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|Then and Now: Exploring how School and Life Experiences Have Changed for Children in America|
Sugar Creek Elementary
Fred Hultstrand History in Pictures Collection, NDIRS-NDSU, Fargo.
Through this one week unit, students will explore how children’s lives have changed over time. They will explore schooling, housing, transportation and how a community was viewed in the past, as well as today. Students will then use critical thinking to compare life in the past to their lives today and predict how daily life will change for children in the future.
Overview/ Materials/Historical Background/LOC Resources/Standards/ Procedures/Evaluation/Rubric/Handouts/Extension
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History of One Room Schoolhouses:
The one room schoolhouse is an icon of American education. We've probably seen one in pictures and perhaps even been inside of one. What was the education like? How might it compare with what we have today?
To answer these and other questions, I hiked across the road to visit my good friend Fred who as a child attended three such schools; one in Kansas, one in Colorado, and one in Wyoming.
There is nothing like the sage voice of experience.
While having coffee, we talked about the layout of a one room schoolhouse, the function in the community, and his experience with this part of American education.
Fred recalled with great fondness his days of one room schoolhouse education. It's something our present day generation won't experience, but you could sure tell that my good friend savored his recollections.
Here is what this Libertarian learned.
The schoolhouses were basically a square building with a single entrance and exit on the face of the building. A flagpole for "old glory" was set out in front of the building not too far from the entrance. A wood or coal bin stuck out from one front corner to hold fuel for the stove inside.
Windows lined the sides of the building and the rear wall was a solid windowless wall where the blackboard was mounted. As you entered the building, a long entryway ran perpendicular to your path of entry, partitioned from the main classroom except for the doorway entrance.
On one side of the entryway was a coat rack and places for boots. On the other side was the internal portion of the wood or coal bin, allowing access to the fuel.
The classroom consumed the majority of the building on the other side of the entryway partitions. Windows on the side walls let in light to the interior.
Two rows of desks were lined up on either side of the central aisle from the entry door to the blackboard at the far side of the building. The teacher's desk was in a corner near the blackboard. Sometimes that end of the room was elevated as a type of platform, but otherwise it was just part of classroom floor space.
A heating stove was in one of the corners at the back of the room. Sometimes a wood stove, and sometimes a coal stove.
An outhouse was also a feature of the schoolhouse, but outside of course, and a horse shed was part of the scene as well. Some of the kids rode horses to school while others walked or got a ride.
There was also a swing or swing set in the school yard for use during recess. A merry-go-round was also a common feature on the playground.
Teaching and Learning
There were typically two to ten children in the one room schoolhouse. Grades one through eight all took lessons in the same room. Everyone had their own lessons, and older kids helped younger kids with the assignments. It was a shared educational experience the likes of which I'm not familiar with.
Of course, reading, writing and arithmetic were standards. English composition and geography were also taught. Focus was on a basic foundational education. For some, this was all the education they would ever get, and perhaps ever need. The breadth and sophistication of the curriculum weren't what we have today, but when you learned a subject, you learned it well.
According to those who had a one room schoolhouse education, it was a fine education, even though the standards weren't what we have in place today. Imagine that! Seemingly lower expectations, but good results nevertheless.
There were two recesses, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Outdoor play was determined in part by the weather, and included:
You'll probably not recognize mumbledy peg because it involves knives. In this game of skill, you drop or release your open pocket knife from various holds to get it to stick into the soil and stand upright.
I know, knives are no-no's at school today, but they didn't used to be. The rule of the day was if you're old enough to go to school and you're old enough to wear pants, then you're old enough to have a pocket knife. Have the times changed, or have we?
At the end of recess, the teacher would ring a hand-held bell and that signaled time to return to the classroom.
One Room Schoolhouse Lunch Program
When kids came into the schoolhouse, they brought along their lunch as well. Imagine that! Parents fed their children back in those days. Come to think of it, that's how it was for me as well. I brought a sack lunch.
The schoolhouse also had it's own well. Water was pumped with a hand operated pitcher pump to fill a milking pail with water. The water pail was brought into the schoolhouse, and kids drank from the pail using a ladle - a community ladle.
No drinking fountains in the hall.
School as part of the Community
The one room schoolhouse also served as a place where folks would get together for social gatherings. A popular activity was a "box supper" where young women of the community would prepare a meal and place it in a box or picnic basket, and the men would bid on the meals.
The idea was that the men didn't know who had prepared the meals, but I'm certain some of that information leaked out somehow. Anyway, the man with the winning bid got to enjoy the meal in the company of the lady who had prepared it.
It was a nice and friendly competitive atmosphere, and what a wonderful way to show your affection for another - and get fed too.
Also, the school teacher wasn't necessarily a part of the community, but brought in from elsewhere to teach the children. Not being a permanent resident of the community, it was common to have the teacher reside with a family that lived nearby the school, whether that family had kids in school or not.
Comparison with Today
It seems that our one room schoolhouse is quite different from today. Let's look at some of the differences.
History of the bicycle:
There are several early but unverifiable claims for the invention of bicycle-like machines.
The earliest comes from a sketch said to be from 1493 and attributed to Gian Giacomo Caprotti, a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci. Hans-Erhard Lessing recently claimed that this last assertion is a purposeful fraud. However, the authenticity of the bicycle sketch is still vigorously maintained by followers of Prof. Augusto Marinoni, a lexicographer and philologist, who was entrusted by the Commissione Vinciana of Rome with the transcription of da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus.
Later, and equally unverifiable, is the contention that Comte de Sivrac developed a célérifère in 1791, demonstrating it at the Palais-Royal in France. The célérifère supposedly had two wheels set on a rigid wooden frame and no steering, directional control being limited to that attainable by leaning. A rider was said to have to sat astride the machine and pushed it along using alternate feet. We now know a two-wheeled célérifère never existed (though there were four-wheelers) and it was a misinterpretation by the well known French journalist Louis Baudry de Saunier in 1891.