Among the contacts in my Flickr stream, I noticed some enchanting images of kids using actual feather quills to write letters. "What is this?!" I hastily messaged to the image poster and L.W.A. member Suzanne. She told me it was part of "Agora Days" at her school. I'd never heard of such a thing and Suzanne graciously offered to write all about it for the blog. I am very jealous that I wasn't a student at this school in my younger days. Everything seems like so much fun.
Suzanne writes: Agora Days take place the 3rd week in February at University of Illinois Laboratory High School (where I teach English, Social Justice, and Gender Studies). The tradition started in 1977 (you can read a little more history in this student newspaper article) and it is an opportunity for students, teachers, parents, and interested community members to teach classes about topics they are passionate about and wouldn't normally get covered in school.
In the last couple years, I've taught a beginning knitting class that turned into a knitbomb class, a letterpress poetry class; and this year, a class called The Jane Austen Auxiliary Society during which another English teacher and I had a chance to do a few of the supplemental activities that enrich the teaching of an Austen novel that we don't always have time for in class. On the first day of the class, we hosted a fiddler (our school librarian) and dance instructor who taught the students several English Country dances in preparation for our "ball" on the last day of class.
Through my participation in the Month of Letters Challenge, I met a person who corresponds in character and she sent me two goose quills, ink, a book on penmanship, and a couple sample letters written with ink and quill. We used these on the second day of class to begin our letter writing. My co-teacher found a sample ball invitation in the book What Jane Austen Ate, and Charles Dickens Knew and we wrote invitations to the ball for all of our students. During class, we had a quill and ink demonstration by another our of fabulous librarians (this one with excellent penmanship) and then let the students lose with the quills, folding instructions, and sealing wax. They all sent replies to our invitations, hand delivered by postmistress Lucie (natch).