When the 25th annual Pentathlon Festival was canceled last spring, it was just one of many ways that COVID-19 disrupted established traditions and routines for many on campus. The festival, which is an athletic, artistic, and poetic combination modeled after the ideals of the Greek Olympics, has become a cherished fifth grade right of passage that culminates their year-long study of ancient cultures.
That’s why yesterday’s festivities for what are now the sixth graders, were so special.
During the Pentathlon students are split into four city-states (Thebes, Sparta, Delphi, and Athens), and compete against each other in events like javelin, long jump, sprint, and relay races. This year’s opening ceremony included a nature offering, and an “Ode to the Gods,” which was written and read by sixth grader Ian Guzman. After the torch lighting, it was off to the four main events of the day.
“I promised the parents that I would give their children the experience of the Pentathlon,” said Movement teacher John Saccone, who is the main organizer and keeper of the event. “As school started this year, I said I was going to do the Pentathlon somehow.”
Modeling creative problem solving and flexibility, the community was able to move forward and find a way. Of course, there were many changes in light COVID-19: The festivities were pared down from two days to one. Usually other Waldorf schools in the area participate, and the city-states have students from different schools in them. And, of course, we were unable to welcome our parents to watch this year. “It was lonely not having dear friends,” said Saccone.
Despite the challenges, the games moved forward with camaraderie and cheer. While score was kept— the scoring method during the events focuses on form— it was the feeling that the sixth graders had at the end of the day that was most important. “We want them on this day to be able to rise up, stand up, and know that they can be a goddess or a god,” said Saccone.
“It was beautiful,” said Saccone. “You could see the children needed this. It’s part of the school’s history.”