Developing the Virtual One-Room Schoolhouse

Developing the Virtual One-Room Schoolhouse

Rising Costs Were Impacting School Field Trips

I spoke to our Board about a virtual One-Room Schoolhouse program a few years ago. COVID was not even part of our vocabulary at that time. We noticed that field trip transportation costs were significantly increasing, making it tougher for schools to go on multiple field trips. Schools were forced to become more selective as to which field trips they could invest in.

In addition to the concern about rising field trip transportation costs, our One-Room Schoolhouse property lacked a few critical elements when hosting students.

  • We did not have a bathroom onsite.
  • We could only fit up to 25-30 elementary children inside the schoolhouse at one time.

One-Room Schoolhouse Field Trip Solution for Local Schools

Both of these challenges were resolved when we hosted students from our local Sachem elementary schools. We rotated one bus of 25-30 students every 50-60 minutes. Therefore, the students were not on the property for a long time and typcially the bathroom was not an issue. And we were able to accommodate an entire grade over the course of 3-5 hours. It actually worked out very well. However, if the school was more than 5-10 miles away, our rotation plan was not very cost and time effective!

For about 4 years, we hosted students from the local elementary schools at the One- Room Schoolhouse and also did an in-school program for 5th grade students. Our Historical Society gave out an annual 5th Grade History Award to the 5th grade student who demonstrated an innate passion for history. We have honored 9 students over the past three years at Lynwood Avenue, Chippewa, and Waverly Avenue Elementary Schools.

Expanding our Local History Programs

However, if we wanted to expand our local history programming, we had 2 options:

  1. Add a bathroom and complete construction of the Terry House to provide extra space that could accommodate more students at one time AND/OR…
  2. Add a Virtual One-Room Schoolhouse program that could allow more students to get educated about what it was like to go to school in the 1850s.

Option 1 has been in the works for a while and is a very slow-moving process. So Option 1 was not going to allow us to expand our programming any time soon. And remember, this was pre-COVID! So Option 2 became the plan. We explored grants that could help to fund a very comprehensive virtual program.

And then COVID happened…and the grant opportunities disappeared. And we also realized that our local grant funding was most likely in jeopardy for 2021 and beyond. But there was some funding in 2020 which needed reallocation due to the cancelation of many events and fundraisers.

We brainstormed about what type of virtual programming we could do given the restricted funding. We had been working with a company called Frameless Technologies. They were introduced to us through a Gardiner Foundation Grant Seminar that we attended. Michaela Gaaserud, the CEO of Frameless Technologies, and I worked on virtual program options based on the funds that we did have, and designed a modified plan.

Change of Virtual Programming Plans

Our scaled down version of the virtual schoolhouse field trip would become a 360 degree inside and outside view of our 1850 Bald Hill One-Room Schoolhouse. It allows the user to navigate the schoolhouse and learn about all of the features and artifacts. A few of the artifacts are 3D images that can be twisted, turned, and viewed from all dimensions. All of the Schoolhouse features and artifacts are defined for educational purposes.

We developed an outline for the program and did the photo shoot with Frameless Technologies at the end of September 2020 before heading into the cooler weather. Frameless Technologies then did their magic, creating the images, and adding the educational content. At that point, we had a very interactive and educational tool for anyone to view the inside and outside of the One-Room Schoolhouse.

Accessing the Virtual One-Room Schoolhouse Programs

For visitors to our property, they can access this 360 view from a QR code on the property. For online users, they can access the 360 view from here.

With teachers in mind and the field trip curriculum that we previously taught, we took the 360 degree One-Room Schoolhouse images one step further. We added several videos and short quizzes on topics related to school in the 1850s including:

  • The President during 1850
  • The Origins of the American Flag
  • The Pledge of Allegiance
  • Recess & Games that were played
  • Food during the 1850s & what students brought for lunch
  • Chores – before, during, and after school
  • 1850-Style Clothing for Men, Women & Children
  • Student Punishments
  • Writing Instruments

After navigating the 360 degree images and taking a short quiz to enforce their learning, the students can then explore these additional topics in detail. Quizzes follow each section to enforce what is being learned. By the of the program, students have a thorough understanding of what school was like for a student their age in the year 1850.

Far Reaching Educational Impact

This Virtual One-Room Schoolhouse truly allows a student or adult to immerse into an 1850 setting and learn about all the aspects of student life at that time. We are very excited about the opportunity to still be able to educate students about local history during these challenging times. We are also thrilled that we were able to create a program that can bring us outside of our local footprint and educate students throughout the United States.

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Jennifer Ross is a Board Member of the Farmingville Historical Society. She is very focused on developing and expanding the Society's local history education programs both in-person and virtually. She hosts field trips to the One-Room Schoolhouse and history lectures at local elementary schools and designed the new One-Room Schoolhouse Virtual Education Program.