Did you know that in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, most small towns and rural areas had a one-room school? If you’ve never read or watched Little House on the Prairie, you may not be familiar with the term, but a one room school is exactly what it sounds like…a single free standing building where a teacher would instruct students of various ages and (usually) elementary grade levels.
In a one-room school, the teacher would teach the specific grade level material to the students of that grade, while the other students would typically read, practice writing, or simply listen. Students often had small hand-held chalkboards (called “slates”) to write on. In many schools the teacher would cook lunch for the students and, in the winter months, would come to school early enough to fire up a wood stove for heat. In some places, the teacher actually lived at the school in an adjoining or nearby building.
While functioning one-room schools aren’t nearly as commonplace as they once were, some do still exist in the US, though obviously in a much more modern fashion. Modern one room schools often have dual teacher teams that allow them to share responsibilities, as well as allow each teacher to work separately with groups of students. Naturally, the slate has been brushed aside in favor of computers!
Some of the original one-room schools have been preserved, and still stand as historical landmarks. Some of those have even been converted to museums, like in Calvert County and Queen Anne’s County in Maryland, as well as Harrisburg, Nebraska, and are open to the public.