Elementary students at St. Peter Catholic School in St. Charles toured a medieval castle Friday, meeting monks, sword makers and knights along the way.
Middle school students explained life during the Middle Ages to the younger students at the end of a weeklong Renaissance program.
The school hosts a Renaissance Week every few years, said Mary Blechle, a teacher who organized the events this year. This year the school received a $1,000 Governal/Ryan Memorial Development Grant from the Archdiocese of St. Louis that helped fund the program, so Blechle had the eighth graders perform a children’s version of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” for the whole school.
Fourth-grade teacher Kaye Hartweger said each teacher read the play to their classes so the students would have a basic understanding of the plot. Seeing the play helped Hartweger, too.
“I never in my whole life understood ‘Hamlet,'” she said. “I’ve never seen such a production in my life.”
During the week, the entire school learned about the Renaissance in their classes. Art students painted castles and a life-size student-made suit of armor stood in a corner on Friday.
“They’re learning the history of the period, the whole school is,” said Blechle, who teaches middle school students. “It’s all cross-curricular. They did writing, they did reports in computer class. We tied it all together.”
Middle school students learned about different aspects of Renaissance life and gave demonstrations for younger students. Some students showed sword fighting techniques, jesters practiced juggling and monks toiled away in the cryptorium illustrating books.
In the “guild hall,” the smell of incense filled the air. Students sat in costume, performing tasks like jewelry making, rug weaving and embroidery.
In one corner a group of girls pushed cloves into oranges, creating pomanders, which were worn around the neck or at the waist. First-grade students leaned in for a whiff.
Sixth-graders Mike Weiner, 12, and Collin Bearis, 12, demonstrated how to create chain mail. Bearis wound a piece of aluminum wire around a pen to create a long spiral. He gripped a pair of pliers with both hands to cut the spiral into small circles.
Weiner clamped the circles together to create chain mail, which was worn as armor. First-grade students walked up to the pair to watch.
“(The knights) were really smart,” Bearis explained. “They figured out how to make chain mail, which was pretty cool.”