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Year 8 play Game of Thrones

Last week, Wenona’s Year 8 History students journeyed back in time to the Middle Ages, with a fun, hands-on incursion, with lots of opportunities to wield swords, lances and longbows.

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It was all very Game of Thrones in the School Hall last week, as our Year 8 students went on a bloodthirsty journey back in time, learning about knights and queens, broadswords and castles. And just like Westeros, it was packed with stories about brutal warriors, noble heroes, Machiavellian schemers and power-hungry aristocrats, along with tales of torture, executions, hangings and pillory.

There’s no more iconic symbol of medieval Europe than the knight: clad in shining armour, jousting with his rivals, wearing a token of his lady love. Students had an opportunity to dress as knights and ladies, donning heavy chainmail and plate armour, and exploring its advantages and disadvantages.

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The students also learnt about the English longbow made from yew wood, which was considered to be the best wood available in the British Isles. To be used effectively against heavily armoured knights, an archer had to draw his longbow’s bowstring as far back as his ear. And they also learnt about Japanese samurai and their ability to fire their enormous longbows while on horseback.

Medieval life was known for being hard, violent and short and students heard all about the horrors of law and order. While today, some people might use social media to pass judgement, in the Middle Ages, people were physically strapped into stocks and pelted with rotting food. Worse still, they were strapped into a pillory, which was an instrument of corporate punishment. It consisted of a wooden post and frame, fixed on a platform above the ground. An offender’s head and hands were thrust through holes so they could be tortured to extract confession or exact punishment.

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As students discovered, in the Middle Ages, people were loosely divided into groups based on what skills they had. Those who fought (knights and noblemen), those who prayed (clergymen and priests) and those who worked (peasants and servants).

Along with finding out more about its bloodthirsty reputation, the students learnt that the Middle Ages was a period of massive social change, burgeoning nationalism, international conflict, terrible natural disaster, climate change, rebellion, resistance and renaissance.

Sarah said, “I found the Year 8 History incursion extremely interesting and I learned a great deal about Medieval History. I enjoyed viewing the other group’s ‘worst jobs’ videos, as they helped me learn more about the different jobs in medieval times. I found the presentation entertaining and educational and I enjoyed learning about the different weapons, clothing and laws of the period. I especially enjoyed dressing up in medieval armour as it gave me an insight into what knights at the time wore, even if it was extremely heavy! In conclusion, I really enjoyed the incursion and would recommend it to future Year 8 students.”

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Ursula said, “I found this incursion to be incredibly enjoyable. The presenters really captured my attention. They made us feel more involved by getting people to stand up and volunteer with different objects and weapons. By getting some of us to model the dresses from different stages of the Middle Ages, you could see what you might have looked like if you had grown up in that time period. I really liked how the presenter, James, spoke to us like we are adults. He wasn’t afraid to make jokes and talk about things that some adults might not deem appropriate but that we, as young adults, found funny. They let us handle the weapons and try on the armour, which was awesome. I learnt a lot about the Middle Ages. It was very educational and helped that we were able to interact with objects that were used back then.”

Head of History, Ms Poole said, “The presenter, James Adams, was new to Wenona this year and his engaging manner and incredible knowledge were of immense value to the girls, who now have a very close up understanding of the weight of a Medieval broadsword!”

As Cersei Lannister herself would say, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

Bravo History Department!