Students learn about one-room schoolhouses and their pupils

Jordan Gerard

Spring Grove High School’s freshmen English class has been taking a trip down memory lane with people who attended school in one-room schoolhouses.

The class is using history to develop the district’s idea of a 21st century one room schoolhouse, according to Transformational Leader Gina Meinertz. 

“They want to understand what learning looked and felt like with this model and will compare this to our current system and the vision of where our school system wants to go,” she said. 

Students spent last Wednesday interviewing several people who attended school in a country schoolhouse. They were Doris Morken, Mary Deters, Gretchen Anderson and Linda Eiken. Jim Wilhelmson and Mary Mell were also interviewed another day.

After students collected their information from the four ladies, they will design a project of their own interest by the end of the semester.

Projects ranged from research papers on different topics like historical games, videos with animation, short chapter books, creating a website, comic book, cartoon and building a model of a one-room schoolhouse.

From the way students learned in the schoolhouse, ate lunch and played games, today’s students said they weren’t sure if they could go to school in a one-room schoolhouse.

However, the district wants to use the concept of all ages learning from each other to further the vision. Students are doing just that by connecting past educational models with possibilities for future models.

“Teachers, students and community members have created an innovative vision of where their educational system wants to go,” Meinertz said. “Through projects like these, we are teaching students how to organize their work [and] how to interact with a variety of age groups...”

Students are also learning how to evaluate, synthesize, analyze and compare experiences of each person. 

The final step is putting it all together in a presentation that will be useful to the community and world, she added.

Several students said they were enjoying the process so far and they especially liked hearing stories, sometimes humorous.

“They played games we’ve never heard of,” freshman Ty Cleven said. “It’s been a good experience so far.”

Classmate Xander Lewis added the interviews were a way for them to understand how their environment was different from today’s students’ experiences. 

Some schoolhouses did not have modern conveniences and some students were the only ones in their grade.

It was important that students see the history of how modern schools got their foundation.

“We can pass them [stories] down to generations to come,” student Maggie Lile said. 

Meinertz added that students are more motivated and the learning is more relevant when real people with real stories are involved.

“The best place to learn about history is by asking the people that lived it,” she said. “We also learn about the emphasis in learning to use primary sources, so that we make our own evaluations and analysis instead of depending on an author of a book to do this for us.”

Superintendent Rachel Udstuen is teaching the class, but was unavailable to answer to questions last week.

Spring Grove will also hold its first-ever Spring Grove Learning Showcase soon. The purpose will be for students and possibly adults and community members to showcase the learning they are most proud of from this school year. A date for the showcase will be announced soon.