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Students aim to energize peers about history through Medieval activities at Paleo-Olympics

  • A student tries on Medieval armor during the Paleo-Olympic Games.
  • Grand Valley's Fencing Club demonstrating sword fighting techniques during the Paleo-Olympic Games.

Posted on September 20, 2017

A student dressed in traditional medieval armor meant for a knight stood on the lawn in front of Grand Valley’s Mary Idema Pew Library on September 15, but he wasn’t looking for a jousting opponent. 

This knight was merely a volunteer for a historical demonstration that kicked off the 9th annual Paleo-Olympics. The event is planned collaboratively between history-based student organizations on campus, such as the History, Classics and Anthropology clubs.

During the event, Jared Yax, ’15, gave a presentation about medieval armor by dressing the student volunteer in a suit of armor that he built for himself and uses when competing in swordsmanship competitions. 

Yax said that his intention was for students to be engaged in the demonstration, so he allowed students to interact with the parts of his suit, including the chain mail, a shield and a sword.

“This is tactile learning,” Yax said. “People get to pick something up and feel it, smell it, experience it. That makes it more interesting that just reading something and it sticks with them a lot longer.”

Yax said this kind of event is ideal because it introduces both history and non-history majors to important and interesting time periods.

“History is very important because we learn from our mistakes, we learn where we come from and how our civilizations developed,” said Yax. “That lets us know how we came to be. History can sometimes be very hard to get people interested in.”

Jonathan Bluck, president of the Archeological Society, has participated in the planning of the Paleo-Olympics for three years and said he had a hand in advertising the event around campus in hopes of drawing in a large, diverse crowed.

“Students don’t have to specifically be a history major to participate in fun, interactive games and demonstrations,” Bluck said. “We want to bring everyone in and show them our love for history and to see how things were done in the past. History is a lot of fun.”

Grand Valley’s Fencing Club was also at the event to give a sword fighting demonstration. Others activities included Medieval manuscript illumination, demonstrations about how to make ancient textiles, hieroglyphic cookie decorating and games inspired by ancient cultures.

- Story written by Marissa LaPorte, University Communications student writer