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World history comes alive for 7th graders
Candace Fernandez helps adjust Bella Kline’s hairpiece.
Candace Fernandez helps adjust Bella Kline’s hairpiece.

 Social studies were torture for Timothy Lewis as a seventh grader at Sequoia School.
The reason was simple. It was memorizing a lot of facts and then regurgitating them on a test with no analyzing or need to comprehend it. As such, it wasn’t the type of class that would grab the attention of a 12-year-old boy.
Then in college Lewis fell in love with history and social science as his professors encouraged students to understand history from the perspective of the times when events happened and for them to shape opinions based on their research.
So when Lewis followed in his mother’s footsteps and became a teacher — Ruth Lewis taught kindergarten for 30 years at French Camp School — he vowed to make social studies appealing.
“Let’s face it,” Lewis said. “Social studies can be boring for seventh graders.”
But thanks to a Nile Garden School tradition that Lewis launched 23 years ago that’s no longer the case. Now even first graders are getting hooked looking forward to the day they can start seventh grade and study world history.
It’s all because of the “fair” job Lewis does.
That is fair as in Medieval Faire.
On Friday, Nile Garden School once again became King Lewis’ domain where seventh graders Colton Stonum and Taylor Miske were selected by their peers to preside as king and queen over a gathering of the clans for a medieval feast and entertainment interspersed with Black Plague deaths and the slaying of a malcontent bent on trying to kill the king.
As with all of Lewis’ social studies units, when the study of European history started two months ago it involved extensive classroom debate and discussion aimed at help students understand history that shaped the world and to form their own opinions.
The way the class is structured it inspires students to do research beyond what is typically required especially when it comes to preparing for the medieval faire.
And even after 23 years students still manage to surprise Lewis with their research.
The big surprise on Friday was a student who showed up in the costume of a plague doctor. The protective suit that the student recreated was complete right down to the mask with glass eye openings and a beak shaped nose that the “doctor” stuffed with herbs, straw, and spices.
“It was a complete surprise,” Lewis said. “We never discussed (plaque doctors) in class.”
The seventh graders — often with the help of their parents — devise their own costumes for the day’s event that includes a meal complete with “goblets” of cider as well as entertainment provided by eighth graders.
The eighth graders who staged the medieval faire the previous year use their elective period to learn dances, juggling, and other entertainment acts.
Juggling is something that Lewis took up in college to relax while sharpening his mind at the same time. The annual Nile Garden event has produced students who keep on juggling not just as a diversion but also a way to develop self-confidence as well as more than a few history teachers.
“When I started this (the faire) it was never my intent to get second graders hooked (on looking forward to world history) or produce jugglers,” Lewis said.
Lewis closed the talent show as he has done in past years with his own juggling act that included knives.
The medieval feast was shared by parents who were in attendance. The students besides researching their roles and medieval history also devoted their spare time to creating art and other touches for the faire.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email