Carrying a lard pail as a lunch bucket, two yellow pencils, and a five-cent pad of paper, five-year-old Jerry Apps took his seat in Chain O’Lake School in Waushara County, Wis., a one-room school where one teacher educated children spanning eight grades in a single classroom. Though his one-room educational experience may seem unusual in 2016, his experiences were not unique in 1939. In fact, from 1791 when the first school was established in what is now Wisconsin to the consolidation of the state’s rural school districts in the 1960s, thousands of Wisconsin – and American – children were educated in one-room schools.
The Wisconsin Historical Society Press recently reissued Apps’s classic documentation of this shared educational experience, One-Room Country Schools: History and Recollections. The reissue revisits one-room school history along a timeline crafted by Apps’ timeless prose, vivid recollections, and stories told to him by former one-room school students and teachers. From the organized chaos of teaching disparate age groups in one room to tales of recess, holiday programs and classroom mischief, Apps provides a lively and detailed portrait of what it was like to be educated in the same room as one’s siblings. More than just memories, this book provides insight into the value of the highly localized and more personalized educational practices of the past.
This reissue includes a new foreword by the former pupil-turned-author, Jerry Apps. A complimentary Society Press book for young readers, One Room Schools: Stories from the Days of 1 Room, 1 Teacher and 8 Grades, was written by Apps’ daughter Susan Apps Bodilly, a school teacher. For more information visit wisconsinhistory.org/whspress.