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Purdy School Program
Purdy School One-Room Schoolhouse
The Purdy School is located on the campus of John A. Logan College and the Museum oversees the preservation and activities of the School.
Every spring and fall area school children are invited to attend the Purdy School to experience history firsthand. The day-long experience features math, reading, and writing lessons presented by volunteer teachers. Students use quill pens, read on the recitation bench, write on slates, and play period games at recess.
Background History for Teacher Preparation
“The first community structures built by the early settlers on the frontier were churches and schools. Because early education was closely linked with religious learning it follows that one-room schools tended to look like small churches.” www.colescounty.net/schools
- Schools generally had two short terms, one in winter and one in the summer. More students could attend in the winter when they were not needed for the multitude of chores on each farm.
- Tax supported schools began in 1855 in Illinois , and local families in each township in the county were assessed fees. The township was made up of thirty-six sections; each one was one mile square.
- The schools were usually sited on a half-acre of ground, which was sometimes donated by a particular family, and sometimes the school was named for that family or for a natural feature of the location of the school.
- Each school district was comprised of four to six sections and the school house was located as centrally as possible. Since each section is a mile square, some children walked as far as three miles or more.
- The early rural teachers had little training, and were poorly paid. Young, unmarried women, some frequently still in their teens, were often chosen. They usually boarded with families in the area, and followed strict guidelines for behavior.
- Initially teachers had little formal training and only had to pass a test to be issued certificates to teach in their county.
- As the teaching profession developed, many teachers continued to pursue further education in the summer months by attending normal schools, which were training schools for teachers.
- Southern Illinois University began as a normal school. Some teachers saved enough money to attend the normal school full time to finish their degrees and return with lifetime certificates to teach in their counties.
- Teaching was one of the first acceptable professions for single women, and paved the way for women to continue to pursue education and careers outside the traditional confines of the home and family.
The 3 “R’s”
- Most one-room schools housed many students of varying ages and abilities, and functioned with only the basic resources—slate, chalk, a few books, and perhaps a map.
- Teaching focused on learning good penmanship, literacy, arithmetic, good manners, patriotism and religion.
- The first book in the classroom was the Bible, and students memorized and recited passages from it and copied passages to learn penmanship.
- The New England Primer was used between 1760 and 1843, and the McGuffey Reader was introduced in 1836. This set of six readers, based on significant world literature, increased in difficulty as the student progressed. The series’ moral overtone taught basic human values of honesty and charity, along with literacy. It was also for many students their only exposure to the world outside their rural agricultural communities.
One-room schools continued well into the twentieth century in rural areas of America, but as the population grew schools became consolidated and the one–room school began to disappear. It is interesting to note that once again the benefits of multi–age classroom settings is being rediscovered and implemented into experimental classrooms in our modern educational setting. The Unity Point School district in Carbondale has implemented such a program for first and second-graders.
A Day in the Life of the One-Room School. Dekalb, Illinois: Northern Illinois
University, 1987. Videorecording.
Caudill, Rebecca. Schoolhouse in the Woods. New York: Dell, 1989.
Fiction for juvenile audience.
Fuller, Wayne Edison. One–Room Schools of the Middle West: An Illustrated History. Lawrence , Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1994.
Graves, Kerry A. Going to School in Pioneer Times. Mankato, Minnesota: Blue Earth Books, 2002. Elementary and Junior High School.
Hausherr, Rosmarie. The One–Room School at Squabble Hollow. New York: Four Winds Press, 1988. Juvenile audience.
Kraus, Robert. Good Morning, Miss Gator. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Silver Press, 1989. Juvenile audience.
Leight, Robert L. Country School Memories: An Oral History of One–Room Schooling. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1999.
Websites for Additional Research
Schoolhouse History, prepared by Edutel. Provides lesson plans for exploring the history of the one-room school in local communities. www.edutel.org/hissoc/new_hissoc_schoolhouse.
One-Room School Links. Information on one-room schools in Ohio as well and other states and Canada. www.johnstown.k12.oh.us/cornell.index
Iron Hill School: An African American One-room School. A complete unit and lesson plans are located on the site prepared by the National Park Service’s, Teaching with Historic Places. www.cr.nps.gov/nr/twhpl/wwwlps/lessons/58ironl
One-room school links. www.cedu.niu.edu/blackwell/linkschoolz
Living History. www.cayuganet.org/genoa.rural.life.museum/school