Walking into the Stowe Middle/High School cafeteria this week is like stepping back into the medieval times — an age of jousting knights and court jesters, kings and queens.
An “iron” gate made of cardboard and silver duct tape opens up a world previously unknown to the 20 middle school students attending Stowe’s annual humanities camp.
For the past several years, the school has been one of a dozen — expanded to 14 schools this year — in the state that’s received a $2,400 grant from the Vermont Humanities Council that can be used for all expenses related to the camp — field trips, T-shirts, snacks and meals.
These are weeklong, intensive summer day camps that focus on reading, discussion and activities.
The week kicked off with a trip to the annual Vermont Renaissance Faire held in Stowe last weekend. All of the students were given free entry to learn about medieval-inspired crafts, musicians, dancers and acrobats.
“The Renaissance Faire was amazing,” Ava Silverberg and Rose Stafford exclaimed in unison.
“There were Vikings who demonstrated how to fight with real swords and shields,” Ava said, miming the attack and parry of a sword.
“I like the weaponry of that time period. There’s so much detail,” Rose said.
Stowe’s free options for its students are limited, said Amy Marshall, a Stowe educator who organizes and runs the humanities camp with Cathy Davis, which is why the Vermont Humanities Council grant is so important.
Stowe has received the grant every year since 2010, and is able to offer a different theme each year. In the past, they’ve taught students about cooking, ancient Egypt, and Greece, among other topics.
On Monday, Dave Jordan, organizer of Stowe’s annual fall Pumpkin Chuckin’ Festival, joined the group to teach them about trebuchets, catapults and the art of war with a live demonstration of a full-sized catapult in the field in front of the school.
Students also baked their own pretzels after learning about the history of the baked dough folded into the shape of a child crossing its arms in prayer.
Other lessons included medieval jobs and food, the art of stained glass, edible plants used to survive the Plague, a field trip to the local blacksmith shop and jousting.
The medieval period “was fancy, but also very dark,” Ava said. “We don’t know everything planned for the week.”
“Every day is a surprise and it’s something different,” Rose added.
The camp is staffed by Marshall, Davis and a few high-school volunteers who were in the camp when they were in middle school.
Jack Clark is in his fifth year as a camp counselor, and he was a camper too. “I love each new adventure,” he said. “I meet lots of great new people and knew friends.”
The final day of the camp, on June 28, students will take a trip to Copley Woodlands to share what they’ve learned with the senior citizens who reside there, before each student heads home for the summer with four new books and a T-shirt.
Editor’s note: Amy Marshall is the mother of Stowe Reporter managing editor Hannah Marshall.