Nebraska's One-Room Schoolhouses
School days, school days, dear old golden rule days. Readin' and 'ritin' and 'rithmetic...Welcome to our school daze. Here's a history lesson from four of Nebraska's historic one-room schoolhouses.
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Flowerfield School, Harrisburg
Our journey ends at the southwestern edge of the state in a remote Banner County with its charming little community of Harrisburg, where nearly 30,000 schoolchildren from the Panhandle have attended Flowerfield School since it was started in 1987.
The students take pride in wearing their pioneer clothes, and many of the adult supervisors on the class trips are parents who also took part in the classes. The Flowerfield School is a 19th-century loghouse that is now a part of this array of a dozen old buildings sitting on the grounds of Banner County Museum complex.
The school used to be a chicken coop and is so cramped that students only use it in shifts to practice penmanship by dipping their turkey-quill pens into the ink. Most of the classes are held in the white church that was built in the 1880s out of trees from the Wildcat Hills. The students also visit the sod house and general store. A wonderful feeling of prairie isolation takes them back more than a century into the past.
"Our museum has trees all around it, and you're isolated," said Judy Leafdale, the museum's office manager and all-around fixer. "You don't have any highway noises. It's easy for the kids to fall into the role of the pioneer era."
One of the longtime teachers, Janet Gardner, recently retired from the program but still treasures the many thank-you notes sent by happy youngsters after their visits. It is one of the most exciting events of their school year, yet everybody remembers to hush up that enthusiasm in the classroom
"We follow the Golden Rule of silence is golden," said Lois Herbel, who helped create the program and now delights in teaching here after retiring from full-time teaching in Gering. "The hardest part for me in teaching Flowerfield is to remember not to use 21st-century slang and to keep in the role of 1888 teacher."
But no matter what century we're speaking from, this Nebraska history lesson is worth singing about.
Contact to visit or volunteer!
Combs School: (402) 404-2024
Stuhr Museum: (308) 385-5316 ext. 205
Heritage School: (402) 441-8709
Flowerfield School: (308) 436-7228
UNK honors teaching pioneers
A STATEWIDE PERMANENT tribute honoring Nebraska's heroic educators of the one-room schoolhouse has a fitting home in the University of Nebraska at Kearney, where more than 20,000 teachers have been trained since the university first began in 1905 as the Nebraska State Normal School. On Friday, Sept. 20, UNK will unveil its Wall of Honor, where plaques for 35 of those schoolhouse teachers will shine out with their stories.
Each of the teachers on that wall have been honored through donations by family members and former students, and the $85,000 raised so far will be used for scholarships to educate UNK students who plan to carry on the teaching tradition with the university's One Room, One Teacher initiative.
At the ceremony, treasured stories of each of these honored heroes will be shared, including one special teacher who inspired UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen to get involved in education. It's the story about his mom, Mary Lou (Martin) Kristensen.
Now 82, she began her career as a teacher when she was 17 in a one-room schoolhouse near Minden in 1947, when she made $1,250 for that first year. After saving her money for two years, she got her degree at UNK's former Nebraska Teachers College and helped some other young Nebraskans blossom.
"We'll be able to remember the heritage of where education began and what really made it strong - the country school," said Chancellor Kristensen.
His mother's story and many others on that wall are celebrated by a program launched by Ed Scantling, dean of UNK's College of Education.
"Our No. 1 goal is to honor Nebraska' pioneering educators," Scantling said. "We thought it was really important to memorialize the efforts and paytribute to those teachers from those one-room schools. ... They faced many hardships when they went out there. They had to be self-reliant and innovative and make do with what they had."
For more information on the Wall fo Honor ceremony or to donate a plaque to the program, contact the University of Nebraska Foundation's Tracy Lungrin, who has helped spearhead this initiative. She can be reached at (308) 698-5278, or email email@example.com.
(This story originally appeared in the September/October 2013 issue of Nebraska Life Magazine)