I want to share a set of photos with you today taken by Don Burke in an Amish schoolhouse in Missouri. This great set of shots shows a lot of detail inside a school in a fairly progressive Amish community.
Even though I describe the community as “fairly progressive”, much of what you’ll see here has a quite old-fashioned look about it. Amish schools tend to be that way. And I have to say some of it reminds me of my own elementary school experience in the 1980s.
Now, I went to a school in the city, not a one-room schoolhouse. But still a lot of this felt familiar to me given the era. Maybe you’ll feel the same. So let’s have a look inside.
Inside the School
Here’s a wide shot showing the classroom. Amish schools typically stay a relatively small size, around 20-30 pupils (aka “scholars”). They can be larger or smaller than that. Amish will build new schoolhouses as the community grows. Being able to get to one easily is important as children will walk, scooter, bike, or take a pony cart.
Here’s a closer look at the bookshelves in the back of the room. Among the selections are a set of World Book encyclopedias and a Childcraft set.
Another angle showing the colorful artwork and many windows letting light flood into the schoolhouse. A cheery place.
Other books and materials. I can’t say for sure but on the upper left those might be individual scholars’ grade records. Or maybe not, there might be too many of them. A Bible rests on the top shelf.
Looking on the opposite side of the room, we can catch a partial glimpse of the teacher at her desk.
So this might come as a surprise to some, but here you have a dividing curtain. What is that for? Well, in some Amish schools they will split the group into grades 1-4 and 5-8. Two teachers or a teacher and assistant will handle the groups separately.
Here we see a German alphabet. School is where Amish children learn High German, their third language after Pennsylvania Dutch and English.
These desks remind me of ones I sat at in my earlier elementary years. The one-piece metal design is quite familiar, though the ones I remember were a somewhat different model. You can see these have been around awhile. They may not be the most beautiful to look at, but they remain functional and are put to good use in this Amish school.
Looking towards the back of the room we can notice a filing cabinet and heat source.
“The Cleaning Wheel.” A nice way to dole out school maintenance tasks. Among the tasks we have “Sweepers”, “Clean Blackboard”, “Wash Glasses & Clean Sink”, “Move Desks”, and…toilet duty. One of the many ways Amish children learn humility?
Having a look at the teacher’s area, or rather the teachers’ areas. Here you can see the dividing curtain fully pulled back and teachers’ desks on both sides.
The blackboard (or is it “greenboard”?). I wrote on these with old-fashioned chalk (and I cringe just thinking about it) until in later years we made use of dry erase boards. Do non-Amish children still use black/greenboards and chalk?
Amish schools do not have formal religious instruction, but they do have Bible readings and prayer, and sing religious songs in schools.
Softball is perhaps the most common game played in Amish schools. Scholars’ mitts and hooks with names for hanging garments.
In the corner you’ll notice a box with bats.
And a look at the batter’s box from the third-base perspective. That might be an outhouse behind the backstop.
And here we see the playground area with swings and see-saws (or teeter-totters, I guess depending on where you’re from).
During my most recent visit to an Amish schoolhouse (December), I joined in a game of soccer. This is more popular in colder weather in Lancaster County schools, though softball and other games remain popular as well. I don’t know how much soccer has taken off in other communities.
Finally, let’s have a look at some of the school’s amenities. For dark mornings and winter months, this gas mantle light will add extra illumination to that provided by the numerous windows.
And a closer look at the heating. Right around the corner you will see a fire extinguisher. And beyond that it appears to be another partial glimpse of a teacher. This may be an area for teaching children with special needs, though I’m only speculating.
So this is likely the highest-tech piece of equipment in the school. Amish schools in more progressive communities will have copy machines/printers to produce handouts and the like. Note power source at bottom left.
And last but not least, a sink with water source. You can see the children’s cups, each with a name written on the bottom or side. Cleaning this area up is someone’s job, according to the “Cleaning Wheel.”
I hope you enjoyed that look inside an Amish school. Did anything here remind you of your own school experience?
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