Dennis Knapp is your average stay-at-home dad—when he's not jousting, that is.
And the leeches, elixirs and weapons in his backyard?
"They're just really cool ways to get [kids'] attention," he said. "My passion is to get kids interested in history."
On Sept. 10, Knapp launched The Medieval Dude, a persona he uses to teach the history of the Middle Ages to youngsters.
Armed with a master's degree in military history and backed by a wife who teaches business at Saddleback College, Knapp is on a quest to bring thousand-year-old stories to life once again.
"I like what knights mean," he said. "Chivalry, good deeds, shining armor."
It wasn't all sword fights and crusades, he says, although that's a big part of the allure. Knapp also teaches children early ideas about medicine, jobs and class.
His hope is to get kids thinking creatively, part of a higher-level thinking strategy he's learned while working on his master's degree in education.
He said the city of Mission Viejo has been a big help jump-starting his plan. When he signed up for the Readers' Festival on Oct. 14, the city offered him a booth if he could provide a craft for all who came.
So he prepared more than 200 shields for kids to color and take home. He barely had any left by the end of the day.
Knapp plans to speak to Boy Scouts in San Juan Capistrano this month, then he'll plan after-school programs for next semester. In the summer, he'll host a summer camp at Heritage House near Melinda Park.