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Growing up, my dad would tell me stories of his days in the one-room school house before he and other kids were sent to the public school in town. Reading books like the Little House stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Anne books by L.M. Montgomery, I had this recurring fantasy of wanting to not only attend school in a one-room school house; I wanted to teach in a one-room school house. When we had the opportunity to spend a day at Rocky Branch School with our homeschool group, the boys wanted to go, so I jumped at the chance to chaperone.
I had never heard about this charming piece of history right in our own back yard, and a few of the other moms I talked to were in the same boat. We were all snapping pictures of our kids, and the teachers actually encouraged us to do so. I had no intention of writing about the field trip, but the memorable experience honestly led me to do so.
And boy, was it ever a step back in time…
Field Trip to Rocky Branch School
As we arrived, we walked in to 3 teachers and desks all set up with the required texts, including McGuffey Readers and slates. Girls sat on one side of the school room, boys on the other. The teachers and most of the kids were dressed in period dress, which made it even more of an authentic experience. The original chalkboards (over 100 years old) still hang in the school house, and the teachers’ names were written with a date of May 29, 1905.
The day began with the Pledge of Allegiance and then a spelling lesson; the kids got to experience firsthand writing their spelling words on a slate. Throughout the day, lessons focused on what it was like to attend a one-room school back in the day, students even participating in a real, live spelling bee. There was time to draw on the board, a time for tongue twisters, reading, and more.
Different forms of punishment were addressed, including the switch, Toes and Nose (which sounded excruciating), and the infamous Dunce Cap. In terms of punishment, it really struck me as to how much easier our kids have it today. Whew!
Lunch and recess were especially memorable, my boys’ favorite part of the day. Most of us sat inside to eat, but when recess came, all the kids headed outside to play with old-fashioned things like hoops and other homemade toys. As the kids ran around playing together, I could almost imagine we’d traveled all the way back to the early 1900’s… Even through the ages, kids are happy playing with the simplest of things or thinking up their own games to play.
After recess, everyone created their own paper cups for drinking water. They also lined up to have a turn ringing the bell outside. Before leaving, everyone created their own memory books, writing their favorite memories from the day and getting others to sign their books.
The day went by so quickly, and as we drove home, windows down, enjoying a rare afternoon of sunshine, the boys couldn’t stop talking about it. I think they even decided to build their own school house in Minecraft. Go figure!
Things to Know Before You Go
Rocky Branch School hosts school groups and homeschool groups for field trips throughout the year. Students get to experience historical dress, lessons, lunch (bringing their own lunch, with suggestions from the school), and recess. The school day starts at 9 am and generally ends around 1:30 pm. Rogers Historical Museum provides the cost, so there is no charge.
Even though the old outhouse is still standing up on the hill behind the school house, a porta-potty is available for visitors and guests. The teachers have hand sanitizer available, and they also make soap available beside the faucet on the side of the school house. You definitely want to take your own drinking water, as there is no drinking water available.
There is a Baptist church down the hill from the school house, and that is where guests usually park. Rocky Branch School is located about 12 miles east of Rogers, Arkansas.