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South Jordan Journal

Warriors of Thor take to their Dragon Ship as part of Day in History at Early Light Academy

Apr 05, 2021 12:09PM ● By Julie Slama

Singing a revised version of “Dragon Ships” to keep their strokes together, Early Light fifth graders learn about Vikings’ ships and their raids as part of the school’s Day in History. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Early Light Academy fifth graders listened as their Beverly Taylor Sorensen Arts Learning Program music specialist, Amy Hickenlooper, told them Vikings were known for their ships. 

“The Vikings invented sails and when they went up, no-one was faster,” she said. “If there was no wind, they’d take their oars and row together, sometimes chanting or singing to keep their strokes together.”

It may not sound like a music class, but it wasn’t an ordinary class period. It was Day in History at the school, and the students, who had the option to dress as Vikings, had learned a song about Dragon Ships—and the history behind it.

“They carved dragons out of their hulls to scare away those who would come to a place they were at—or if they weren’t scared, the Vikings would fight them,” Hickenlooper told the students. “They’re a little like pirates—sometimes they took land because it was easier to farm than their own; sometimes, they just took treasure. Anyway, they had the coolest ships.” 

So together, students sat on the ground, using bucket handles to hold pool noodles in place which imitated oars, and they’d stroke along to “Dragon Ships,” a song they sang together with changed lyrics by Hickenlooper that reflected the lesson in the Vikings.

“The Vikings didn’t write down their music,” she told the students. “But I think this gives us the idea.”

During the Day in History—which was spread out throughout the entire week in early March to allow students who were on hybrid or online schedules to experience some of the activities—the 900 kindergarten through ninth grade students learned about the Vikings’ history, culture and background in addition to dressing up in traditional garb.

Ninth grader Jenavee Greene, or Sif by her Viking name, said that traditionally Vikings didn’t wear horns in their hats.

“It was just for show in the opera,” she said. “I liked learning that they were the first to explore the Northern Hemisphere.”

Jenavee also learned that they believed in Norse mythology and many of the legends come from Northern Europe including Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland. One such tale she learned while helping as an aide in a kindergarten class was about Thor’s wife, Sif, being tricked to cut her long, thick golden hair, which was believed helped the Norse people’s crops grow. She was betrayed by Loki, who cut her head bare but was told to restore her beauty. He did so, with the help of gnomes who made a cap of gold silk.

“Their expeditions were religious, as they did not believe in Christianity but in Thor, Loki and Odin and others,” she said.

Jenavee said that in her classes, they designed a long boat by candlelight and had practiced learning to write in Runes, the Vikings’ own system of writing where the basic alphabet, 16 letters long, was made up of straight lines, no curved letters.

Many of the older grades created clan names and decorated their classroom doors, while younger students painted cardboard shields or drew faces to be placed in a paper Viking ship that adorned the hallway. Students also learned stories about the Norse people and tried out several Viking games.

“This year was a little different,” said Director of Curriculum Shannon Berry, who provided teachers NearPod videos that could be used to engage student learning and discussion. “Instead of students trading classes and classroom teachers coming up with ideas, we had our teacher specialists create Day in History lesson plans and they rotated.”

That helped with the social distancing and contract tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The dates were also extended and pushed back from January to March since after the holiday break, the school had its first number of positive and quarantine cases that required the school to be put online for a period of time.

This is the school’s eighth annual Day in History. Past events have focused on the ancient Greece, Medieval times, 1776, 1820s, 1847, 1920s and 1969. Next year, it will be in the 1400s.

The school’s cultural day, which was held this past fall, tied into the same time period so Berry said it was fun that students to correlate the two experiences.

Incorporated in Early Light Academy’s charter is to hold three historic events. In addition to these two, students hold their own history fair in May, where elementary students work together in classrooms to do projects and older students research and present their own findings. This year’s theme will be “United we stand, divided we fall.”