Lola Manuelito’s first Medieval Times experience was unlike many others’.
Sure, the fifth-grade BASIS Ahwatukee student watched the horses perform and watched the six knights joust; and, yes, she ate her 11th Century-inspired feast with her bare hands.
But Lola, 10, also happened to be surrounded by nearly 900 other fourth- and fifth-grade students from across the Valley, all of whom were there to take part in Medieval Times Scottsdale’s first interactive educational matinee.
“Part of our culture is a sense of community and part of the community is obviously giving back to children, giving back to the community and being involved in any way,” said Drew Barnes, Medieval Times marketing and sales manager.
“We’re always trying to make our impact on a younger generation and make sure everybody has the support to be brought up the way they should be,” Barnes added.
The 90-minute experience started off with a 30-minute educational presentation teaching students the Code of Chivalry via five live skits.
The students took high-energy pop-quizzes between vignettes designed to show students how the ancient code pertains to present society.
“They taught a lot about bullying, bullying is not OK,” Lola said.
In addition to BASIS Ahwatukee, participating schools included BASIS Scottsdale, BASIS Chandler and the Odyssey Preparatory Academy in Goodyear.
“For a lot of the kids, this is their first introduction not even to Medieval Times, but to the medieval period,” said Christopher Lester, AP human geography and fifth-grade geography teacher at BASIS Scottsdale.
“I love it,” Lester said. “Even more than the content itself, it’s teaching them to be good students and good people.”
“When I saw it, I sent it to all the teachers. They weren’t even open yet. I called them, and I [said], ‘I need to know how to set up a field trip because we’re going to do it.’ And I coordinated with the other BASIS teachers,” he said.
What Lester said the Medieval Times educational matinee does well are two things: It’s fast-paced for the easily distracted students, and it’s relatable.
For example, one of the skits involved cell phones – in the Middle Ages.
“Somebody’s always talking, something’s always going on. It’s very interactive with the Q&A and it’s what – especially that young – they need. They need to have feedback in order to stay mentally engaged,” Lester said.
“I wasn’t expecting it was going to be this educational or it was going to talk about bullying and social media,” said Marina Kirk, BASIS Chandler fifth grade English teacher and eighth grade through high school journalism teacher. “It’s awesome.”
Many of the students, including BASIS Scottsdale student Samuel Izydor, 10, picked up anti-bullying messages from the matinee — and for good reason. According to Kirk, BASIS has bullying presentations at school every year.
“This is a nice supplement to something we do with all the grades,” she added.
BASIS Chandler student, Minsoo Kim said she learned the importance of forgiveness from the matinee.
“Even if somebody does something wrong, forgive them and don’t be too mean to them,” the 11-year-old said.
Teachers have the option of using Medieval Times’ downloadable comprehensive study guides, worksheets, and lesson plans for kindergarten through high school.
BASIS Ahwatukee fifth grade math teacher Nicole Quillan used Medieval Times materials.
Ahead of the field trip, Quillan’s students worked on the word search and crossword puzzle and they made their own coat of arms.
Following the field trip, they created a diagram comparing and contrasting themselves to the knights and the values of the knights, Quillan said.
“It was new and interesting,” Quillan said of why they attended the educational matinee. “I thought it was informative in a fun way, and I liked the questions at the end. It taught [the students] to accept everyone and to be kind.”
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Medieval Times educational matinee.
“With 11th-century values, known as the code of chivalry, what we base our education on that day around, it really lends itself to being a good neighbor, being a good person, being respectful, honest. Those values are timeless,” Barnes said.
Medieval Times hosts about 30 matinees per year, per castle; some of the larger castles present to more than 50,000 kids per year.
The matinees are available throughout the school year, from October through May; and more recently, they began offering in-class demonstrations.
“We really like to tie it in for schools who may not have the means to come out to visit the castle. We’re still able to instill those values, be a part of the community, that school without having them come and purchase tickets for the whole school. We’re able to go there,” Barnes said.
The shows, including the tournament shows, change every few years.