards 2020

By Moira Egan - Creative Writing Teacher
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Chapter 7: Scholastic Writing Awards

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards 2020

By Moira Egan - Creative Writing Teacher
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Chapter 8: The Arts

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Enjoy a visual showcase of our Winter Arts Show highlights.

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cortile regenerative medicine 2
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Regenerative medicine (RM) is an emerging and very exiting multidisciplinary field aimed at restoring, maintaining or enhancing tissue and, consequently, organ functions.

By David Rosales '16
Wahiba Sands
Chapter 9: Alumni | Alumni & Friends, Health & Wellness

Alumni & Friends in Oman

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By Cortile Staff Writer
Chapter 9: Alumni

DC, NY & Boston Alumni Events

Images from St. Stephen's Alumni events across the North East last Fall.

Painting by Cate Whittemore 1972
Chapter 9: Alumni | Class Notes

Class Notes

Welcome to our first-ever digital 'Class Notes.' Enjoy the posts and images collated by Class Ambassadors from their respective years!