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Bringing ancient Rome to the classroom

Sixth-grade social studies teacher Ryan Wollberg demonstrates way dagger could go through chamail armor during his presentatiRoman military.  |

Sixth-grade social studies teacher Ryan Wollberg demonstrates the way a dagger could go through chain mail armor during his presentation on the Roman military. | Ruthie Hauge ~ Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 3, 2012 10:44AM

GURNEE — Ryan Wollberg jumped in his time machine to teach sixth graders about life during the Roman era. He wore and brought the gear that a Roman solider would have, including swords, a shield and the helmet with the crest.

Wollberg has been teaching social studies at Woodland Middle School for five years, but this was the first year he had so much authentic Roman gear to aid his presentation. He does not actually have a time machine, as he likes to tell his students. Instead, he used a $1,500 grant from the Woodland Educational Foundation to purchase Roman style gear to augment his collection.

“I’m competing with iPods, the computer and YouTube. I can show a picture all day long, but for them (students) to see their teacher dressed up and to show them these things is tenfold the value from seeing a picture,” Wollberg said.

He made his own wool tunic and scutum (shield). He brought in a tree stump to stand on, which served as a podium in ancient Roman times. His collection of blunted gladius swords and spears were popular.

He made the students eight different shields so they could make real formations as part of the learning presentation.

Wollberg said he does not have a background in theater. But once he received the grant and was able to expand his collection, he said he was happy to do presentations for all the sixth grade classes.

“Ryan has worked really hard to put all of this stuff together. It’s so great that he shares with the students,” said fellow sixth grade social studies teacher Johanna Osharow of Gurnee.

Her students start their ancient Rome unit next week. She said she is sure her students will start reading the textbook and will remember the items Wollberg showed them at Friday’s presentation.

Wollberg dresses up as historical characters periodically throughout the year — visiting his “time machine” — but does not have anything as elaborate as his ancient Roman presentation.

“When you have something they can see and touch, it makes a huge difference,” Wollberg said. “The grant was phenomenal.”

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