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Old schoolhouse, new teacher

Nadia Goblirsch (left) and Teagan Miller (right) discuss their math problems during the one room schoolhouse event Tuesday.

NEW ULM – This year’s one-room schoolhouse program brought youths back to June 1867.

The event allows the Brown County Historical Society to show students in grades K-5 what it was like to learn math, English, penmanship, and more a few years after the Civil War ended. Kids got to bring lunch pails with modern-era snacks and play with vintage items like a hoop and stick and 1800s-style baseball.

This year the program saw an increase in participants, enough to hold the program Tuesday and Thursday again. Last year the Brown County Historical Society was only able to bring kids back in time Tuesday due to a lack of registrations.

The old schoolhouse got a new headmaster this year, as Brown County Historical Society Museum Coordinator Candace Byron took over after Alissa Biebl retired. Byron said Biebl had been the teacher for around 15 years. As a former teacher herself, Byron said she was very interested after finding out the opportunity existed.

“I love working with kids and I love the community in Brown County,” she said. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to tie both of those together and be able to work with kids as well.”

Brown County Historical Society Museum Coordinator Candace Byron explains the rules before they go into the one room school house.

Before entering the schoolhouse, Byron asked the kids how they had gotten to school that day. She said in olden times, the only options kids had were by horse or walking, and each kid had to choose which way they had traveled.

Byron said the experience was similar to what she had expected, as she learned a lot from those who came before her.

“I was pretty well prepared based on the previous people that had had this experience,” she said. “It’s a different way of teaching. Having a lot of different ages from five up to 12 was probably the biggest difference.”

This was most apparent during the math section. Each grade level had its own set of problems to complete. The catch was each student could do whatever problems they wanted, regardless of their grade. Byron said this was to emulate the one-room schoolhouse experience. She said all the kids would be in one room and learn the same material, regardless of how old they were.

Byron said this instilled teamwork and compassion for others, as more advanced students would help younger or more inexperienced students to ensure everyone understood the material. She said instilling lessons and sharing this history with the next generation is meaningful to her.

Olivia Kuehn helps Audrina Smith with her bonnet before they enter the school house during the one room school house learning event. Everyone in the event is encouraged to dress up like they would in the 1860s.

“Keeping history alive and having children as well as adults understand what life used to be like and how it differs,” Byron said. “It not only preserves heritage, Brown County, and our history, but it also helps the students to realize how different and how challenging school was.”

Of the different activities, Byron said the slate boards they used to do math problems and the poems they recited for English were the kid’s favorites. As for the future, Byron said she is not going anywhere.

“I love this,” she said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity.”

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