“Where were you when I was in high school???” is the question I often face.

“In high school also!” is the answer I want to give, but usually I smile through pleasantries while I continue my explanation of what I offer.

What do I offer? Alligator tooth necklaces and stunning copper and lapis lazuli bracelets!

That’s not what I really offer: that’s not the heart and soul of what’s driving me to continue in this small business journey which, when I started, seemed the exact opposite of what I am suited for.

What I thrive on providing teens is hands-on learning that’s appropriate to high school: challenging, long-lasting, practical, and worthy of their time and talents.

Because I’m an English teacher, the hands-on learning is connected to literature.

Because I recognize the value of intensive learning, the model is the week-long workshop.

How does this work IRL? My Beowulf workshop is my prime example because it’s the most structured and most-enduring (much like an excellent sword or well-built mead-hall).

During this five day immersive experience,  10-12 preteens and teens wend their way to The Spinning Jenny in Greer, SC. The atmosphere of the Jenny is perfect: room to move, heavy wood paneling, a low roof, and a place to keep our food on the feast day.

To indulge in language learning, we open each morning in praise of the beginning of things (and the Keeper of Mankind who made this middle earth for men) by chanting Caedmon’s Hymn in Old English. Short, beautiful, and a delight to say, this poem connects the week together and is recited by the students at the feast.

After the opening, we spend a solid 45 minutes on theatre: exploring the beasts and heroes of Beowulf through movement, costume designs, and theatre games.

Then, we go into maker mode, crafting Anglo-Saxon related works: chain mail (students learn how to make their own jump rings and the basic armor weave: the European 4-1), etched copper cuffs using Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse designs, metal work featuring favored kennings, and (possibly this year) shield designs retelling the epic.

In each instance, students are learning several ideas:

  1. HOW to understand difficult concepts through movement.
  2. HOW to use ancient artifacts as inspiration for contemporary art.
  3. HOW to make connections that move reading into action.
  4. HOW to understand, analyze, and synthesize information.
  5. HOW to use tools, make metal wonders, and incorporate safety into their daily lives.

And HOW much time and effort go into art and understanding!

I’m creating the experiences I would have loved in high school and offering these experiences to others in hopes that they’ll learn to love reading, making, and thinking while soaking themselves in ideas of bravery and virtue.

Next Wednesday, I’ll tell you how this all got started (hint: in a cave overlooking the Pacific).

PS: If you click HERE you can sign up to download my free reading guide to Beowulf! In it I offer many of the ideas that I use to teach the epic in a traditional classroom and during the intensive.