A medieval success. Students of the Maple St. School in Manchester play the part of the historic medieval figures they have been studying for months, on
A medieval success. Students of the Maple St. School in Manchester play the part of the historic medieval figures they have been studying for months, on Wednesday afternoon, during their annual medieval banquet. The students also provide a meal for the banquet and descriptions of each figure they studied. (Holly Pelczynski)

MANCHESTER -- Students at the Maple Street School transformed their gymnasium into a medieval banquet hall on Wednesday, complete with coats-of-arms, medieval fare, and famous historical figures.

Sixth-grade history and homeroom teacher Geoff Chamberlain introduced a dazzling array of historical figures, all portrayed by the sixth-grade class, including Richard the Lionhearted, Dante Alighieri, Joan of Arc, Margaret I of Denmark, Hughes de Payens, Merlin, and Genghis Kahn. Each historical figure gave a presentation on their lives or areas of expertise, aided by quite un-medieval technology, such as GoogleDocs and iMovie.

Besides the more famous faces, Sir Maximillion the Knight spoke about different types of armor used in the medieval era, while Weylon the Blacksmith spoke about weaponry. A plague doctor from London presented on the horrors of the black death, and a peasant named Thomas talked about the difficult lives of the lower classes.

The eighth-graders have been studying medieval history since the start of the school year, said Chamberlain, picking where they left off at the end of seventh grade, with the fall of Rome. "Part of this was getting their feet wet with research, finding sources," said Chamberlain, who also had them build-to-scale models of castles, which gave the students a chance to do some practical mathematics.

Chamberlain said that at the Maple Street School, upon graduation from eighth grade, each student gives a speech. These presentations, he said, help them begin to prepare for that by working on their public speaking and presenting skills.

About 30 parents were in attendance for the feast, which featured a variety of foods provided by the parents. Fifth-grade students, dressed as peasants, served bread, apple cider, and other refreshments.

Chamberlain said this was a way to get the fifth-graders involved in the project and get them excited to be the ones up on stage next year. "I want them to one-up the year before," said Chamberlain, who joked that the "peasants" would get to eat the scraps left over when the parents and sixth-graders were finished eating.

The banquet had previously been scheduled for Feb. 13, but had to be rescheduled when the school dismissed early because of snow. "Most of the parents had already purchased the food," said Kate Bryan, development officer at the school. "A lot of the parents are eating this meal for the second time now."

The banquet got off to an inauspicious start when the projector system was slow to turn on, leaving Chamberlain to say, "Sorry, we're having technical difficulties at the medieval banquet."

The student presentations were humorous, with the historical figures often expressing distaste at discussing their own deaths. "Finally, they took me out of confinement," said Joan of Arc, "but that was bad news for me, since I was burned at the stake."

"I never really liked that horse," said Genghis Kahn, on the animal whose back he fell off of, causing internal injuries, which ended his life.

Alighieri seemed to be taking death better than some of his contemporaries, mentioning that he was very busy teaching art and writing classes, since, "How else is a deceased artist supposed to make some dough?"

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB