Studying Advancing Education

Smith STEM students learn about one-room schoolhouse education
By: Todd Martin
Simultaneously looking back and gazing ahead, sixth-graders at the Smith Middle School STEM Academy are diving into the complexities of education.
They began researching school the first day of April with a guest from the era of one-room schoolhouses.
Vi Michler, mother of sixth-grade Smith teacher Angela Michler, showed students photos of the structure in north central Kansas near the Nebraska border where she attended school for three years.
The Cottonwood School of Corinth Township, Kansas operated on the windswept farmland from 1874 through 1960.
Michler attended the school three years from first through third grade, up to its closing before continuing her education in a Catholic school and eventually a public high school in nearby small towns Tipton and Downs. She graduated with a class of 45 students.
For the sixth-graders, the black-and-white photos seemed a world away.
She described an era where children walked to school, sometimes through harsh weather and teachers taught as many as eight grade levels at a time.
In one sense it was a harsher time when getting in trouble meant meeting with a ruler applied to your backside and lack of heating and air conditioning made life uncomfortable.
In other ways, though, she described a culture of close-knit, hardworking families that worked the land, celebrated holidays and attended church together.
Smith STEM Academy sixth-graders are exploring education through the Project-Based Learning model. Later in their study, they will go to the Bell County Museum in Belton and visit sites of former country schools as well as ongoing construction of schools soon to open locally.
Through their varied research, students will see the vast advancement of education methods, teacher Donna Blackburn said, explaining that instructors will allow students to draw their own conclusions.
Learning opportunities are vastly broader these days, said Michler, gesturing about the two-year-old building that houses KISD’s first middle school STEM Academy.
Part of the goal of the education project is to build a computer application to pass along to future Smith students insight into the school’s Project-Based Learning method.