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LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL
Department Of The Interior,
Bureau Of Education,
Washington, June 21, 1913. Sir: The need of a better adaptation of the organization, spirit, and work of the rural school to the needs of rural life is generally admitted. Like all important changes in established systems and practices, this adaptation must come gradually, through many experiments more or less successful. The record of any such experiment, therefore, has much interest and value. A noteworthy experiment of this kind has been carried on for something more than two years in the Experimental Rural School of Winthrop College, Rock Hill, S. C, by Mrs. Hetty S. Browne, under direction of the State supervision of rural schools, in cooperation with the president of the college. The accompanying manuscript contains some account of this school, its methods and work. The style is simple, and many details interesting to the practical teacher are given. I recommend that the manuscript be published as a bulletin of the Bureau of Education.
Respectfully, P. P. Claxton,
The Secretary Of The Interior.
About 79 per cent of the rural schools in the Southern States have only one teacher. It is evident, therefore, that a plan must be worked out which will enable this single teacher to make her school a factor in the development of the life around it. On November 2, 1910, the Peabody Board appropriated $600 to work out such a plan. It was finally decided to attempt this through an experimental rural school in connection with Winthrop College, Rock Hill, S. G, under the direction of Mr. W. K. Tate, State supervisor of rural schools, and in cooperation with Pres. D. B. Johnson and members of the faculty of Winthrop College. Mrs. Hetty S. Browne, a teacher in the city schools of Spartanburg, agreed to undertake the experiment, which was started March 21, 1911.
At the outset the effort was to see clearly: First, what the farm wife must do all her life; second, what the farmer must do all his life. Then, regardless of tradition, the resolve was to make a school that will train the farm children for their future work in the home, on the farm, and in the social life around them.
It was recognized that activity has given the race its power. Man began by making crude weapons and tools out of wood, bone, stone, etc., and throughout the history of the race education has been in activity, not in books about it. Hence we began frankly with the activities of the farm, both in the home and in the fields. The children from the outset, felt a joy in the work. This stirred an interest in all their tools: plows, hoes, books, pencils, paper, everything used in furthering their work. Thus they became their own teachers and teachers of all those in contact with them. They mastered reading, writing, drawing, out of their own zeal which was born of the interest that grew out of their progress.
Simultaneous activities are made possible by this interest. A visitor will see a group working in the garden, another group on the veranda sewing, another in the kitchen at a cooking task, another in the workshop, and still another at their numbers or reading with the teacher in her room.
With these activities are related such essential technics as drawing, reading, writing, numbering, and modeling; so that the children master these largely without the irksome effort that is characteristic of the old schools. How this is clone will be seen especially from Mrs. Browne's account of the corn cycle.
It will be noted that the exercises are ordered so as to develop the body along with the organs of sense and the mental power. The content of the words the children learn along with their activities is both concrete and vivid. From the outset they are led to put facts together and draw conclusions.
The purpose was to get at a practical working plan. For this reason the school was called "experimental" to distinguish it from the so-called model schools. The aim was not a cut-and-dried plan, but rather a working idea to enable the teacher to create a growing agency for the development of farm life.
Through Pres. D. B. Johnson the college provided house and grounds. The college likewise put in the simple equipment, which is within reach of any country community. The results warranted the college in taking over all the expenses after the first session. This success is due primarily to Mrs. Browne, who has developed the experiment which she graphically describes in this bulletin.
A. P. BOURLAND.
Washington, D. C, July 2,1913.
AN EXPERIMENTAL RURAL SCHOOL.
The so-called good country schools are generally only poor copies of the city schools near them. They are likely to have all the formality and dry bookishness of the city, simply because the city is looked upon by country people as the source of everything good, schools included.
In establishing our experimental school, we endeavored to begin as far as possible without preconceived notions. It was to be essentially an "experimental " school, where we hoped to discover things. We tried to rid ourselves of the traditional schoolroom idea. We planned for no desks, for instance; in short, we sought to make a new start in school plant and equipment. Dr. Bourland had suggested a house and furniture suitable for a well-to-do farmer. Near the college campus we found a house which seemed to answer our purpose. It was a more or less typical farm dwelling, with a large veranda. Roses and vines clustered about it, and flowers grew in profusion everywhere on the grounds. There were plenty of trees to give shade; fruit trees, a mulberry tree, and two Carolina poplars. The house had an attractive, homelike appearance, inside and out, and with a little work by the college carpenter it was easily made ready for our occupancy.
We determined to fit up three of the rooms. The first we furnished somewhat like a sitting room. The center of attraction here was a long table with a burlap cover, on which the following books were temptingly displayed:
Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes.
Mother Goose Nursery Tales.
Popular Tales from the Norse.
There were several copies of some of these books. Artistic curtains of ecru scrim were so hung as to soften the outlines of the windows without obstructing the* light. Pots of plants were placed on a S428°—13-—2 9