An Observer’s Report of the CSAA’s 7th Annual Conference at Rivier College
Nashua, New Hampshire June 18-20, 2007
Report submitted by Faith Sherman
Coordinator Susan Fineman, retired educator and schoolmarm in the District # 1 Schoolhouse, Nashua, NH, welcomed 65 delegates from 22 states to the opening session of the CSAA conference Monday morning, June 18. Twenty-one interesting presenters followed one another for the first two days, while country schoolhouse exhibits and books were on diplay in the conference room.
Jeff Murray, long time New Hampshire teacher, principal, and now law professor at Franklin Pierce Law School and Plymouth State College, put us all in the right mood with lovely photos from his extensive collection of New Hampshire country schools that are being kept as they were and not converted into other uses.
Helen Augustine of Emmetsburg, Iowa, a former country school scholar and author of They Opened the Door and Let My Future In, reminisced herself as she told about her school experiences and the conversations with former teachers of Palo Alto County which she collected for her book—noon activities, Christmas programs, and the last days of school, for instance. Those teachers had common sense, could do the work, and accepted the morals and the lack of job security that came with the position.
Dr. Mark Dewalt, Dierctor of Graduate Studies, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC, author of Amish Education in the United States and Canada, drew us into the events and drama of the Nickel Mines school tragedy of October 2006, which he was called upon to interpret to the outside world, and on this day to us. His moving account demonstrated his understanding and compassion for the Amish people, developed over many years of close and trusted relationship.
The "Traveling Schoolmarm" from Birmingham, AL, Susan Webb, shared some historical enrichment activities that she has used successfully in her country school teaching reenactments. The Country School Copybook she developed and shared is chock full of authentic period teachable lessons from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.
Dr. Mary Outlaw, Director of Field Experience and Student Teaching at Berry College in Mount Berry, GA, described the unique Possum Trot 3-room school there, which began in 1900 and evolved into a demonstration school for Berry College, and the experiences of Elizabeth Williams, a student teacher in 1951.
The remarkable artistic 1760s Job Jones Cipher Book and the school history of this scholar’s school were the subjects of Maureen O'Connor Leach’s presentation. She is manager of The Old Schoolhouse in Mt. Holly, NJ. dating back to 1759 and in continuous educational use since. She shared activity sheets she and her group, the Colonial Dames of NJ, have developed, which incorporate pages from the cipher book.
Dr. Pam Stover, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Music at the Southern Illinois University School of Music in Carbondale, IL, spoke on the 8th grade exams that were required of country school students in the Midwest in the first half of the 20th century, preparation for them, content, and administration. Before 1900 they were oral, then became written.
Janice Owens, Director of Education for the Preservation Foundation and the Little Red Schoolhouse in Palm Beach, FL, impersonated 1880’s teacher Hattie Gale and related the history of this Dade County school, dating back to 1886. She presented historical photos and those of her schoolhouse program.
Dr. Matthew Smith, Assistant Professor of Instructional Leadership at the College of Education at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, TN., drew from his dissertation a presentation on Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears Robuck from 1908-1924 and philanthropist who financed 1/3 of the funding for the construction of 5,000 Rosenwald schools for African American students in 15 southern states from 1862-1932, a fascinating history. His motto, “for the well being of mankind” meshed with Booker T. Washington’s goal of self-help. Architectural designs for these schools were drawn up at Tuskegee Institute and later at Vanderbilt University. Though few survive, the story is an important piece of 19th and 20th century rural education.
Carolyn Campbell, past president and present trustee of the Ocean County Historical Society, NJ and co-author of Chickaree in the Wall, identified 75 one-room schools in Ocean County that existed between 1843 and 1943 and drew from the extensive records kept by Charles Morris, county superintendent from 1906-1944, and his predecessors, to make a thorough and interesting presentation on the county school history.
Monday evening Betty and Charles Mencucci of the Burrillville, RI, Historical and Preservation Society, showed their award-winning documentary video, "Bell Tower Restoration," which captured the complete restoration of the bell tower on the 1897 Bridgeton School, a two-room structure used for instruction 100 years. The school has been restored to a Victorian representation; the cost of the project was $34,000.
On Tuesday, Mike Day, owner of Clippership Publications, who produces Resources for One-Room Schoolhouses, read in character from first hand accounts and diaries of scholars and teachers in the 18th and 19th centuries New England schools—not sentimental reminiscences, but the real story. Through Mike, you could hear the writer's voices.
Dr. Pam Stover appeared for another presentation, drawing from her dissertation, on singing and playground games from country schools, which can be used as reenactment activities.
Jessica Conley, graduate student assistant to Dr. Mark Dewalt at the Winthrop University College of Education in Rock Hill, SC, showed the pictures she has collected for her extensive project on one room schools that are on college campuses across the country. They are listed at www2.johnstown.k12.oh.us/cornell/universities.html.
Helen Thomas, retired teacher and preeminent storyteller and schoolmarm at Bundy School in Ottawa, IL, delighted us with three old stories and some tunes she played on her dulcimer, then suggested appropriate stories for schoolhouse reenactors.
Bill Sherman, author of Iowa’s Country Schools, compared the implementation of the standard school program in Iowa and Colorado. This program operated in 36 states during the time period from 1899 to 1949. It was a voluntary school accreditation program designed to improve rural schools.
Eleanor Ent, former teacher, and now schoolhouse preservationist and consultant, and owner/operator of the Concord Schoolhouse on her farm in New Alexandria, PA, showed pictures of the extensive restoration project she completed to bring her school from the brink of demolition to a fully restored building used for a variety of purposes. One such project involves the enlightenment of the curriculum students of her daughter Dr. Veronica Ent. Veronica, Education Chairperson and Director of Graduate Programs in Education at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, shared methods she has used at the school to engage her college students in authentic early American school curriculum.
Natalie Hemingway, music educator and tour operator, gave a history of the Fairhaven Academy dating back to 1798 and portrayed an 1843 school teacher named Jane Bartlett Allen at the Old Stone Schoolhouse established in 1828 in Fairhaven, MA. She included the story of the first Japanese scholar, Manjiro Nakahama, in the U.S. who attended the school after being rescued from an island in the Pacific and brought to Fairhaven by Captain Whitfield, beginning a relationship between two families’ descendants that has extended to the present.
Harriet Outlaw, retired public relations director for the Gulf Coast, Baldwin County, AL schools and coordinator of the Little Red Schoolhouse in Bay Minette, told the history of this African-American school established in 1921 and shared their program of reenactment. She shared extensive materials for reenactent and for encouraging school systems to utilize and support schoolhouse programs everywhere.
Dr. Lucy Townsend, curator of the Blackwell History of Education Museum and Professor of Education History at Northern Illinois University at DeKalb, IL, spoke about the process of gathering oral histories from former teachers and scholars, drawn from her experience directing an extensive project in Illinois. She provided participants with checklists and outlines to be used in similar history gathering efforts.
Terry Tang, Associate Professor-Teacher in Elementary Education at Husson College in Bangor, ME, reflected on a 1900’s picture of scholars in front of a one-room school in rural Maine showing two of the boys bearing rifles, tying arms and violence to recent occurrences of school violence.
Theresa Parmenter, president and descendent of the French Icarian Colony Foundation in Corning, IA, and her sister, Rita Hughes, shared the history of the Icarian utopian colony in Iowa from 1852 to 1898, and told of the ongoing restoration of their refectory and schoolhouse. The Icarians were the longest-lived non-religious experiment in the United States.
Nancy Hughes, schoolmarm from the Pittsboro Schoolhouse, Pittsboro, IN, led an informal sharing of ideas at a one-room schoolhouse round-table.
On Wednesday, June 20th participants took a bus tour to five school sites in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, organized by Susan Fineman.