​Lessons to be learned from a one-room schoolhouse


Long ago, almost every American child attended classes in a single-room schoolhouse; today nearly 200 schools in 22 states continue that tradition.

CBS News

There's nothing like a desk and a chalkboard to bring back memories of the one-room schoolhouse. Unless, that is, you live in one of the American towns where these fabled schools are more than just a memory. They're alive and teaching. Our Sunday Morning Cover Story is reported by Barry Petersen:

For a century-and-a half, Montana's Pioneer Mountains have echoed with the young voices from the Divide, Mont.'s one-room school.

Yes, there are still one-room public schools in America. Today about 200 one-room schools carry on a tradition that's older than America itself. And while the frontier where they first appeared may be gone, the spirit that they helped create is alive and well in towns across rural America.

"This is the heart of the community," said teacher Judy Boyle.

At Divide School, Boyle loves what she does: "I have teacher meetings once a week. It's with me, myself and I. We get along really well!"

Divide School teaches grades K through 8. At times it's had as many as 30 students.

This year, with only three students, Boyle can give such individual attention, she makes lesson plans for each student.

There are three students at the one-room school in Divide, Mont. CBS News

"You're really designing something custom-made for these three kids. That's, I would think, a great thing to be able to do as a teacher," said Petersen. "

"It is, it really is," said Boyle, "because you can respect their differences and what makes them tick."

But there are some key similarities between a one-room schoolhouse and your neighborhood school. Take the cost: it's roughly the same per student, and all the schools have to meet the same state and national standards.

And sometimes, like at Divide, there are additional expectations at a school that has been operating since the 1870s.

"In these small communities, their schools are really important to them," said Boyle, "because the school is what generates the reputation of that town."

There was a time when almost every American child learned in a one-room school. In the 1700s, John Adams taught in a one-room school near Boston; Abe Lincoln was educated at a one-room school; and Henry Ford loved his so much, he had it moved to a museum in Michigan.