NIU's Milan Township One-Room School now (top) and as it originally appeared decades ago.
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Contact: Rebecca Edwards
Blackwell History of Education Museum
September 19, 2006
DeKalb — One-Room Country Schools are more than quaint reminders of an idyllic past.
Their simple, rugged construction embodies much of the American character that shaped the last half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century of this country: independence, self-sacrifice, hard work, civic duty.
Children who walked a mile or so to school after doing their farm chores learned about responsibility and hard work. The ringing of the school bell not only marked the beginning of the school day, but also signaled lessons in morality and patriotism as well as reading, writing and arithmetic.
Teachers are invited to bring their students to the Milan Township One-Room School located on the campus of Northern Illinois University, along Annie Glidden Road in DeKalb. Students can learn about their northern Illinois heritage through experiences they can’t get from a textbook.
One-Room School staff offer living history programs in which children go through a typical day in a country school, beginning with reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
History becomes “real” as students enter the schoolhouse and see that it has no running water and realize that someone has to bring a pail of water to school everyday for drinking and washing hands. History becomes interesting as children hear amusing tales of life growing up on a farm or the hardships that were endured during the Depression.
There are lessons in penmanship, using pen and ink; lessons in reading using McGuffey Readers; and arithmetic problems using chalk and slate. A docent “schoolmarm” dressed in period clothing might lead the class in a spelling bee or outdoor games such as “Pom Pom Pull-Away” during recess.
Along the way, children are encouraged to share their own thoughts and observations about life in a one-room country school then compared to life in their school now.
Children also are encouraged to come in dungarees and cotton dresses typical of the turn of the century, and to pack lunches with foods that were available at that time.
The Milan Township One-Room Country School is part of the holdings of the Blackwell History of Education Museum in the NIU College of Education. Museum staff members are available to collaborate with teachers in planning field trips which support in-class learning activities. Pre-planned lessons which meet a number of state standards for social science are also available for either the 1900s or 1930s.
Teachers can schedule half-day or full-day programs, and there are no fees for school field trips.
For more information, or to schedule a visit, please e-mail Rebecca Edwards at the Blackwell History of Education Museum at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (815) 753-1236.
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