Each month we will be featuring an article or two by Lisa Marshall and/or Barbara Benson, our Christopherus on-line forum moderators and consultants. To learn more about Barabara and Lisa and our consultation service, please click here! Here is the latest from Barbara....
This year my daughters are in 7th and 4th grade and we are in the middle of Indiana geography/history and the Renaissance. To honor these two main lessons in a living way we decided to do two field trips. The first was called Feast of the Hunters Moon, a reenactment of the French and Indian trading post lifestyle at Fort Ouiatenon in Lafayette, Indiana. The reenactment is right on the river, on the original trading post/ fort site and is set up just for one weekend each fall. The reenacters live on the site all weekend and try to live and cook as much as possible in an authentic way.
We first wandered around a Wea Indian village, watching a game of Indian lacrosse and listening to native speakers. We moved on to the block house trading post with furs on the wall and demonstrations of how the voyageurs carried their trade goods and protected them in their canoes. We went down to the voyageur camp and saw the colorful canoes and the encampment of the voyageurs. We watched French Canadian dances and munched on corn roasted in the husk. We moved over to the early colonial troop encampment with all the soldiers in military uniforms and looked at a variety of early colonial trades and crafts like the cooper, the blacksmith, the pewter and silversmith, the leather shop, the wood carver, the milliner, the paper maker and lots more. My daughters were fascinated by some crafts that were new to them like tatting but knowledgeable on others like making pine needle baskets. They talked to the traditional craftswomen with ease and really enjoyed watching the spinning and dyeing of wools in the big kettles and feeling soft alpaca wool. We nibbled on free samples of warm water bread and walked until we were truly tired. We came home a bit smoky from all the open fires in the encampment but feeling as if we had experienced a colorful and living slice of Indiana history.
Our second field trip was to the Ohio Renaissance Fair with a time period of Elizabethan England. This was a more commercial set up with thirty acres of buildings and open spaces that stay up from year to year but it was well done. We began by watching a hilarious comedy team of two swordsmen that were quite talented with their blades and got the audience very involved. Everyone that either entertained or ran a shop stayed in character and was dressed in period costume.
We moved on to watch a marvelous stone cutter who did beautiful designs in limestone and then the girls got their hair braided in a French type braid using long leather strips woven into their hair. We then watched a joust with knights in full armor on marvelous big horses and huzzahed for our champion (who happened to lose). This was a friendly joust of course but the men were really breaking their long wooden lances when they clashed. We continued on to watch some country dancing near the maypole and then we all had a chance to weave the ribbons of the maypolethere were at least 20 people weaving amidst some laughter as 6 foot tall men ducked under the ribbons of 8 year olds! We wandered through Renaissance type arcades like archery shooting and throwing knives at targets and boys being spun around in large barrels by a burly man. We saw a talented stunt man/acrobat performing on the Gloriana Stage and we laughed at another comedy routine called Washing Wenches set in a field in front of a small pond where the ladies had lots of country humor and made several audience males do silly things. We watched a glass blower working on a large vase for about 20 minutes and were reminded again of what a difficult craft it is. We poked into dress shops and heraldry shops and saw the latest Renaissance jewelry fashions. We watched an improvisational story teller with a very funny take on Sinbad the Sailor and my husband was one of the people picked to shout out plot twist, which would require the story teller to change his storys direction. The girls really appreciated his improvisation abilities. The girls tried on a short vest of chain mail that weighed ten pounds and learned how the craftsman did his work. We saw jugglers and fools and listened to tavern sailor singers and bought some incense sticks that were fragrant with natural amber and other exotic smells. We took lots of costume photographs since many of the people that came as visitors were also dressed in period costume and some were quite amazing. Perhaps this Fair was not quite as historically authentic but I appreciated the Elizabethan humor and the efforts everyone made to stay in character.
I think the whole family came away with some wonderful memories and a real sense of living history. It also helped that the weather cooperated, especially for the Renaissance Fair, so we could comfortably walk in the crisp autumn sunshine. These field trips take some advance planning and the Renaissance trip was a three hour car ride one way, but it was well worth the effort. Both of our field trips have enhanced my daughters understanding and helped to create living pictures of their main lessons. Enjoy your autumn journeys!