Farmers’ Market at Kelly’s Country Store: One-room schoolhouse

Note: This is part two of my story about the farmers’ market at Kelly’s Country Store, held this past weekend. On the grounds of Kelly’s Country Store is an old one-room schoolhouse, which was, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a functional school. I had, until Sunday, never been inside the school. On Sunday, I had the opportunity to visit the school and to see what a school looked like for children more than one hundred years ago. Below are some of the pictures that I took inside this living example of local history.

In Grand Island, as in many communities, during the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth centuries, many children were educated in one-room schoolhouses. Children, from first grade to eighth grade, were taught by one teacher in a single room. These schoolhouses were made famous by the series of books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Subjects taught included reading, writing, arithmetic, history, and geography. The students practiced their writing and their arithmetic on slate boards, which could be easily erased with a slate sponge or a piece of cloth. Slate boards were especially popular in one-room schoolhouses from the nineteenth century until early in the twentieth century.

According to CBS News (see stories of 21st century one-room school houses by clicking here),the one-room schoolhouse is not extinct. As of 2014, there were 200 one-room schoolhouses still operational in the United States.These schools function in rural areas. The classes tend to be small groups of children of a wide range of ages. In the very small schools, teachers create custom lesson plans for individual students. Older students help teach the younger students, which is a benefit for both older and younger students. The down side of being a student in a tiny one-room schoolhouse is that adjusting to a large high school is very similar to culture shock.

Today, children in one-room schoolhouses practice their lessons on ipads, instead of on slate boards.

One of the teacher’s job was to get to the school early and get a fire going in the potbellied stove. Teachers, who were not paid well, often boarded with a local family. All students were given jobs. The youngest students had to clean the erasers for the chalkboards, and the older students had to bring in the water and the coal or the wood for the stove.

As in any school, the teacher had a desk facing the students.

Each desk had an inkwell. When the children wrote on paper, they used dip pens. Eventually, fountain pens with cartridges became common, and the inkwells went out of favor.

This is a common form of entertainment in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

One-room schools served many other functions as well. On Sundays, many of the one-room schools were transformed into churches and chapels.

I enjoyed my visit to the one-room schoolhouse. History, when presented in three dimensions as was this schoolhouse, comes alive. History is not just a dead listing of dates and facts. The word history has, within it, the word “story.” This schoolhouse offered an interesting story about how people had once lived in my own community.

Your turn: In the comments section, tell me about places in your community that give life to history.

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