Participating in The Examined Life educational program enabled Hopkinton Middle School Grade 8 civics teacher William Mingace to make a life-changing trip to Greece, a journey he believes allows him to better understand what he teaches.
From April 14-23, he traveled with about 25 other educators, librarians, artists and writers to experience both structured touring and more freestyle exploration of Greece. It was Mingace’s first trip abroad.
He noted the group was taken to all the major historical sites and attractions such as the Oracle of Delphi, the Tumulus at Marathon, the Parthenon and the healing center at Epidaurus.
One notable part of the journey was learning more about Greek democracy. When visiting Agora, he said, the group was met by acclaimed archeologist John Camp and given a personal tour of the current excavation site.
“Seeing and literally stepping on top of the ancient Stoa where civic life would have flourished in ancient times was a surreal experience,” Mingace said.
The group also was able to visit the Agora Museum, which is located inside a reconstruction of the Stoa.
“We were able to see real pieces of ostraca and learn about other protections that the Athenians put in place for their democracy,” Mingace added.
He said that his favorite part of the experience was spending two days in Hydra with more free time. “It was amazing,” Mingace said. “We got to explore and get lost in the back roads. …We had some really great food at the restaurants on that island and I took my opportunity to jump in the Aegean [Sea].”
The food lived up to the hype as well. “From real Greek yogurt as a staple of my breakfast, to moussaka, to lamb, to grape leaves and Greek salad with every meal, there were times when I could not decide which dish I wanted to try next,” Mingace recalled.
The group enjoyed other activities like watercolor painting with artist Garrett Hines and readings by author Gregory Maguire.
Also memorable was having the opportunity to spend time with people who have similar interests “and who really wanted to be there.”
Mingace said that getting to know his fellow travelers with “great conversations” during group lunches and dinners was a highlight.
“The people I went with were what made the experience memorable,” Mingace said.
He said each individual had something to contribute — whether it was knowledge of medical and Greek terms or historical events, photography or drawing.
“I was truly blessed to have met some great people,” he said, adding that their tour guide, Mara, was knowledgeable and a lot of fun and kept them at a pace where they could see all the important sites.
He said the program lived up to the praise bestowed upon it by fellow faculty members who went in the past.
Any educator or other person who may feel hesitant about signing up for the trip and program really should try it, he said. “It was all so amazing,” he gushed. “There are not enough words to describe how happy I was there.”
Mingace said that he is looking forward to incorporating what he experienced first-hand “about the birthplace of democracy” into his civics classes next year.
“I had the opportunity to experience the people, the food, the dancing and the religious practices of Greece, while learning so much about the importance of Greek civilization to not only the Western world but global culture,” he noted.
Now that he’s had a taste of traveling abroad, Mingace said he would like to go back to Greece one day and also take trips to Italy and Japan/Asia.
Mingace thanked the 26.2 Foundation for making the experience possible. The 26.2 Foundation has ties to Greece through the Boston Marathon.
The Examined Life (ExL) Greek Studies in the Schools was established by Barbara Harrison and a small group of educators with Brandeis University collaboration. In 2013, the program transitioned from in-person to an online program to reach a wider geographic area in association with Framingham State University.
In 2018 ExL was incorporated in Massachusetts and received a 501(c)3 IRS non-profit designation.
In addition to the study tour of Greece, participants attend lectures and complete graduate course readings.