From the Free Lance Star:

Most sixth-graders might find Latin difficult. But Tim Morris' recent Latin homework was a breeze for him.

He got to spend an evening playing with cardboard and tinfoil.

Tim, a student at Fredericksburg Academy, fashioned the materials into ancient armor.

"I'm really into medieval and ancient stuff," he said. "I've always wanted to dress up in armor."

Tim got his chance toward the end of the school year.

He and other classmates used their homemade armor in a competition during the Roman Festival, a field day created by their Latin teacher.

Kevin Perry began the project while interning at Fredericksburg Academy six years ago. He paired up with an English teacher to get the students behind the scenes of "The Odyssey."

He went on to student teach at Patrick Henry High School in Hanover. Five years ago, Perry became a full-time Latin teacher at Fredericksburg Academy. He set up Roman Festival Day right away.

The daylong competition has evolved through the years. Some of the events are just typical field-day competitions.

"We do a few things that are just for fun, but maybe we do them with a Latin name," Perry said.

Other features are educational. Some of the competitions are based on the early Olympics and other ancient sporting events. And some call for students to recite Latin poetry or get quizzed in Latin grammar.

Festival events include a chariot race, a javelin throw, relay races, poetry recitation, an armor race and a catapult competition.

Students break up into seven groups of families, all with Latin names. They go outside for the competition and rack up points.

After the outdoor events, they head inside to dress in togas made out of bed sheets. Students wrap each other up in the sheets and head upstairs for a Roman feast.

Each student brought food for the lunch, some toting simple fruits and boiled eggs and some experimenting with Perry's authentic Roman recipes.

After the lunch, the students have a certamen, a competition of Latin terms and grammar.

The day wears out the students, and all the behind-the-scenes work exhausts Perry.

"It's busy; it's tiring, but that's all the students talk about afterwards," he said. "It's an anticipated event."

Perry says he starts talking to the students early in the year about the festival.

All sixth-graders at the academy take Latin, and Perry had 42 sixth-grade students this year. He says that although it's unusual for sixth-graders to take a foreign language in this area, his students respond very well to Latin.

He credits that success to a good textbook and using a lot of hands-on examples of what life was like for the early Romans.

Of course, the biggest tangible lesson for kids is the end-of-the-year festival.

"You see these people in the books, but it's really fun to just do it," Tim said.