"I'm going to take over your land!" announced sixth-grader Robert Reil, brandishing his aluminum foil-edged Viking sword in the middle of the St. Teresa of Avila School cafeteria.
Ready for combat, classmate Noel Lopez advanced toward the Norseman's challenge with his own weapon, hoping to send the crazed invader to Valhalla. "You'll never take my land!" he countered.
The two locked swords, all teeth and fire, as their re-creation of the 10th-century Battle of Maldon began.
Inspired by a potent mix of nonalcoholic mead and the legendary Viking penchant for pillaging, Robert delivered a cadence of fierce battle-strikes, knocking Noel to the ground.
"I've been defeated!" he cried in mock agony.
Noel never had a chance.
"He can't win," said Robert, after the duel. "I'm a Viking, and he's English. I have to beat him every time. Otherwise, it would change history."
It's a history that Kara Evans' sixth-graders have become well-versed in through an intense, two-week project that ended Friday with the turning of the normally demilitarized St. Teresa lunchroom into a well-armed, interactive medieval museum.
Evans divided her class into four groups: Franks, Vikings, Anglo-Saxons and people of Germanic tribes. Each group reproduced artifacts out of paper and plaster, created maps, and built model houses typical of the groups they represented. Each was responsible for learning the intricate details of life among their people then developing and making presentations to dozens of classes that toured the museum.
"There's no better way to get the kids to learn than to make them into teachers," Evans said, trying to keep another, more historically unprecedented skirmish from breaking out between a rogue Viking and a Frank who'd wandered within a tempting sword's distance of one another.
Swords sheathed, the children brimmed with historic knowledge, volunteering everything they knew.
"We kind of helped sack Rome," said Jonathan Loomis, a Frank, as he expertly talked about everything from Frankish leader Clovis I's victory over the Romans to Charlemagne's contributions to education and the Treaty of Verdun.
The alliance of English and Anglo-Saxons weren't too impressed by the Frankish accomplishments.
"We ended up taking them over," said Andrew Jones, dressed as a warrior, complete with cape.
Elizabeth Bennett offered a tray of chicken wings, typical fare for the time, while registering a curt complaint about the limited roles of women in medieval Europe.
"It's lousy," she pouted.
Leah DiMambro and Casey Sear explained the sadistic justice system of medieval Germanic tribes while passing out milk and pieces of steak, cooked up by Visigoth Garrett Gingell.
"They tied you to a rock," explained Leah.
"If you were innocent, you sank," said Casey. "If you were guilty, you floated."
After Garrett and Nathan Rough re-enacted the Battle of Adrianople for a group of third-graders, they quizzed the audience on what they had learned.
Almost every hand went up.
"I try to find ways to make history come alive," she said. "To make it more than just a lot of words on a page."
n Contact reporter Peter Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1215.