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The Middle Ages in Middle School

For sixth graders at the Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School (LREI) in New York City, the annual spring Medieval Pageant is an exciting and creative opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of the Middle Ages in Europe and the Middle East to other middle school students, family, and friends. The Pageant transforms the middle school into a medieval town, and is the culmination of student learning developed through their participation in a variety of “guilds” connected to the curriculum.

At the beginning of the school year, students are asked to select and apply to a guild whose topic holds genuine interest for them—topics range from Monks, Scribes, Imams, and Calligraphers to Butcher, Baker, and Candlestick Makers.

Along with individual research and creative assignments, guild members meet together for an hour each week, under the guidance of experienced teacher leaders, to develop their Medieval characters’ stories. In their drama class, they learn how to bring this character to life. Their art, science, and math classes provide additional context.

Students also learn about sustained inquiry, collaboration, presentation, and about themselves as learners, says Middle School Principal Mark Silberberg. And LREI Director Phil Kassen notes another theme: the movement from childhood to adolescence—from apprentice to journeyman to master. “In many ways, it sets out the path for how our students can move successfully towards their more mature and independent selves.”

Does your school do something similar?

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