One-Room School Workshop

The Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance is once again sponsoring a one-room school workshop. It’s directed for anyone who attended or taught a one-room school, is interested in the history of one-room schools, and anyone involved with a one-room school museum. This year it will be held Oct. 10th and 11th. The first day is sessions and the second day is a caravan tour of one-room school museums. You can choose to do either or both. Speakers and topics are listed on the brochure.

Download a brochure Here:

Although not officially associated, this is basically the Iowa branch of the Country School Association of America and several speakers are members of that organization.

Questions/more information contact:
Bill Sherman 1-800-434-2039 or

Carole Jensen 1-515-233-2431 or

Paper Cup

Paper Cup Instructions
Paper Cup Instructions

 A few years ago someone was presenting on what their class did for one-room schools. Among the “totally authentic” things she did, was talk all about how pioneer children made “water carriers” by doing the typical orgami paper cup. From what she said she invisioned the small pioneers bravely clutching their “water carriers” to their chests as they fought their way to school uphill both ways. I thought it was just plain silly, but she wasn’t totally wrong, just off by a few decades. This type of folded cup was apparently used in some one-room schools as part of the sanitation and health movement that in part tried to get students away from the common dipper and into individual cups. Sometimes it was used when neither parents nor the school board wanted to provide individual cups at school, other times it was used because those cups weren’t getting good enough cleaning.  Either way the citation I found shows them being around for use in the 1920s and 1930s. Oh, they were called paper cups, not water carriers, I still have no idea where she got that and just to be plain, we hadn’t been pioneers in this part of Iowa for almost a 100 years when these cups were used.

I also should mention that I have made many of these cups (it’s one of my favorite tricks to keep a little kid temporarily entertained) and made with normal paper they can be re-filled two or three times as long as you don’t put too much water in and are careful. I’ve never tried to let one dry and see if it could be used again, but I’m a little doubtful that you could. If you do overfill them or aren’t careful, sometimes they don’t even last the once. I originally learned how to do it from my Disney Encyclopedia of Knowledge, so thank you Walt!

One-Room Conference In Spite of Floods

Originally I was supposed to go to the one-room school conference in Oxford, Ohio this week. Most of the week I thought I wasn’t going to be here, but my friend LeighAnn Randak of the Johnson County Historical Society (which is currently fighting of the flood) wouldn’t be stopped. It look us 13 hours door to door, but we made it, although getting around Iowa City and I-80 were the hardest part of the trip. Illinois was fine, but we had to keep detouring around high water and road damage in Indianna.

We had a single track yesterday with subjects ranging from one-room school lunches (me) to the use of reed organs and Victorolas to the McGuffey Readers. McGuffey taught here and they have a special collection of McGuffey Readers, papers and other writings. Yesterday we saw a special display from that collection and a copy of the world’s largest book which was also currently on display (although it was unrelated). Today in addition to the program we’ll be having a tour of the McGuffey house.