Kalona Plays Host to Country School Preservationists
Submitted by Sarah Uthoff
The 15th Annual Iowa Country School Conference drew a capacity audience at the Kalona Historical Village in Kalona, Iowa on October 10th and 11th. People interested in one-room schools, their history, and their restoration filled the room to overflowing to hear one-room school experts both local and national.
Preservation Iowa and Bill Sherman organize this event each year traveling to different locations around the state. The annual event has a slightly different theme and this
year, nestled in the heart of Amish country in Iowa, the theme was definitely Amish schools. The Amish population has been quietly growing and helping to fuel a resurgence of the number of one-room schools around the country.
According to Mark Dewalt from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC, the number of Amish one-room schools has been growing at such a pace that they no longer can track the number of them. In the Kalona area the Amish schools are almost all former public one-room schools and while their practices are not the same, they serve as a living window on how such schools are used.
Other out of state speakers included Dr. Deborah Mink of Indiana University Southeast, Diane McGowen of Chicago, Tom Bobrofsky of the Reed School in Neillsville, Wisconsin, and Susan Webb of Birmingham, Alabama.
Webb’s presentation was of special interest to Iowans as she talked about the Latta’s Book for Teachers a resource produced by the Latta School Supply Company headquartered right here in Cedar Falls, Iowa. This useful guide was used by one-room school teachers around the country.
Another point of Iowa interest was Katherine Martin, current director of the UNI Center for Rural Education, who gave an update on their project to collect one-room school records from across the state in one place or at least list where they are housed.
A special display was set up by Jane and Paul Moody of Quincy, Illinois of numerous school antiques they’ve collected. The Moody's exhibit serves as a movable museum that has delighted audiences across the midwest.
A strong element of the conference was the only national schoolhouse organization, the Country School Association of America (www.countryschoolassociation.org). While the Iowa group is not a regional branch of CSAA, the connection is strong. Sarah Uthoff shared information about the organization and Dale and Joan Prouty traveled all the way from Hudson Falls, New York to talk about what they have planned for the 2015 national conference.
There were several special events during the conference. A silent auction of three quilted wall hangings served as a fundraiser for the organization, including a one-room school wall hanging. Conference participants toured the historic village. There was a piper, complete with kilt, who played during supper. The first day ended with Michael Zahs talking about one-room school programs, introducing a collection of puppets used in a one-room school and displaying a pitcher that his mother had won in a spelling bee at a one-room school.
The conference concluded on Saturday with a tour of one-room schools around the area. Normally this tour features one-room school museums, but this time they visited currently active Amish one-room schools.
Note: Thanks to Sarah Uthoff of the Country School Association of America and TRUNDLEBED TALES. Access Sarah's link here to learn more about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Sarah's radio show, research materials, and social media sites.