Fourth-graders at a DeSoto County school this week have entered their section of school confident that their area is secure.
Modern appearances were not appropriate in this case, however, as the sentries protecting the hallways at Lake Cormorant Elementary School harkened back to the age of Lancelot, the Crusades and King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
In fact, the protectors of the hall were just that; knights. The knightly statues that routinely greet visitors to the DeSoto Times-Tribune/CLICK Magazine offices in Hernando this past week found their way to the Lake Cormorant fourth-grade hall.
The statues and other decorations helped provide an appropriate atmosphere for learning through the entire grade reading of the 2003 Kate DiCamillo work titled, “The Tale of Despereaux.” DiCamillo also has written youthful stories, such as “Because of Winn-Dixie” and “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.”
DiCamillo and “The Tale of Despereaux” were awarded the 2004 John Newbery Medal by the Association for Library Service to Children, an award given to an author making a distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
Fourth-grade teacher Paula Smith approached the Times-Tribune about having the statues on loan to the school for the week as the students read and studied “The Tale of Despereaux.”
“It’s a very in-depth book and it’s based around the era of the knights and medieval time,” Smith said. “It’s about an unlikely hero, a little mouse by the name of Despereaux. We wanted to set the scene for the students.”
In the book, Despereaux Tilling, himself a lover of books, must find a knight’s brave heart inside himself to rescue his friend Princess Pea in the fantasy kingdom of Dor, which has fallen into sadness.
Through the reading of the book, students were able to learn more about the medieval times, what it was like and how the people of that time may have lived.
“We rotated our five fourth-grade classes, with one class making shields,” Smith said. “The next station was making stained-glass windows. Students in another room made catapults with marshmallows to shoot and another group was making the fancy glasses, or goblets with jewels.”
Smith said the students were excited to see the knights greet them when they headed to class.
“In the story there are knights and Despereaux becomes a knight,” Smith said. “We were thankful we were able to borrow them for this week and the children were just thrilled to have the knights. It helped set the stage."
While “The Tale of Despereaux” is a fairy tale, Smith felt it offered some lessons for the children to learn beyond just reading a book.
“It was such a good, enjoyable story that we really went deep into the story, a story of good versus evil,” Smith said. “We did a lot of writing about it and it was fun.”
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.