MHS students simulate Enlightenment-era salon

Pictured is history teacher Jordan Pritchett and ninth grader Grace Stermer, dressed in character to participate in an 18-century style salon.

Pictured is history teacher Jordan Pritchett and ninth grader Grace Stermer, dressed in character to participate in an 18-century style salon.

By MICHELLE ADAMS / Community Columnist

The word “salon” today brings to mind beauty services provided in a relaxing setting, and yes, often tinged with a bit of witty banter and conversation related to societal events.

For those living during the Enlightenment, “salon” was a social gathering of educated people to engage in intellectual conversation about science, religion and politics.

Montevallo High School students of Jordan Pritchett’s world history class took part in a salon simulation activity toward the end of this semester, bringing to life this tradition of three hundred years ago.

To prepare for the simulation, students studied the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, then chose and learned about an Enlightenment thinker to portray.

“This activity was something I have always wanted to do with students,” Pritchett said. “When I mentioned it to them and they were excited to see it happen, I decided to go for it. We transformed my classroom into a more comfortable environment with wing back chairs and a sofa, and some of us even dressed up to reflect the time period. At the beginning of the salon, I showed students how to make their tea and explained the food that was provided. I also had baroque music playing in the background.”

The ninth grade course of study is world history from 1500 to present day. European history makes up a large portion of the curriculum, so such a simulation brings to life an aspect of one era that students must learn about.

The salon provided a way for students to not just study the material, but to know it in such a way that they had to discuss important topics as though they were living during that time period.

“I was impressed with the discussions,” Pritchett said. “This was the first time many students had participated in anything like this, so a lot of them were nervous at first, but they did really well. Some even got so much into character, they used accents, and all were glad to have a change from a ‘normal’ class day.”