Hosting a Renaissance Fair - teacher resources
Searching for teacher resources and renaissance fair ideas? If you're looking for a great way for school clubs to raise money, for students to experience hands-on learning, and for everyone to have a blast, to boot, consider hosting your own high school Renaissance fair and/or medieval fair. This is a wonderful project that numerous classes and teachers in different disciplines can work on together. I had the idea of a Renaissance fair for years before I finally made the effort to actually bring it to life. The first one was such a success that I continued organizing a Renaissance fair on our campus every year, until I retired. In case you're interested, I'll share my ideas.
First, of course, I had to clear it with the principal. Next, I enlisted the help of other teachers and various clubs, asking them to commit to having a booth at the fair. They signed up for all kinds of things! One club cooked and sold roasted wild boar and venison, another translated students' names into runes, one sold candles, one sold baked goods, one sold jewelry, and one sold bath salts in little "antique" bottles. We had booths that told fortunes, offered information about knights and jousting, and gave weaving and stained glass demonstrations.
I also received a lot of participation from the student body. I found two males who made chain mail as a hobby, so they gave demonstrations. Students with horses became knights and put on a competition. Other students with goats and sheep brought them to the fair. I even found a local college professor who brought his collection of medieval weapons, which was a huge hit.
A few members of the school band played drums, bugles, trumpets, and flutes, and the chorus supplied a group of madrigal singers. Two student magicians gave performances, as did a couple of guitarists. Members of the school's drama club presented an act from Macbeth, and four of our "class clowns" became jesters. Gymnasts served as acrobats. I was able to enlist the assistance of a local fireman, who played the bagpipes at the event, as well.
We also set up an archery contest and a caber toss. The winners earned coupons for free food that was being sold at the festival. One club sold "mead" (apple cider with whipped cream on top) at "Grendel's Mead Hall."
Each group having a booth was responsible for supplying their own tent and decorating it with pennants. All the workers had to be in period costume, too.
My principal donated money for costumes and supplies, and I also got donations from local businesses. I searched Ebay for used costumes, and we made many simple ones - tunics with tights underneath. For the horses, we got velvet from Walmart and adorned it with glitter paint and acrylic jewels (see photos). Kilts are extremely simple to make from plaid material and a couple of safety pins. Also, since the fair was just a few weeks after Halloween, we were able to pick up several medieval costumes and Renaissance costumes at a huge disount.
We made the fair educational as well as fun. For example, when students bought roasted pork, they learned about how the peasants depended on pigs for survival. When they bought baked goods, they learned about wheat farming and milling practices of the period.
Many of our teachers created lesson plans that centered on our Renaissance festival. for example, home ec classes created foods, the ag classes researched livestock and farming practices of the Middle Ages, and the marketing classes sold goods. Of course, the fair went hand-in-hand with lesson plans for the history classes.
As another way to raise funds for the event, students bought chances to become king and queen of the fair. The winners wore elaborate costumes and got to feast all day for free.
Many of the students and teachers really got into the spirit of the fair and arrived in costume. The event was held on a school day just before the Thanksgiving holiday. Teachers could choose to spend the entire day at the fair, part of the day, or to not participate at all, but we didn't have a single teacher who didn't want to take part in some way.
I contacted local media before the event, so it was covered on television and in local magazines and newspapers. The school got a lot of positive press coverage, along with wonderful PR with the community. Many graduating seniors stated that our Medieval-Renaissance Fair was their best memory from their high school years!
Renaissance costumes for sale:
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emma on May 22, 2012:
I am a high school student and am in a club which hosts one every year at our school. The students really got involved this year with a dunk tank and "the pickle challenge." where if they stuff the whole pickle in their mouth it is free. There are some great ideas you guys incorporated I will be sure to bring up next year.
Sharilee Swaity from Canada on November 11, 2011:
This is an awesome idea! Talk about engagement. Thanks for sharing.
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 27, 2010:
MC, my Renaissance fair was a huge hit with students!
MedievalCostumes from San Diego, CA on November 24, 2010:
What a great idea! Definitely a fun family event for any school to organize!