Everyday Life in a Medieval Castle

The History room has been teeming with activity recently. In the midst of History World Leaders Madness (inspired by March Madness), tracking current events, predicting the animosity and conflict between Athens and Sparta (in Ancient History), and understanding why the United States became involved in World War I (in American History), the 7th graders have been investigating the evolution of Medieval Castles and every day life in a castle in European History.

Introducing the topic as a series of problems to overcome, I engaged the class in Medieval architecture, defense, military tactics, economics, social classes in society, technology and many other things.  A great resource that we consulted, Life in a Castle, through PBS, introduced us to life in a castle, the role of women, knights, skilled laborers and, most notably, the importance of a Constable to the running and maintenance of a castle. 

This was after the class did initial background research and discussion of castles in the Middle Ages. Students posted and gathered notes and comments on important features of Castles on our Padlet Castles Wall (I can't say enough about Padlet as a collaborative resource, but that is for another blog post!) Another fantastic resource that accompanies Life in a Castle, "Medieval Siege," is an hour long documentary that captures two historians' quest to recreate a gigantic siege machine, War Wolf, and to test it out on a (recreated) medieval castle.

After watching the siege machine at work, all students are invariably excited to build their own siege machines.  This group of 7th graders was no exception, although they added a new twist: For their culminating project, or rather, problem-based project, this particular group of 7th graders wants to invent their own Medieval siege machine that can bring down an impenetrable castle.  No kidding-this is what they came up with! This problem screams of multi-discliplinary integration and collaboration (involving physics, math, engineering, construction, historical research).  I love it!

Usually, my End-of-Castles problem involves designing and building an impenetrable castle taking into consideration all of the elements of a strongly built castle that is difficult to defeat in an attack, and one that can withstand a siege.  This year, the 7th graders want to invent a weapon that can bring down such a castle; OK!  As long as my students are excited, engaged and learning, I am happy to have them creating their own problem-based projects!  I can't wait to see the results.


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