Rising senior Maia Lee-Chin ’21 has been named the 2020-21 Fenwick Scholar and will be undertaking a year-long senior thesis project titled “Classics in the Classroom: Retelling the Iliad in Worcester.” Maia, one of the Bean Scholars in the Class of 2021, is a Classics major with a minor in Education.
Maia’s proposal focuses on how Classics can engage with elementary age students’ reading motivations to read non-fiction texts. She is interested in two different perspectives: Classics and Education. In Classics, her interest lies in the lack of access for marginalized people (low-socioeconomic status and underrepresented minorities) to the study of Classics. In Education, it is the motivation of early elementary-age children to read informational texts. These two topics have never been discussed in relation to one another, and by studying both of these, schools and colleges alike can better understand the pedagogical effects that Classics has on children’s motivations to read.
Maia aims to reveal the effects of early exposure to Classics on a) the motivations of marginalized children to read and b) the volume of informational texts read. She proposes that a common solution can help to address both problems. A curriculum, aimed at ages 6-8, provides access to marginalized children and can act as a catalyst for students to begin reading more informational texts.
In the Fall 2020 semester, a randomized control study will track the students’ reading by type of text and length of reading. In the Spring 2021 semester, a curriculum centered around the Iliad will be introduced to one classroom and its effectiveness as a catalyst to read other informational texts will be measured. Maia argues that both the lack of access to Classics and the types of texts that students choose to read can be studied by introducing Classics to elementary-age students.
Her advisors for the project are Professor Lauren Capotosto from the Department of Education and Professors Mary Ebbott and Dominic Machado from the Department of Classics. They have worked with her for the past year to craft a proposal submitted to the Fenwick Scholar Committee and the Provost of the College.
Of the educational aims of the project Prof. Capotosto said, “Maia has skillfully woven together her interests in classics and education to design her project, ‘Classics in the Classroom.’ Introducing elementary students to the classics has the potential to build students’ background knowledge and enhance their engagement with reading. Her project is not only well-informed by the research literature, but also feasible for schools to implement. Maia’s work has the potential to meaningfully impact instructional practice beyond the year-long study.”
Prof. Ebbott said of Maia’s engagement with Homer, “No one I know reads the Iliad like Maia. She finds deep personal connection to the story of Achilles’ anger and the war at Troy while also casting an intensely critical eye on the poetry and the ways in which it has been received and taught. Through that combination, she asks questions that are startling and creative in the dual sense of being both imaginative and productive.”
In commenting on the significance of the project Prof. Machado said, “The work that Maia is doing and plans to do is a living embodiment of the Holy Cross mission. It considers ‘the moral character of learning and teaching’ and explicitly asks about ‘our special responsibility to the world’s poor and powerless.’ It is a work of service that seeks to share Maia’s privilege as a college student and a scholar of Classics with marginalized communities right outside our gates. Most importantly, her proposal is the result of years of contemplating the ambiguity and uncertainty that comes from being a member of an underrepresented group in an exclusionary field.”
The official announcement by Ellen Perry, Professor of Classics and the Director of College Scholar Programs, is included below.