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Friday, January 20, 2017

Montessori demo

On Wednesday I went to the Montessori School of Greater Lafayette at the request of teacher Emily Frazier to discuss life in the Middle Ages with her mixed class of 1st- through 3rd-graders. I didn't have much of a talk prepared, figuring that the kids would end up leading the topic wherever it wanted to go whether I had a speech planned or not. I planned to talk a little about how books were made ("imagine having to copy out your own school book instead of just buying one or having one at the school"), and then a little about calligraphy and illumination in general. I mean, they're fairly young kids, getting too deep just wasn't going to work.

Letting them lead the discussion was definitely the way to go, once they got warmed up.

Favorite question: "Are you a real life pirate?"

I passed around some of my art supplies, and they thought it was cool that I kept my paint in seashells, and also that I could paint with dirt. (Yellow ochre, burnt umber, and a number of other colors are derived from clay or stone.)

Of course, they also thought it was cool that I knew real blacksmiths, and I discovered that way too many of these kids own their own bows and arrows.

I also had photocopies from my portfolio to pass around for the kids to look at.

Eventually the class split in half, with one group going to Spanish and the other staying with me. I wrote each kid's name in a different alphabet that I could remember, and illuminated a single capital for each group. We did an H for me, and an E for their teacher, Miss Emily. The kids thought it was really cool that I could paint with such small brushes, and write with quills. I was asked if this ink was homemade (because I'd told them that I had made my own ink in the past), and they seemed a smidge disappointed that it wasn't.

Illuminated capitals with some simple white work.

The teachers wrote later to tell me that the kids loved the demo, and that the other teachers at the school were really jealous, which I guess is a good thing when you're a teacher? I dunno. I've also been told that they contacted our SCA group to see about arranging a larger demo in March or April. The theme at that point will be "defense", and I strongly suspect that we would end up besieged by little kids with marshmallow catapults at that point.

So that was what I did with my Wednesday afternoon. It was a blast, and I'd love to do it again sometime. Thanks again to Miss Emily, Miss Marilyn, and all the kids for a great time.

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