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VIDEO: Crusading for History

The Medieval Dude brings the Middle Ages to life for Orange County children.

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.

Daniel Woolfolk November 16, 2012 at 04:49 PM
This is awesome!
MFriedrich November 16, 2012 at 05:19 PM
I think the most interesting piece of the middle ages was the almost universal aversion to bathing and the ignorance of human hygiene. Imagine, months, even years without bathing. Now imagine entire communities with similar habits, and how this would have affected human relationships.
Sean Andersen November 16, 2012 at 05:35 PM
We had a chance to spend time in the Medieval Dudes booth at the Readers Festival. It was fantastic. I have always considered myself an amateur historian of the Crusades and was thus intrigued by the presentation. I learned things from Dennis about the time period that I had never heard before. He made a very interesting period of history even more captivating. Our children enjoyed learning about the medieval medicine and enjoyed creating their own shields. Our kids were engaged and gladly were asking great questions about the history of the Crusades and medieval history in general. Dennis did a great joy of answering their questions in a way that they learned a great deal and created further interest. We look forward to the after school programs and summer camps!
tiny November 16, 2012 at 11:02 PM
The Venetian Republic ferried the Crusaders to the Holy Land with ships they built at their Arsenal. During the 4th Crusade they decided to drop the Crusaders off the Byzantium to sack their economic competiters, who happen to be Christian. This is when Venice become the power in the area, and this power was based on their control of trade, money, sea power, ship building, foreign policy and their overall manipulative & deceptive practices. It was not based of production or making things, except their ships that is. So then they were almost crushed later, except for a dirty deal by Julius II that allowed them to escape, in the League of Cambrei by the surrounding powers that wanted to defeat them. Then some in Venice decided they better relocate from the marshes to safer areas north to Amsterdam, (also with low lying with canals), then ultimately to London with William of Orange's victories there. And this is the tradition that we fought starting in 1776. Now it's gone global. And so it goes.
Charles November 16, 2012 at 11:26 PM
The city of orange was named after william of Orange and nothing to do with oranges the fruit.

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