Rosemont Ridge students lead the school through a day in Renaissance times

by: VERN UYETAKE - Sabrina VanBeenen, sixth grade, gets her picture taken in the stocks at the Rosemont Ridge Middle School Renaissance Faire.When the students of Rosemont Ridge Middle School stepped out the front doors of their homes on the morning of April 24, they were not heading back to school for another ordinary day of learning. Instead, they were heading back hundreds of years, to the Renaissance, on a day that would be full of fun and adventure.

Under the leadership of two teachers, Russ Romas and Heather Paulson, the entire seventh-grade class sponsored a Renaissance Faire that spread throughout the building as students hosted various performances and workshops for sixth- and eighth-graders. Explaining that seventh-graders sometimes become lost in the middle school shuffle, Paulson said the Renaissance Faire was designed to showcase that sometimes overlooked student group.

“We wanted seventh-graders to have a chance to shine in the school community,” she said.

by: VERN UYETAKE - Rosemont seventh-graders Lily Burnett and Tya Smith play Ode to Joy during a musical presentation at the Renaissance Faire.And shine they did, as seventh-grade teams spread throughout the school, teaching their older and younger counterparts four skills from Renaissance times: perspective drawing, spinning with drop spindles, writing sonnets and dancing.

The seventh-grade teaching team has worked together since February to integrate Renaissance skills into the curriculum. In language arts classes, students read sonnets and then tried their hand at writing the highly stylized poems. In social studies classes, students learned about life during that time. And in science, they studied the trebuchet, a medieval weapon similar to a catapult. They were then ready to share what they had learned.

Following the morning’s classroom demonstrations, the seventh-graders hosted the eighth-graders at a traditional Renaissance Faire. Each fairgoer started by making a withdrawal from the medieval bank, receiving scrip worth five pieces of gold. They were able to spend that on food items, including vegetables or fruits, bread and cider; paper crowns; games like Quoit — or at a booth labeled, intriguingly, “compliments and insults.”

by: VERN UYETAKE - Abby Sorensen prepares Renaissance crowns.A sample compliment referred to “thy whispering eyes,” while a sample insult began, “You mindless slave!” Vendors at the booth reported that insults were outselling compliments among the middle school crowd.

Students who spent all their gold could return to the bank to earn more by performing tasks like singing, dancing or doing pushups or jumping jacks. One banker, seventh-grader Caetano Vega, was enjoying his job — especially when older kids returned for more gold.

“You can ask them to get you something, like cider, or have them run around the gym,” he said, clearly pleased with the relatively rare opportunity to enjoy the upper hand.

One of the busiest stalls at the medieval marketplace was the bracelet booth. Two eighth-graders, Maddie Laderoute and Cheyanne Holmes, were considering making a purchase for two pieces of gold.

“The Renaissance Faire is really creative,” Maddie said. “It took a lot of time, so I’m impressed.”

Cheyanne said she learned something from every classroom presentation during the morning hours, and she was excited that now it was her class’s turn at the marketplace. In one hand she held a “passport,” where she had recorded notes during the presentations. But the spaces left for the marketplace experience were still blank; she was too busy shopping and exploring to write anything down.

The area where students normally would eat lunch was transformed into a medieval arena. First up: trebuchets. Seventh-grade experts showed off their scaled down models, explained the machine’s history and uses and then provided a demonstration, launching soft rubber balls into the crowd. Students in the audience alternately ducked and reached out to catch the projectiles.

by: VERN UYETAKE - Seth Bagley gets ready to fire off his trebuchet during last weeks Renaissance Faire.Grace Nikas, Christina Li and Alexis Mooney enthusiastically explained that they had been studying the trebuchet in their science classes for about three weeks.

“It was so fun to set up,” Christina said.

Grace agreed. “We actually got to do interactive stuff,” she said.

Asked if they would look forward to attending the Renaissance Faire next year, as eighth-graders, Alexis was the first to say, “Yes,” with the other girls quickly agreeing.

Romas, one of the event’s principal architects, said the reaction from the school’s sixth- and eighth-graders was “overwhelmingly” enthusiastic.

“I think it was the result of the magic that happens when students teach students,” Romas said.

Asked if he would want to guide students to present a Renaissance Faire next year, Romas didn’t hesitate. “We have a lot of ideas already,” he said, “for how to make it better next year.”

Assistant Principal Jim Severson described the event as “well organized” and had praise for everyone involved, including the seventh-grade teachers, the sixth- and eighth-grade audiences and the seventh-graders who worked hard to prepare the event.

“It was a good flavor of what the Renaissance was like,” Severson said.

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