LAWRENCEVILLE - They positioned their arrows, aimed their bows, drew back their strings and let go. As their arrows went flying to the target, a large wild animal, the knights and maidens held their breaths. But even if they weren't adept at archery, the courtiers knew they could impress the others with their skills at jousting, juggling or making stained-glass windows.
It was all part of a medieval celebration Tuesday for students at Hope Springs Christian Learning Center. For one day, they were not merely kids, but kings, queens, jesters, wenches and knights.
"We decided to have the food and festival to culminate the unit on medieval studies," said Susan Mason, the school's history teacher.
Students designed their own personal name plates, giving themselves the titles of "Sir," "King" and "Lord." They also created shields, with each symbol on the crest signifying a different positive quality.
"The harp means calm, the flower means grace and beauty, the snake means wisdom and the eagle means noble nature," said Tori McColley, 12.
Parent volunteer Donna Rhodes came to the festival enthusiastic about donning a medieval costume. She wore a gothic dark red and black dress, and a flower wreath in her long blond hair. When she came to school, she was disappointed more parents hadn't dressed up, even though most kids did. Her son, Tyler, wore a medieval executioner's costume.
"I've had this for years. I've just never had an excuse to wear it. It feels like Halloween," Rhodes said.
The kids rotated between the different activities every 30 to 40 minutes. For lunch, they all enjoyed a beef stew in an authentic bread bowl. They also had a side of meat, grapes and cheese.
Anna Iwan, 11, said she loved outdoor sports like horseback riding and football. So like many of the students, she enjoyed archery the most of all the activities.
"It's not like a real sport, but it's sporty enough," said Anna's friend, 12-year-old Jessica Stamey.
There are only 19 students enrolled full-time at Hope Springs, but many more attended the festivities. The school hosted home-schooled students, as well as students' siblings.
It is a small Christian school for students with learning disabilities. Sharon Anthony, the school's director, said its purpose is to help its students improve academically through small classes and learning therapy. The medieval day was also a way for students to learn using multiple senses.
"We want to teach them to think more efficiently, more effectively," Anthony said. "The bottom line is we want them to become independent learners."
Like court jesters, the students stood outside and practiced their juggling. They started by throwing plastic bags up in the air, catching them one by one. It was significantly more difficult when they had to use tennis balls instead.
"My mom taught me to juggle, and now I'm teaching them," said Brian Turner, 11, gesturing to his classmates, whose balls were flying all over the place.
The students rode their wooden sticks, or horses, as they jousted with pool noodles. The boys couldn't stop laughing as they hit each other with their soft "swords," ignoring the purpose of trying to disarm each other. But no one seemed to mind.
"Stop! You are very undisciplined knights," joked parent Steve Miller. "You guys would never make it as knights."