The Ontario Student Classics Conference, the most popular student convention in the province, was established in 1968 as an extension of activities of the Junior Classical League, a student affiliation of the American Classical League. For many years, this convention was hosted by various schools in the south-central regions of Ontario following a one-day format of events. Each year, the Conference expanded with the addition of new schools. Eventually, the popularity of the Conference in the 1980s grew to such a degree that the one-day format and the physical size of the high schools were no longer sufficient to support the range of contests. A much larger venue was sought and in 1989, the Conference, now two full days in length, moved into its first post-secondary host facility, Queens University. Since 1989, the Conference has found a home at universities across the province.
Over the years, the Conference has attracted more teachers and students of Latin from public and private schools across the province. Currently, there are more than twenty-five schools which annually attend, bringing total enrollments to five hundred students. While the number of participants varies from one year to the next, new schools are always welcome and encouraged to take part.
The Conference spans the second weekend in May providing an atmosphere steeped in the love of classical antiquity. Though the basis of the Conference is friendly and spirited competition, both students and teachers would agree that the essence of the Conference is social. All participants meet kindred spirits and make new friends. A pizza party on the first night of the Conference and a video dance on the last night facilitate this. For the more athletically-minded students, there are supervised activities such as swimming, volleyball, and impromptu soccer games or flag football matches.
The academic competitions consist of standard contests, such as Roman and Greek history, derivative study, translation, oral reading and Quaerite Summa (Reach for the Top). The majority of these contests are divided into Junior, Intermediate and Senior levels. A student can choose to be a Pentathlete, writing all five Cursus tests: Latin vocabulary, derivatives (compulsory for all participants), Roman life, mythology and Roman history.
Athletic competitions at the Conference are modeled on the ancient Olympics with a few modifications. There are regular track and field events as well as swimming, slinging, frisbee toss (less fatal than a real discus!), tug-of-war, and the ever popular chariot race. Chariots, designed by the students, are pulled once around the track by two pairs of runners. This race, the last of the Athletic competitions, is a favourite of spectators.
The creative events allow students to apply the knowledge gained from their Latin classes in a more challenging way. Projects range from computer programmes, videos, mosaics, sculptures, three-dimensional models, posters and paintings to a scrapbook of their Classics Clubs activities throughout the year. Equally challenging is the simulated archaeological excavation, or Arch. Dig, based on sites from the Graeco-Roman world. Participating students, working with archaeologists, are introduced to excavation techniques and interpretation methods. For the more dramatically inclined students, the Skit competition allows them to channel their creative energies into a ten minute play adapting a myth or historical event from the ancient world. Finally, the Fashion Show competition eclipses all others and is a delight to behold. Performed by talented students, wearing costumes of the ancient Mediterranean world, myths are brought to life.
And what would the Conference be without a few cherished idiosyncrasies! Saturday evening is particularly festive as everyone dons classical attire for the banquet to which they parade in a pompa. A prize is awarded for the best female and male costumes. The Awards Ceremony honours as many students as possible in each contest from first to fifth place. A video dance, celebrating the efforts and achievements of all participants, concludes the Conference.
Benefits and Rewards for Teachers and Students
For those who participate annually in the Ontario Student Classics Conference, the rewards are immense. It inspires teachers to devise more creative classes by providing the opportunity to meet with Latin teachers from around the province to discuss curriculum, investigate different programmes and teaching strategies and, most of all, to alleviate the feeling of isolation, which the lone Latin teacher often experiences. It allows students to indulge their special interests and to apply their knowledge in friendly competitions with others who share their love of antiquity. In addition, the Conference is an excellent instrument for promoting Latin and Classics programmes within a school.The Planning Committee of the Ontario Student Classics Conference invites and encourages you to partake in the best convention in the province!