Kansas City Renaissance Festival
Ye Olde Renaissance Activities
The following information has been provided in order to facilitate students and teachers in fun, informative, and educational hands on activities. Most material is adaptable to all grade levels. The materials are inexpensive and readily obtained.
In the 16th century it was believed that everything was made up of four (4) elements: earth, air, fire and water.
Scholars strove to restore the human-centered values of classic antiquity. This movement, called Humanism, involved studying art, literature and culture of ancient Greece and Rome, which had been prohibited during the Middle Ages.
The dinner of a wealthy man included 15-20 dishes.
People were shorter and smaller in the 16th century; the average man was 5’3” tall and weighed 135 lbs. Anyone over 6’ was considered a giant!
Most people only owned the clothes they were wearing.
People in the 16th century had horrible table manners. Guests were often reminded to blow their nose with the hand they used for their knife, not with the one they ate with.
Half of the people in Europe died before reaching 30 years of age, most from disease. A girl’s life expectancy was 24 due to the dangers of childbirth.
Renaissance villagers had walls surrounding them for defense purposes; the smaller the circumference, the safer the village. Streets in the village were as narrow as a man’s shoulders.
The first metal screws were used in 1556 to secure a leather bag. Screws were hammered in and could not be removed easily because the screwdriver wasn’t invented until 200 years later.
The fork was a new addition to the dinner table during the Renaissance.
Trade expeditions grew in popularity in the 16th century; trade routes became safer and a new class of merchants developed. Profits were high, so many merchants became involved. To raise money to pay for the ships and cargos, merchants sold shares in each venture to divide the costs and risks. These “jointstock” companies were the forerunners of modern companies that sell stock to shareholders.
Discuss several occupations that existed during the Renaissance that do not exist today; that still exists today; or that did not exist during the Renaissance. Why have these changes in the job market taken place?
Discuss the opportunities of women in the 16th century as compared to opportunities today. How did they change for the better? How have they changed for the worse? (if at all)
Discuss the environmental factors and hygiene (or lack thereof) that led to the rapid spread of the Black Plague.
Divide your class into small groups. Each group will be a commedia dell’arte troupe (wandering players of the 16th century-the 1st known professional acting troupes). Have each group write a short play and perform it for the class. These plays were about everyday things.
Was it Possible? The Renaissance was a time of invention. Many brilliant people imagined, designed, and created a variety of new things. On the list below, place a check mark next to the things that did exist during the renaissance era.
_____ fork _____ cotton gin
_____ the “Mona Lisa” _____ screwdriver
_____ printing press _____ eyeglasses
_____ steam engine _____ electric lamp
_____ gun/musket _____ car
_____ microscope _____ submarine
_____ parachute _____ life jacket
_____ world map _____ telescope
_____ stapler _____ saxophone
_____ metal screws _____ helicopter
Was it Possible?