Posted on March 9, 2014
Yes, indeed, there were knights in shining armor guarding the castle gates at the elementary, while I, as Robin Hood, bid lords and ladies, peasants and maidens "Good morrow!" as they walked onto campus. All students in our multiage first and second grades celebrated their ten-week inquiry on the Medieval Ages this past Thursday. This social studies unit -- an in-depth study of a place in time -- is one of the favorite inquiry topics among teachers and students alike. Beginning with what students think they know about this time period, the teachers immersed students in reading tradebooks and browsing teacher-selected websites. The reading prompted questions, which were later organized into categories for further research. A sampling of their questions: How did water get into the castle moat? How did peasants make their clothing? Are dragons real? How did they train the knightsʻ horses? Could people touch the queen? Students shared their research in a number of ways, from hand-made puppet shows to models of villages to artifacts to oral presentations. Parents transformed the dining room into a castle dining hall where the royalty and citizenry celebrated a grand feast. But there was more to come!
After feasting on fruits, cheese, chicken (imagine roasted delicacy of pheasant with feathers) eaten with their fingers (no utensils back then) and served on bread troughs (there were no plates), the citizens walked to the grand courtyard to view the knightsʻ battle demonstrations. Members of the Society for Creative Anachronism were dressed in full gear -- yes! suits of armor, chainmail, spurs, helmets with visors -- and brandished medieval weapons of swords of shields to demonstrate how knights went into combat. Prior to last Thursday, the first and second graders had created guilds in each of their classrooms to learn how to make candles, how to embroider and weave, and how to make an illuminated manuscript. On their Medieval Day, a real blacksmith (Waldorf School faculty member Phil Dwyer) demonstrated with our student apprentices how iron pieces were made from furnace to striking on anvil and hammer.
Back in their classrooms, the students have been discussing and writing reflections on their learning. I can just imagine the excitement in their voices as they pause now to look back at several weeks of deep learning to articulate what theyʻve learned and have come to appreciate about this historic period. This learning approach through inquiry continues to thrive and deepen at Mid-Pacific Institute. And thatʻs just in first and second grade! Much appreciation to all parents of multiage 1-2 who supported their childrenʻs experiences of the medieval ages, from assisting with inquiry reading in the classroom to sharing their own expertise to contributing food for the banquet to helping their children with costumes. We are a community of learners.
Hereʻs to our children!
Edna L. Hussey