Mountainside sixth graders host community Renaissance Fair

Karen Steel helps her children, Katie and Jarom, view the Astronomer's telescope.

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“Hear Ye, Hear Ye! Welcome to the Renaissance Fair!” 

Mountainside Elementary in Mendon held a first-of-its-kind celebration on March 24, transforming the school’s gymnasium into an extraordinary Renaissance Fair, complete with vendor booths, entertainment and hands-on demonstrations. Welcoming their parents, grandparents and the school’s student body, Mountainside’s sixth graders hosted the fair under the leadership of their teachers, Susan Anderson, Lauri Anderson and Lori Murray.

The school’s principal, Lynette Riggs, was all smiles during the event. Riggs, whose doctorate degree is in English, helped the students prepare for the Renaissance Fair by personally teaching a Shakespearean workshop.  

“This certainly is an application and a culmination of a lot of study,” she said. “This has been grassroots. This has been kids and their ideas and their gusto. It’s really been fun.”

Working with a completely new curriculum, the sixth grade teachers introduced their students to Classical Times, Medieval Times and the Renaissance with a creative multidisciplinary flair, integrating language arts with social studies and visual arts. As the students became familiar with Shakespeare’s monologues, they were assigned to write their own scripts. They also designed sculptures, researched historical careers and rehearsed scenes from plays like “Othello” and “Macbeth.” The Renaissance Fair gave them a unique opportunity to share.

Share and perform they did! Dressed in elaborate costumes on loan from the <a href=”http://cachetheatre.com/”>Cache Theatre Company</a>, 72 sixth graders embraced their chosen roles as bakers, writers and musicians. They portrayed engineers, farmers and painters, bankers, healers and more, creating a palpable atmosphere of educational excitement. 

“It’s cool because we just get to express ourselves in what we do, and we get to learn more about the past and history,” said Mike, a student in Mrs. S. Anderson’s class.

Another student, Addi May, was a baker, serving samples of bread and jam alongside her friend, Kaysha.

“I think it was really fun because we got to make our own food and kind of sell stuff,” Addi May said.  “I thought this was one of the best booths that you can go to. It was just really fun making all the stuff. Like, we have an oven over there, and gathering all the supplies—it was fun to see what we could use.”

Becky Shelton, whose son, Jace, plays the cello, was impressed with how he made a personal connection between the lessons he learned in class and his own life experience.

“He chose to be an instrument maker, and he plays an instrument, so it was kind of fun for him to choose that when he plays one today,” said Shelton. “I thought it was a neat project because the kids learned about a time period that they don’t normally get to experience.”

“I think kids made connections by doing, not just by seeing and reading,” said S. Anderson.  “As they studied the Renaissance, the kids got such a broad idea of what it would be like to live there. And then to actually get to go and portray one of those people made it really a fun thing for them to do.”

Riggs was impressed with how innovatively Mountainside’s sixth grade teachers implemented the curriculum within their classrooms.  She also complimented the students for mastering such difficult material and sharing it so memorably with their parents and peers.

“They’ve worked really hard, they’re smart, and they get it,” she said, “and the real proof was the way that they could add the drama to what they were saying. I mean, they knew what it meant. And that’s wonderful, visible proof of their understanding, which is beautiful!”

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