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Medieval magic at Oltman

Every activity during the afternoon of games for Oltman Middle School eighth-graders in Camelot House centered around teamwork and making new friends, but the kids hardly noticed. They were too busy having fun.

Gone is the junior high mini-high-school model. Instead, middle school, for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, places about 150 kids in "houses" where they have the same teachers for core subjects. The purpose is to build close relationships between students and teachers that are more like the ones they had in elementary school, but still academically challenging as the kids transition to high school.

Middle school teachers met through the summer to plan activities for kids to get to know each other and enjoy some casual interaction with their teachers.

Camelot House planned a day centered around activities in medieval times that included a goblet toss, tricycle jousting, dragon slayer, arms in knots, three-legged races, horse toss and chariot races -- a Roman tradition, but no one cared about historic correctness.

The games were not designed to yield winners and losers and there were no prizes, just fun.

"This was a good idea," said Erin Diamond. "I got to know people better."

Those in Group Four discovered Joe Tschida has diabetes after he asked teachers to tell him how much sugar was in the Freezies that kids got at the end of the games, something they might not have known otherwise.

They asked him how his diabetes was discovered.

Tschida said his mother, a medical technician, recognized his symptoms.

Sarah LaBrosse said she sometimes had trouble making friends and enjoyed the informal chance to connect with other kids.

When kids came out of school to their first game on the track and football field, there were few smiles until they were assembled into teams of about 20 kids and the games began.

When Team Four got to the horse toss, there was much laughter as kids, working in teams of two, used towels to propel stuffed horses over a football goal post to a two-man team on the other side that was supposed to catch it and throw it back.

Stuffed horses went straight up in the air and sideways until the kids got the hang of it.

In medieval times, people tossed diseased goats over the wall of the king's castle, said Bryce Miller. "They hated the king and wanted to poison him," he said.

The day ended with Freezies for all but they had to kneel down and be "knighted" by teachers to get their treats.

"We were hoping the kids would start to bond," said Carol Byhers, teacher. "They need time to socialize."

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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