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An Educational Feast: Ketchikan Charter School fourth-graders enjoy a medieval festival
Ketchikan Charter School fourth-grade students enjoy the medieval feast Friday at the Gateway Recreation Center. Staff photos by Dustin Safranek

Daily News Staff Writer

Ketchikan Charter School teacher Danielle Hewitt’s fourth-grade students feasted in historical style in an all-day medieval festival Friday at the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Recreation Center.

Prints of tapestries from the middle ages hung around the room where students sat on mats, coloring pages with period art. A tent festooned with lights gave a festive air to a long table set with wooden bowls and spoons and plastic goblets.

Tables nearby were crowded with bowls heaped with pepperonis, sausages, candied ginger and lemon peel, pickles, dried fruits, cranberry chutney, smoked clams and oysters, olives, ham, cheeses and chunks of rustic bread. On a smaller table sat jugs of juices and water.

Student R.J. Page pointed to a small plate stacked with meat slices and said that it was the venison he’d brought, from a deer his family harvested a few months ago.

Hewitt said the event, which has been an annual project for Hewitt’s classes for many years, takes much effort for the students.

“These guys really had to work hard to get this feast. It is about a month-and-a-half long unit, studying Europe and the Middle Ages,” she said.

She gestured to the table laden with food and added, “Everybody brought something that was as appropriate for the time period as we could possibly get.”

KCS, as a charter school that utilizes the Core Knowledge curriculum, uses a unit approach, Hewitt explained, and the feast was a grand finale after studying the geography, culture and customs of Europe in the Middle Ages.

To prepare for the feast, Hewitt said that she discussed how people in medieval times prepared and preserved their food.

“We talked about the preserving methods of drying, like raisins and jerky and salting things, and then they came up with all the foods that you could have,” Hewitt explained.

She said they discussed what type of foods those people would have had available.

“Kids would say turkeys, but turkeys were a new world food,” Hewitt said.

She told the students that more commonly eaten birds in the medieval times were geese or swans.

On the wall behind the table were papers decorated with shields that the students designed, using medieval heraldry symbols that they chose to represent their personalities.

Rhemalie Seludo explained how she had designed hers, which featured an orange-tipped blossom with a silver dove, bordered with gold.

“The gold means generosity, the orange means ambition and the silver means gentleness. The flower means femininity,” she said, adding that “this dove means the fourth child.”

Her tablemate Brennon Greer said he designed his similarly, as he’d admired Rhemalie’s approach. His design featured a blocky silver letter “E,” a gold background, a dragon, a sword and a decorated ring.

“I did everything like she did, only this time ‘E’ means the first, and the dragon means that I do have some rage but I’m also gentle, and the cross means I’m gentle,” he said. “I am strong and gentle.”

Brennon also explained the design of the ring, which was festooned with flowers and a gold cross.

“The ring meant about how I like doing stuff and I love life; and I also love the God,” he said.

Both students said they’d used the orange color to symbolize their ambition, and Brennon has a specific future plan.

“I’m ambitious for trying to be a mechanic and building my own plane and stuff,” he said.

Marlea Montero said she drew a unicorn on her shield to represent herself.

“It’s brave and intelligent and I could imagine myself as a unicorn because I’m brave and intelligent and kind,” she said.

Hewitt described how she has gotten the kids involved with the art of tapestries.

“We talked about tapestries and how they told stories,” she said.

She had introduced the students to the Bayeux tapestry, a nearly 70-meter-long piece which hangs in a specially designed building in Bayeux, Normandy, France. She said they also explored the event that the tapestry relates to — the invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066.

After studying that tapestry, Hewitt said she gave the students fabric squares with outlines of tapestry figures on them, then taught them to embroider their own artwork. Each year, she sews the finished squares into long panels, some of which were hanging in the dining tent.

Hewitt said she’s “just been amazed” by the embroidery created by her students. She said at first, many of them struggle and tell her it’s too difficult, but they quickly begin to enjoy it and want to hurry through other lessons so they can work on their pieces.

“Any time you do something that’s new, it’s hard,” she says she tells her students.

On a table near the door, sat an assortment of hats, and a dauntingly heavy metal knight’s helmet.

Brennon said the helmet was created by his father, Daniel Greer. His father and a friend enjoy having mock sword fights.

“They both fight with the helmets and wooden swords with lots and lots of tape,” he said.

There also was a plague doctor mask and rows of paper hats on that table. Hewitt said that after the dinner, the students would don the hats and do dramatic readings, playing Eleanor of Aquitaine, Joan of Arc and William the Conqueror.

Finally, it was time for the students to feast. When they were seated, Hewitt livened up a toast, inviting the kids to shout “Huzzah!” as they raised their goblets.

Hewitt reminded them of what her expectations were for their feast involvement.

“You’re going to try things that look unusual,” she told the seated students. “You’re going to try things that look different. That’s the whole point of it. Things might be saltier than you’re used to. Things might be sweeter than you’re used to. Things might taste a little vinegary than you’re used to, but it’s your job to give them a try. Remember, people were eating unusual things like swans and peacocks.”

One student spoke up to add “and eels,” and another offered, “and anchovies.”

Marlea carefully balanced her laden bowl on her way back from the food table. She’d selected pickles and a smoked clam as her unusual foods.

Rileigh Streeper said she was looking forward to trying the oysters, and Rhemalie tucked a couple of radishes in her bowl, saying that she was eager to try those.

Brennon said he added oysters to the candied cherries and broccoli his bowl because he hadn’t tried them “in a very long time.”

Iris Bray’s adventurous food that afternoon was dill pickles, she said.

Shannie Hamilton looked thoughtful as she daintily chewed a smoked oyster for the first time.

“It was good,” she proclaimed.

The group finally gathered at the table, and Hewitt asked the students what a medieval feasting group might be thankful for. Aljhan Millendez said he would think they’d be happy to have just finished a big tapestry piece.

“Huzzah!” they all shouted together as they again raised their goblets.