Once a year, knights joust, jesters cavort, and whole kingdoms dance to ancient tunes during the Medieval Festivals held independently at Floris Elementary and Dranesville Elementary schools in Herndon. Every year, 5th-grade students, teachers and parents spend weeks planning and preparing for the festivals. Students, teachers and even some parents donned costumes and engaged in activities such as presentations, medieval crafts like candle dipping, games, dancing, jousting, and feasting.
Students chose a medieval role to play for the event, such as a queen, serf, knight, troubadour, invader or craftsman, researched that person’s lifestyle and clothing, and completed a project on that person. Students also created their own heraldry, or coats of arms. Parents helped make or rented costumes for their children, and several parent volunteers helped prepare the food and set up for the feasts. “Without the parents,” said Michelle Tasich, the 5th-grade teacher who co-coordinated Floris Elementary’s Medieval Festival on May 31 with parent Cynthia Dovens, “this wouldn’t be.” Teachers Tyler Bruner and Nichole Jiminez organized the Dranesville festival, also with help from parents.
Students enjoyed the festivals for different reasons. “You don’t have to eat the cafeteria food,” said Dranesville student Matt Dicicco during the feast on June 3. Others were eager to discuss what they had learned from their research. Only “certain colors” were allowed in coats of arms, said Floris student and medieval craftsman Alekhya Gampa. Floris student Trent Castleberry, a puppeteer, explained that people held puppet shows to set moral examples “so people wouldn’t do bad things.” And according to Emily Kodat, Floris student and craftsman, many tapestries depicted "war scenes" and were displayed on castle walls.
Parents felt it was a good way to teach them history. “They learn more…learning it in this way,” said Floris parent Lina Quddus. Dranesville parent Melissa Miller "tried to show students how long it would take them to weave the outfit they’re wearing." during a weaving workshop. When asked, Dranesville student and princess Mary Leeb estimated it would take her “about nine months to one year,” to make her dress.
EACH FESTIVAL INCLUDED a procession through the schools, accompanied by medieval music, and culminated with a feast where medieval social standing determined where each student would sit and what they would eat. Royalty and nobles, for example, received “royal roasted chicken,” and serfs and peasants beef stew, at Floris.
Both schools have held the festivals for several years. “It’s a little different every year,” said Dranesville teacher Karen Smith. “This year, they really went all out,” said Floris teacher Jeff Haynie.
Despite the number of festivals the schools have held, students can still surprise their teachers. While supervising the indoor medieval games, Dranesville teacher Steven Smith exclaimed, “Cards and checkers are available, but they’re enthusiastic chess players—even the beginners!”