a fourth-grade student at Pleasant Hill Elementary School gets a
taste of old-fashioned school discipline writing I will not
talk out in class repeatedly on the blackboard at the Rockford
School, a restored one-room schoolhouse. Located at McEowen Elementary
School in Harrisonville, the schoolhouse serves as a living-history
classroom where students from Cass County can experience early public
Theres an uncommon
formality in Teresa Lallys fourth-grade class at Rockford School.
Students sit upright at their desks, raise their hands and wait to be
Accustomed to greater freedom
in the classroom, Shawna Sheldon speaks out of turn and finds herself
the subject of unwelcome attention from her teacher.
Shawna, go to the blackboard
and write 100 times, I will not talk out in class,
Sheldon laughs off the instruction
but Lally is serious. Even standing in front of the painted blackboard
with chalk in hand the fourth-grader hesitates and looks to the class
and again to her teacher for some clue that the joke is finished. It
When Sheldon has completed
about 10 lines of her assignment Lally smiles and tells her she may
sit down. This was just one of many lessons in 19th and early 20th-century
classroom discipline this day as Lally asks one student to stand with
her nose to a circle drawn on the blackboard and even suggests to another
there might be a switch waiting outside.
They dont have
that concept that a teacher could mistreat them and that would be fine,
Lally says. I dont think its appropriate. But its
kind of fun to play with it a little bit.
Classroom discipline is just
one subject of learning as students from Pleasant Hill spend the day
at Rockford School, a restored 19th-century one-room schoolhouse located
on the grounds of Harrisonvilles D.W. McEowen Elementary School.
The children also write with a quill pen, read aloud from McGuffeys
Eclectic Reader and compete in an old-fashioned spelling bee using words
from the book.
arrive by bus at Rockford School, where children originally walked
or rode ponies to school.
The Rockford School, originally
built in 1876 and closed in 1957, is now a living history classroom
where todays students can experience public education as it was
in the days before school buses and computers in every classroom.
I had a long-time dream
that we ought to bring a rural school in so we could preserve a little
bit of our rural heritage, says John Foster, a retired building
contractor who attended Rockford School from 1941 through 1949 and spearheaded
the effort to save the old school.
I wanted them to realize
that we had farm chores to do. We walked to school or we rode our pony.
There were a lot of economically deprived people but we got an education.
Judging from the results
of the spelling bee, it was a pretty good education. McGuffeys
vocabulary is a lot tougher than what students are taught today. Academy,
the first word on the list knocked 20 of Lallys 24 students out
of the spelling bee.
They were expected
to do a lot harder things than we have to do now, says Stacy Greufe,
another Pleasant Hill teacher who brought her students to the Rockford
School recently. I think its good for them to see that.
Graham tries writing with a quill pen. Students visiting the one-room
schoolhouse are encouraged to dress in period costume.
As much as the old lessons
differ from todays curriculum, the aim of the school is not to
highlight any failings in todays schools.
not about the good old days. Today is the good old days, Foster
says. Its about public education. We have to remember our
roots and what made this nation great. Public education is one of the
Foster is quick to recall
the history of public education in Cass County where Rockford was one
of 128 schools prior to school consolidations. Its a matter of
pride to him that the first school superintendent was hired in 1855,
just 20 years after the county was platted. Hes also proud of
the education he received both at Harrisonville High School and at the
I would not be the
one to ask about spelling, but math, yes. Man, it was tremendously interesting
to me from the time I was a first grader, he says.
Ive used that
math all the way through life. As a carpenter I was the guy who was
asked to cut the rafters and the stairs and things like that because
I understood how that went and could read the framing square.
Foster went on to operate
his own company building homes and commercial buildings. In 1995 he
dismissed his crews and retired to ply his skills on volunteer projects.
One of his top priorities was finding an old school.
In the summer of 1999 Foster
heard his old school was available. The building, then located about
five miles west of its current location, had been used as a hunting
cabin but was soon to be destroyed.
A fella came by and
told me, John, theyre going to burn your old school down,
Foster recalls. It took me about 15 seconds to make the decision
that Im going to go get that building.
Foster answers questions from fourth-graders in the Rockford School.
Foster attended the school and it was his idea to recreate it as
a living history classroom. The retired building contractor often
drops in on visiting classes.
Foster convinced the owners
to let him have the schoolhouse and rather than try to move the building
he dismantled it. Once he had the building safely squirreled away in
a warehouse, Foster approached the Harrisonville School Board with his
idea for a living history classroom aimed at fourth-grade students.
Foster pitched the schoolhouse as a way to make Missouri history
part of the fourth-grade curriculum come alive. The district
A 10-member committee made
up of Foster, community volunteers and several educators set to work
to raise funds. By the time the building was dedicated in September
2001, they had raised $145,000 in cash and in-kind contributions. Even
with that the project isnt done. Theyre still raising money
to complete a rural schools archive in the basement.
While that seems like a lot
to spend on a simple schoolhouse, times indeed have changed. Not only
does todays Rockford School have electricity the original
school was not wired until 1951 but also air conditioning, central
heat and a security system. It is also wheelchair accessible.
Hill Elementary School teacher Teresa Lally quizzes her fourth-grade
students on vocabulary words from McGuffeys Eclectic
Reader. The spelling bee based on the 19th-century schoolbook
proved difficult for the modern students.
Also, theres not a
lot of the original building left. Because of the age of the building
and the widespread use of lead paint it was necessary to discard nearly
anything exposed. Only the original flooring and framing lumber were
saved, as were a couple of light fixtures.
Despite the reconstruction
and up-to-date amenities, the Rockford School retains enough history
to allow children to slip back into another time.
Kids can go and role
play history for the day and imagine themselves living at that time,
says Donna Pfautsch, a gifted students specialist for Harrisonville
schools who developed the curriculum teachers use while visiting the
Rockford School.Its active learning. Besides seeing and
reading, you actually do.
The Rockford School has only
been in use for a few months but its fast becoming a valuable
resource not only for Harrisonville teachers but also for schools throughout
Cass County. Foster, who often drops in on visiting classes to answer
questions, says he hopes it will be used even more in the future.
Theres 95 fourth-grade
classes in Cass County. If all the superintendents of schools and the
elementary principals would understand what weve got here, what
a great teaching tool for kids this is, he says, his voice trailing
off as if considering the impact his dream could have on children.
Its great. Its
just great to see these little guys here, Foster says.
For more information call
the Harrisonville Public School Foundation at (816) 380-2727.