I recently visited Greengate Junior School in Barrow-in-Furness for their Viking day. It was a large group of year 6 pupils, nearly 60 in all. I managed, however, with the aid of the wonderful staff at the school.
The group was about two thirds boys, so the teachers were expecting the visit to be boisterous. The children were great, in fact. I started off with stories about my life as a Viking warrior, and got a volunteer up to demonstrate the chainmail armour. He was stood in it for quite a while as I used him to demonstrate the various weapons on. To his credit, he didn’t flinch once, even when I attacked him with the fearsome Dane Axe. For that first session all 60 children were sat quietly, without fidgeting, on the hard hall floor for an hour and a half! Then they got to try out what it was like to fight in a shield wall.
The idea is for the children to fight, hitting the shields only, while maintaining the tightest, straightest shield wall they can. This is the third school in a row where I have done boys against girls, and this is the third school in a row where the girls have won. It’s really interesting to see how the girls cooperate with each other, while the boys tend to get carried away and end up fighting individually (while having a great time) and losing the competition.
After morning break the children learned what it was like to grow up as a Viking, and the girls really enjoyed taking turns with the quern, turning barley grain into flour. In the afternoon the group was split into two, with one half doing some related classroom work while the other learned how to play Viking games like Kubb, Nine-Men’s-Morris, Hnaftafl and Maya. They swapped after 45 minutes, then all came back together for an epic rendition of the story of what happened when Thor, Loki and Thjalfi travelled to the castle of the giant, Utgard-Loki.