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Going back in time

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KNIGHTHOOD: Sixth-graders Trey McDowell, left, and Harrison York rehearse as knights, without their costumes, for the “Medieval Faire” at Swayzee Elementary School.
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TRADITIONAL DANCE: Sixth-graders prepare for a dance routine at Swayzee Elementary School’s “Medieval Faire.” During the faire, the sixth-graders will be in full costume.

By Clay Winowiecki - cwinowiecki@chronicle-tribune.com

The Middle Ages are coming to Swayzee Elementary School for its annual “Medieval Faire” this April.

Sixth-graders at Swayzee Elementary School are now rehearsing for it. The faire, which is free to the public, will be held April 3-4 and features jousting competitions, traditional dances and more.

According to Rhonda Fagan, a sixth-grade social studies teacher, there are 25 student groups, including royalty groups, knights, a black death group and a torture chamber group.

“Anything to do with the Middle Ages there’s a group,” Fagan said.

The interactive learning style allows kids to delve into the middle ages in an immersive style.

“They have to research their topic for close to a week,” Fagan said. “(Then decide) what they’re going to construct to visually see it. We are almost finished with construction, and (now we) are doing our oral presentations where students tell their audience about what they learned.”

The activity serves as hands-on learning for the students to learn what some might otherwise find as a dry subject.

“History can be boring, let’s face it,” she said. “Who wants to learn about a bunch of dead people? But when you make it come to life for them, they’re going to remember it more.”

According to Kellie Boucher, a sixth-grade English language arts teacher, the Middle Ages subject matter is shared across the curriculum.

“It’s really great for the students because we do a lot of cross-curricular activities with the Medieval Faire,” Boucher said. “(Students) start off studying about the Middle Ages in social studies then it carries over to English.”

In Boucher’s class, they read literature and non-fiction articles about the time period. Students also practice research standards and the writing that goes along with it, according to Boucher.

“It’s great for them to be able to take everything they’re learning and get into a hands-on experience by putting it into practice,” she added.

When students read about the history of the middle ages, especially when it pertains to their groups, students often strive to learn as much about their specific areas as possible.

“They almost take it personally,” she added.

Fagan also teaches a Greek unit where students have their own Greek names and form city-states.

“They’re going to remember it more (this way),” Fagan said. “I have kids who I taught 15 years ago (that) still remember what group (they were) in.”

Fagan has been running activities like this for the past 28 years.

“I believe all students are gifted in some way,” she said. “It may not be in school, it may be putting a lawn mower together or it may be in art (or) sports.”

Because of her belief, she first started a similar activity based around Ancient Egypt. She ran the activity for about ten years, but the state of Indiana changed the curriculum standards and made Egypt a seventh-grade history subject.

Fagan then began running the Middle Ages activity.

“I’m gonna miss it when I retire,” Fagan added.

According to her, the favorite event for her students is jousting, which always draws plenty of excitement as students dodge and roll under battle axes, swords and flails.

As of now students are practicing without costumes, since they are still in the process of being made by students and the school.

The public is invited to attend the Medieval Faire. The faire begins on Wednesday, April 3 and lasts from 1:30-2:30 p.m. and on Thursday, April 4 from 10-11 a.m.

The jousting tournament begins April 4 at 1:15 p.m.

Educational tours of each group will be offered during the above times, with the tour lasting about an hour.

There will also be a performance by the sixth-grade orchestra.