Ever since I was a little girl playing school with all my dolls and stuffed animal friends, I’ve always wanted to spend a day in a one-room schoolhouse; in fact, I dreamt of actually teaching in one when I was younger. I suppose I’m somewhat living my dream now, homeschooling my boys. My dad would tell me stories from his school days; and I was an avid fan of Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables, still am. When my boys asked to go on a field trip to Rocky Branch School here in Northwest Arkansas, I jumped at the chance to help chaperone the trip. I’m not sure who was more excited about this particular field trip, them or me.
The History of Rocky Branch School
Rocky Branch School was originally located on land near the Bland family homestead, all of which is now under Beaver Lake. It was moved to its current location in 1962 before Beaver Lake was filled. The cool thing is that past students are the ones who wanted to preserve the schoolhouse and thus moved it to where it rests now.
The Rogers Historical Museum runs a program for students all across the area. Both traditional school and homeschool students get to spend a day in the schoolhouse; that day includes period dress, lessons, recess (including all sorts of old-fashioned toys), and lunch. It’s a day when kids can literally take a step back in time and experience what school was like in a one-room schoolhouse.
A Day at Rocky Branch School
When we arrived at Rocky Branch School, we were welcomed by 3 teachers, all dressed as if we’d somehow entered a time machine and been swept back to the year 1905. Each desk held required texts, including McGuffey Readers and slates. Dressed up in period dress just like their teachers, kids all scrambled to find a desk. Girls sat on one side of the room and boys on the other, separated from each other by a wood stove in the middle of the room. The original chalkboards (over 100 years old), on which teachers’ names were written with a date of May 29, 1905, still hung in the schoolhouse.
The day started with the Pledge of Allegiance and then a spelling lesson, as each child wrote their spelling words out on the provided slates. Throughout the day, lessons focused on what it was like to attend a one-room school back in the day. There was time to draw on the board, time for tongue twisters, reading and more. Eventually, students got to experience a spelling bee.
Different forms of punishment were also addressed, including the switch, Toes and Nose (which sounded excruciating), and the infamous Dunce Cap. As for the various forms of punishment, it really struck me as to how much easier our kids have it today.
When it came time for lunch and recess, most of us sat inside to eat. Then everyone headed outside for a bit of fun playing with old-fashioned toys and games.
This was probably our favorite part of the day. As the kids ran around playing together, I could almost imagine we were back in the early 1900’s… Even through the ages, kids are still happy playing with the simplest of things or thinking up their own games to play.
After recess, all the kids made their own paper cups for a drink of water. Then they all lined up to have a turn ringing the school bell. They also created memory books, writing down their favorite memories from their day at Rocky Branch School; and they spent a little time signing each other’s books before it was time to go home.
The day went by so quickly. As we drove home with our windows down, breeze blowing in the car, the boys couldn’t stop talking about it. I’m pretty sure they ended up building their own schoolhouse in Minecraft.
Know Before You Go
Rocky Branch School hosts school groups and homeschool groups for field trips throughout the year. 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 schoolhouse, 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 schoolhouse. You definitely want to take your own drinking water, as there is no drinking water available. You’ll also need to pack a lunch.
Rocky Branch School is located about 12 miles east of Rogers, Arkansas, in Larue. There’s a Baptist church down the hill from the schoolhouse, and that’s where guests usually park.
If you’re lucky enough to chaperone a field trip, don’t hesitate for a second! It’s an experience you’ll likely never forget.