Want to see what school was like in the past? the Grant Center Country Schoolhouse has been restored to it’s original condition. Visit the building in Ida Grove, Iowa. In September of each year the school is opened for 4th graders from the area to come and experience a day from the past.
Some students come dressed in period clothing to get into the spirit of the event. The teacher rings the hand bell to summon them into the narrow hall where lunch pails are placed in neat rows on the painted wooden shelves. The coats, jackets, and caps are hung in the hallway on hooks.
Once inside, the students occupy old-fashioned two-piece seats and desks. The teacher’s desk and captain’s chair are on a platform at the front of the room. Flickering kerosene lamps illuminate the room. Rural electricity was not installed in the country schoolhouses until in the 1940s. Prior to that time, if it were a very cloudy day, the students had a difficult time seeing their papers. The windows were spaced where the light could shine through most of the hours of the day.
There is a pot-bellied black stove at the back of the room, the kind that heated the country schoolhouses many years ago. The recitation bench is at the front of the room near the teacher’s desk. There is a wind-up phonograph for music, and a Regulator clock high on one wall near the teacher.
The students have the experience of seeing an 1884 flag with 38 stars, and learn that Iowa’s star on the flag is the 29th star. Iowa joined the United States in 1846 and was the 29th state to do it. This flag is the same age as the country schoolhouse in which school is being held. The children learn about different flags and review some of their country’s history.
The boys and girls sit at old-fashioned country school desks and read from McGuffey’s Readers and other old textbooks, cipher on slates, compete in a spelldown (orthography), have map study for geography, and practice the Palmer method of Penmanship with old-fashioned pens dipped in ink.
At recess time, a pair of children draw a bucket of water from the hydrant outside, while others enjoy old-fashioned games, such as, "Drop the Handkerchief." Turns were taken playing on the teeter-totter. Probably the most memorable experience is using the outhouses that stand off to the side and a short distance from the schoolhouse.
Before lunch buckets are opened at noon, hands must be washed using homemade soap, water is poured over the hands into a basin, and the hands dried on the roller towel hanging on the back of the schoolroom entrance door.
The students then enjoy a history hike outside, a tour of the stable barn, the restored Stagecoach Inn, and hear a history of the first families to settle in Ida County. Historical Society members serve as hike leaders, taking their turns. Approximately 350 students and teachers attend each year with one classroom each day. Former country school teachers are the teachers at this country schoolhouse museum that once was called Grant Township No. 5 school.
This fabulous opportunity to explore the past is a true treasure to the state of Iowa offered by the Ida Grove citizens.
Location: Moorehead Park, at west edge of Ida Grove
Phone: (712) 367-2409