6th Grade Goes Medieval!

by Michael Porter
The annual 6th grade show took a dramatic turn this year, and was presented to families as a medieval madrigal dinner. The medieval theme was suggested by the students' Global Studies class.
"In the classroom, we are exploring how the medieval period helped shape our world today," said Ms. Dona Kenny, Global Studies Teacher. "Integrating music, acting, dance, and comedy builds a greater understanding, engages, and motivates the students to want to learn more."
The creative team of Jessica Barker, Lindsay Curry, and Hannah Tucker conceived a show unlike any other seen at JCDS in recent years. Much of the action took place on the house floor, in front of rows of banquet tables for families and the "royal table" at the back. Head of School Pat Walker commenced the ceremonies as the "Queen Walker of Sharklovia."

"It was a combination of previous experience and dreaming big," said Music Specialist Jessica Barker.
Ms. Barker attended art schools growing up and has many cherished memories of singing in a madrigal dinner.
"When brainstorming ways to connect Music to the Global Studies curriculum...a madrigal dinner felt very natural," Ms. Barker said.
The process of putting this show together began in the Fall when Ms. Barker began to observe students' abilities and talents closely. The 6th graders participated in various activities including learning the sword dance movements, playing the barred instruments, and playing acting games.

"I was busy taking notes on student strengths, interests, and aptitudes," said Ms. Barker. "As showtime grew near, I surveyed students for interests and combined this with my knowledge of their various performance aptitudes."
When it came time to put together the general structure of the show, the creative team called upon a variety of resources — including the students themselves.
The North Skelton Sword Dance is something that Ms. Barker picked up from Orff workshops over the years. This involves an intricate series of steps and gestures which culminates into individual swords interlocking into a star shape.
Dance Manager Hannah Tucker choreographed the jester dance using the song "Nobody's Fool" from the musical Joust.
Fine Arts Coordinator Lindsay Curry created the exciting jousting sequence, which was played on the floor within arm's reach of the audience.

"The beauty of this show was the ability to highlight each student's unique gifts," said Ms. Barker. 
Instruments and speaking parts were cast to allow students to showcase their individual talents.
Hilarious skits allowed students to show off their funny expressions and comedic timing.
The students who are blessed with good balance and dexterity (or sheer determination) were able to participate in the dance sequences.

The show featured several student musicians in both solo and ensemble pieces. In the show, the audience heard the trumpet, a violin, and group numbers that included Orff instruments and a keyboard.
The Wandering Troubadour act was inspired by the recent 6th grade field trip to the Hoggetown Medieval Faire. On the trip, the students witnessed musicians and tradespeople walking around and hawking their wares. With this in mind, the performers were responsible for creating the own acts. This segment of the show featured ocarina playing (a small wind musical instrument), fortune telling, juggling, shoe selling, and a pogo stick! The students mingled and interacted humorously with the audience.
Needing a cue to transition to the next scene amidst this boisterous activity, a bit about a baby dragon was born...with a live "dragon" running through the auditorium to scare away the visitors!
Lindsay Curry's dramatic lighting on the stage and throughout the house enhanced the look and feel of the show.
With so many rapidly moving parts, this show stands out as one of the most ambitious performances in recent memory.
"Ambitious is an understatement!" Ms. Barker noted. "This show required students to take responsibility for knowing when and where every moving piece happened."
Ms. Kenny was proud of her students as well.
"It makes me so happy to see my students showcasing their talents and having fun with history," she said.