LOJ students spearhead Renaissance Faire

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - From left, Jon Wood, Sam Herron and Conor Mehaffey learn about the difficulties of navigating by wind power.Galileo Galilei’s gravity experiment, revolutionary composer Thomas Tallis’ works, Joan of Arc’s sword and William Shakespeare’s poetic prose all were in evidence at Lake Oswego Junior High School last week.

During the May 8 Renaissance Faire, Lake Oswego Junior High School seventh-graders not only had to research an influential figure of the period, organize an educational presentation for their peers and make the presentation visually alluring, they also had to put together period costumes and set up a display for social studies class. And, it was raining. But, students simply raised many canopies beneath the school’s covered walkway and in the front courtyard.

Teacher Karen Feuer paused by a Galileo exhibit, watching two boys climb ladders made to look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and drop two balls.

“What’re we doing here?” Feuer REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Isabella Garcia, left, and Mercedes Grice see what it like to run carrying the weight equivalent to a suit of armor.

Justin Taliaferro explained that Galileo used two balls of the same size but different weights and dropped them from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to demonstrate that the balls would land at the same time. Taliaferro enjoyed trying out the experiment.

“It’s meant to test how gravity works,” he said.

Fellow group member Emmett Daly added: “You’d think a heavier ball would fall first.”

Nearby, students thronged science teacher Chris Rodegerdts, who was roasting quail over a fire in a pit dug into the earth. Though not one of the teachers directly involved in the Renaissance Faire, Rodegerdts, who periodically adjusted his lunch’s perch on cooking sticks, said he added atmosphere.

“I’m just a prop,” he said.

Social studies teacher Jill Quesenberry said Rodegerdts added more than atmosphere, also serving as a handy expert in case kids had science questions related to the Renaissance. In its by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Justin Taliaferro demonstrates the principles of gravity on a falling object.sixth rendition, the yearly event originally focused on the Middle Ages, and Quesenberry said delving into the Renaissance, a rich cultural movement, seems to have inspired the children.

“We feel like the kids did a really good job,” she said.

The exposition started simple, with a maypole, said Kristin Allan, a social studies/language arts teacher. This year, the “kids-focused, kids-driven” assignment had to be engaging and include aspects such as demonstrating the changes from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, Allan said.

More than one teacher called the Joan of Arc booth engaging. Students invited visitors to their booth to don a lifejacket with two gallon jugs filled with water tied to each flank, weighing the children down as if they wore armor. Then, whilst so encumbered, two students face REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Natalie Sackville-West, left, and Rowan Hansen play Renaissance tunes.

“You do a race to see who wins in battle,” Kamilla Chmarny said.

There also was a ball toss where students learned about feudalism, and a plastic weapon on a display table served as Joan of Arc’s sword.

While students battled each other in their heavy life-vests, the strains of “If Ye Love Me” wafted from the Tallis tent as cellist Natalie Sackville-West and trombonist Rowan Hansen played, pausing to instruct visitors on the 1500s-era composer.

“This was probably one of his most famous pieces,” Hansen said.

Another of their group members, Alex Bolesky described how Tallis revolutionized music, pointing to a poster comparing the simple, single-melody, mostly religious songs of the Middle Ages to the two-melody, more complex pieces the musician pioneered.

“Some of his music is still played today,” Bolesky said.

Next to the Tallis display stood the Shakespeare experts, who described how the Bard transformed theater. Previously, a typical play involved one-dimensional characters reading parts rather than acting to tell what often was a Biblical tale, rather than a fictional story.

“I’ve learned to really connect to the people I’m talking to,” said Alyssa Gustaff, shortly before more students crowded up to the Shakespeare exhibit.

One of Gustaff’s group members, Lucy Dyal, said she also has enjoyed the teaching aspect of the assignment.

“I learned about working together as a group and how to put on a show,” Dyal said.
By Jillian Daley
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