Last Friday I talked with students at the Viroqua Elementary School in Viroqua, WI. I shared stories about one-room country schools, early Wisconsin history, and life on the farm before electricity, indoor plumbing, and central heating. I worked with third through fifth graders, in four different sessions.
The school has a special project for third-graders about one-room schools, so the questions bubbled up with little encouragement. Did your teacher beat you across the knuckles with a ruler when you did something wrong was a common inquiry. I answered that in my years at a country school, I was never struck with a ruler, nor was anyone else that I remember.
How many snow days did you have? Answer: none in the eight years I attended Chain O’ Lake School in Waushara County. Looks of disbelief on faces of the students. How could that be? Didn’t you have winter then? I explained that we all walked to school, students and teacher, so it didn’t matter how much it snowed.
Students in fourth and fifth grade were working on Wisconsin history projects, for them I talked mostly about early agriculture in Wisconsin, when the state was a major wheat growing state, indeed became the second largest wheat producing state in the U.S. in 1862, after Illinois. Then we talked about how Wisconsin became a dairy state.
I talked about how important I thought it was for them to study the history of their own community and what makes it special and different from other places. Their home county, Vernon, was a major tobacco growing area with a rich history associated with that crop..
After spending the day with about 250, interested, polite and full of questions youngsters, I left feeling good about the future. (Need I say I was also ready for nap.)
THE OLD TIMER SAYS: A good teacher is one who helps students become their own teachers.
February 24, 4:30 p.m. Demeter Winter Event, West Madison Agriculture Research Facility. Farms, Barns, Your Stories and Mine.
February 27, Southern Wisconsin Educational Inservice Organization. Monona Terrace Convention Center, Madison. 8:30-9:30: Old Farm, A History. 9:45-10:45: In a Pickle, A family Farm Story.
March 2, Neenah Public Library, 2:00 p.m. Barns of Wisconsin.