Living history

Boutwells resident, children bring one-room school to life

By ERIK SANDIN – Stillwater Gazette

OAK PARK HEIGHTS – A group of children more familiar with cellphones and computers saw the education clock turned back 100 years this week at Boutwells Landing.

The youngsters are halfway through a week of experiencing how children attended school and learned a century ago at the restored one-room McKean School on Norwich Parkway.

From 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the 17 students – three boys and 14 girls – will learn the way students were taught 100 years ago in a building constructed for the Washington County Rural School District 19 more than 150 years ago.

"We’re trying to recreate what it was like 100 years ago," said Arlette Egan, a retired Stillwater teacher. "We’re comparing then and now."

Leading the teaching effort is schoolmarm Marian Carlson, an 89-year-old Boutwells Landing resident whose mother taught at McKean School. A picture of Carlson’s mother hangs on the back wall of the school.

"I did teach at a one-room school and I went to a one-room school," Carlson said.

McKean School was originally constructed in 1861 two miles northwest of Lakeland. The building was moved to its current Norwich Parkway site in 2006 and restored by Boutwells residents, according to Boutwell’s spokeswoman Deb Campbell.

"When they got it done, they asked, ‘What are we going to do with it?’ " Campbell said.

Because the building does not have restrooms, Campbell said its uses are limited to tours during the summer and the one-week history camp. The camp was the brainchild of Boutwells residents, with Carlson volunteering to teach.

"My mother taught at this school. It’s because my mother had been here," Carlson said.

Egan said the camp offers numerous activities for the students besides 100-year-old lessons. The children planted a tree on the school grounds Monday morning and will perform a play for their parents later in the week.

"We’re trying to keep it fun for the kids," Egan said.

It’s not all reading, writing and arithmetic for the campers. Campbell said the children got to swim at Boutwells pool Tuesday.

However, the campers did experience some differences between attending school now and 100 years ago. One major difference – the boys and girls had to enter and leave the school through different front doors.

That was one example of how different it was for students a century ago, Carlson said.

"One hundred years is a long time. It’s forever for them," she said. "We just talk about now and then."

How authentic is the camp. Carlson said the campers can’t bring their cellphones with them.

"They say, ‘How could you do that. We couldn’t get along without our telephones,’ " she said about the children.