In Pilot Point, TX before class begins teacher Nadine Pitzinger warns her students to watch out for jaguars and coyotes when they go outside for recess, writes Ava Thomas Benson. “Wild animals might not be a problem for today’s students but it goes with the territory for students attending school in 1898 in the town’s one-room Bloomfield School House,” said Benson. “Ms. Pitzinger is the school marm for the Pilot Point Main Street program, which has sponsored daylong field trips for the last five years for fourth-graders in some Denton County schools.”
Even recess had an 1890s pull at the Bloomfield School House as captured in photos by Al Key. “We cover the area of 1883 to about 1912 but we pretend that it’s about 100 years ago,” said Pitzinger in a recent article. “The only thing we can’t let them do is go barefooted.”
Boys and girls sit apart in Pitzinger’s class during this special trip back in time. In the article Pitzinger said she encourages the students to take their time travel seriously, visiting students in their modern-day classrooms a week before their field trip to tell them what they should wear, what kind of food they should pack, and what they should pack it in.
They pack boiled eggs, apples, and other items in cloth rags and tote them to the schoolhouse where they pretend for the day that it’s a sunny May day in 1898, wrote Benson. For recess students play old-fashioned games of Annie-over, tug of war, and Flying Dutchman, according to Benson.
With no electricity and no air-conditioning the single room is lined with windows according to research. But Pitzinger can’t totally erase 2006 from the experience, she says. When a student comments midway through the day that the experiment is “cool,” the teacher laughs and tell him, “Oh, but that word didn’t exist 100 years ago.”
These “no-frills” schools didn’t have art, music, or languages but were just “reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic.” In the 1800s through the early 1900s pictures of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were mounted on the walls of all schoolhouses along with an American flag in the corner.
In many parts of the country one-room schoolhouses began in log cabins of literate pioneers. Besides actually giving of their time and resources to build the schools parents would contribute money to pay the teacher and take turns providing room and board for her.