When senior Swati Ravi was a freshman, she used to joke with her friends about taking a history class about Vikings. Now as a senior, she has created the class herself.
Last year, Swati brought the idea of a Vikings class to the Upper School History department chair Dr. Amy Bresie. Dr. Bresie agreed to sponsor the tutorial after seeing the effort Swati put into writing her course proposal that included an overview of the material the students would study during the trimester-long class. She then found five other students who agreed to enroll in the tutorial with her during the first trimester.
“[Swati] wrote this five page, thorough proposal researching why Viking history should be a Greenhill history class. The rest of the department was like ‘I don’t know’ but I was so impressed with her dedication that I said I would step up and help out,” Dr. Bresie said.
After the tutorial was approved, Swati got to work writing a syllabus for the 12-week-long course. She wanted to include a variety of aspects of Viking and Norse culture in the class such as paintings, poetry, mythology and methods of transportation.
The group tutorial was different than other tutorials and classes at Greenhill because it was led by Swati, a student, alongside Dr. Bresie.
Senior Drake Heptig enrolled in the tutorial with a group of his friends. He said he wanted to take the course knowing it would be drastically different from other history courses he had taken in the past.
Drake said he was impressed with Swati’s leadership within the class.
“She knew everything that we were doing because she was part of choosing the text that we used, as well as kind of guiding the class. She also kind of made the entire last part of it around building boats,” said Drake.
While writing the course overview, Swati decided that she wanted the class to study Viking boats for a large chunk of the trimester since the boats comprise such an important part of Viking culture. The class decided that they were going to build a boat made from cardboard boxes found in the Upper School snack bar and sail it for their final project.
“We started by reading articles about the materials that they used and a lot of the construction techniques and from there, we decided the logical progression was to try and build a boat ourselves,” said Swati.
Although the class was not allowed to sail their boat for safety reasons, they were confident it would have floated because of the oil based paint they covered the boat in.
Swati’s tutorial had challenges that most history classes don’t face. Because the class met before school, it was hard for the students to be there on time.
Dr. Bresie said her lack of prior experience and knowledge of Norse culture made teaching the class more difficult than others.
“It was personally a challenge because Viking history is not my area of expertise so I had to learn with students, and it was much more student focused and driven,” said Dr. Bresie. “It was exciting but also kind of daunting to not be driving the ship and learn to let go of control.”
Photo by Amy Bresie
Originally published in the December 2017 print issue