Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.
The Renaissance Fair
Renaissance fairs are popular forms of entertainment, and it's not hard to understand why. There's food, music, crafts, and people in fun costumes. Since many students are familiar with the concept of a Renaissance fair, this can be a fun tool for getting students more deeply engaged in learning about actual history. This project is centered around the idea that you will host a Renaissance fair in your classroom. Exactly how you do this depends on the amount of time and resources you want to commit to the project. The following project ideas are meant to be mixed and matched so that you can select the elements that will work best for your class' Renaissance fair.
A centerpiece of most Renaissance fairs is handmade crafts. For your class, break the students into small groups and have each research some of the handicrafts, arts, and products that artisans would have worked with in the late medieval period. You can ask students to actually produce these or to make simplified paper-cutout models that require less technical skill. Each group will set up a booth to sell their craft, present it, and explain how this craft was made/used historically. You can also consider giving students each a small bag of fake gold coins so that after all the booths have presented, students can go around and purchase goods from each other.
What is a Renaissance fair without music? If your class is musically inclined, consider distributing recorders and basic sheet music for simple late-medieval tunes. Gregorian chants are also fairly easy to teach students with little musical experience, as they can be performed in a call-and-response format. You can also ask each group to find a recording of Renaissance-era music to play at their booth.
If you feel that your class can handle some athletic games and competitions without getting too wild, then consider trying the following:
- Break the class into small groups, or teams, and let each design a banner. Provide each group with a stick horse and a yardstick.
- Set up a few posts with strings between them. From these strings, hang three rings of different sizes. Each set of three rings will correspond to one long lane (try to set up at least 4 lanes). When you say go, the rider from each team will run down their lane towards the rings and try to get their ''jousting lance'' (the yardstick) through one of the rings. The largest ring is worth the fewest point, while the smallest is worth the most. Students must keep running, cannot slow down to lance the ring, and must keep the stick horse between their legs as they run. After everyone has gone, the team with the most points wins.
A good Renaissance fair should contain a feast. You can ask students to research medieval foods and bring them as a potluck, although this may be difficult if any of your students have food allergies. If you don't want to have real food, ask students to draw images of Renaissance dishes. At the feast, students will design masquerade masks and learn a simple Renaissance-era dance.
Part of the fun of a Renaissance fair is the costumes. You may ask students to research and design full costumes, or help them make cheaper ones from tissue paper and similar supplies. In either case, consider assigning students social classes (including nobility, aristocrats, clergy, merchants, and peasants). Students will research their social position in medieval society, learn what they can and can't do, and learn how social class was expressed through clothing.
A generic Renaissance fair tends to approach the late-medieval period like a monolithic unit, but you can alter this in order to teach your students about specific historical groups or eras. For example, you could have one group act like they are coming to the fair from England, one from Germany, one from France, one from Spain, one from Italy, etc. Each group will have to research the customs, crafts, clothing, and experiences of that specific medieval society. You can expand this even further by including non-European cultures and having groups study ''Renaissances'' from India, China, Egypt, West Africa, South Africa, Japan, the Maya, the Aztecs, the Inca, or any other cultures you want to throw into the mix.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack