Students Experience History of One-Room Schools

Posted: August 18, 2022

Have you ever heard someone say, “Education sure has changed since I was a kid?” or “That’s not the way we did math when I was in school?”

It’s true education has changed a great deal in the 144 years that Old North Grove School has been standing, on its original foundation since 1878. But in so many ways today’s students really aren’t that different from when I was younger or when you were.

On a field trip to North Grove School, students reenact a day at the one-room school by walking to the schoolhouse, wearing period clothing, and learning the old style of education. Jenn Parsons has been taking her fifth graders for this experience for several years.

I have been a teacher at North Elementary School in Sycamore for 22 years and while even in my own classroom curriculum has evolved, the reality is that students today still read some of the same books I did, learn to work together and play games at recess reminiscent of playgrounds throughout time.

As the current president of the North Grove School Association and a fifth grade teacher, I have to say that my favorite day each year is our annual trip to Old North Grove School to experience how education has changed and how it has stayed the same.

North Grove School

Students spend several days in class prior to our trip exploring the history of one-room schools and the unique history of Old North Grove School. They learn about the Swedish immigrants that settled the area and built the school, what a day was like in school along with the daily chores and cooperation that went along with learning and growing together as a community, and how this school has an historic connection to a former slave.

On the day of the field trip students are asked to wear appropriate clothing, girls must wear skirts and boys wear long pants and collared shirts. They get creative in packing a lunch reminiscent of the era as well; many use wax paper with string, try their hand at making bread for a sandwich, or picking an apple from their own tree because on this day, no Lunchables or pre-packaged chips are allowed!

We walk the 1.1 miles to the schoolhouse from our own school and spend the day learning math, reading, geography and handwriting in the old ways as well as have a spelling bee. One of the most memorable times of the day is, of course, recess and the old-fashioned games such as “The Game of Graces,” “Hide the Thimble,” or “Rachel and Jacob.”

So, are kids the same today as they used to be? I say Yes! Because on this day I have the privilege of seeing them cooperate, laugh and run, soak up new ideas, take away memories that will last a lifetime and hopefully guide them in the right direction and show them compassion for others.

If you are interested in learning more about Old North Grove School, I encourage you to visit We invite field trips and groups to tour and utilize this unique learning environment.

Jennifer Parsons, 5th Grade Teacher at North Elementary, Sycamore & North Grove School Association President