Village School students travel to London as part of Middle Ages curriculum


For the Athol Daily News

Published: 03-06-2023 5:04 PM

ROYALSTON – Fifth and sixth-graders from The Village School spent their February break in London for a trip designed to bring their Middle Ages lessons to life.

Speaking with the Athol Daily News, fifth and sixth-grade teacher George Bennett explained, “We do a theme every year and this year it’s the Middle Ages. When we first did this in 2005, I said to (school administrator Rise Richardson), ‘Well, why don’t we go to England and see some real castles?’”

The first trip was done in 2006, and is offered during the years when students study the Middle Ages. Students visit Gothic cathedrals, Stonehenge and other sites. Bennett’s accent betrayed that the trip also amounted to a visit home.

“I’ve lived all over Britain,” he said. “I lived in Wales for seven years, but I lived in London for 20 years before I came here.”

When asked about his favorite part of the trip, Silas, one of the sixth-graders, said, “I really liked Salisbury Cathedral; it was, like, massive. It had a lot of stained glass windows, and it had a lot amazing stone carvings on the outside. And Tower Hill was pretty cool, where the Tower of London is.”

Classmate William added, “I remember something else about Salisbury Cathedral, too; the Magna Carta was there — one of the original copies.”

The group also made a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon to see the Royals Shakespeare Company Perform “The Tempest.”

“I really liked the play,” said William. “My favorite character in the play was Ariel. She could sing, and she could play a flute. I also like Salisbury Cathedral, and I liked seeing the Crown Jewels. They were amazing. And I also liked Warwick Castle, which I’m doing a report on. They had wax figures and whenever you walked into a room you thought they were real people—they were that realistic.”

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Warwick Castle, Bennett explained, is owned by Madame Tussauds, know for its famed wax museums—the original being in London.

Before heading off on their transatlantic trip, the group discusses the places that will be seen, and guidebooks are provided. Nearly every student who goes is accompanied by a parent. Bennett said he is careful not to go overboard in preparing for the trip, in order to spare the feelings of students who may not be able to go.

“Nobody’s ever been left behind,” he said. “It’s their choice. It’s not because of finances, because we always make sure, if there are people who have difficulty paying, that we make it work. We make it work one way or another.”

Prior to making the trip, said Bennett, the class studied castles—how they were made and what they were for. Students built Lego models of cathedrals as a way of understanding the architecture and the structures of the cathedrals. The also prepare by studying a number of masterpieces.

“We have a painting of the week,” he continued. “We always go to the National Gallery of Art in London, which is one of the great galleries of the world. They’re familiar with at least two dozen of the paintings in there because I show them over the year. So the preparation really comes out of the curriculum we’re already studying.”

While the students were visiting, London was busy preparing for a major historical event – the pending coronation of King Charles III. When the students arrived, they saw that two of the crowns were missing; one for King Charles and another for the Queen Consort. There were notes saying, “Being prepared for the coronation.”

When asked if they would go back Britain, if given the chance, all answered with an enthusiastic “Yes.”

Greg Vine can be reached at