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One-room schoolhouses reenact early-day Oklahoma classrooms for students

Perry, Enid among communities that offer students a glimpse of what school was like in Oklahoma's early days through living history reenactments and scholars' programs.
BY MAX NICHOLS Published: September 25, 2011

It was back on Sept. 6, 1988, that “A Day at Rose Hill School” was started officially by the Oklahoma Historical Society to educate students about history after three years of planning by Ceilia Stratton and Kathy Dickson.

Since then, 63,337 students have attended the 1895 one-room school at the Cherokee Strip Museum in Perry, including 2,793 scholars plus 812 teachers and parents over the past school year, said museum director Peggy Haxton.

That remarkable accomplishment is just part of the extensive education history efforts by the Historical Society.

The Turkey Creek School at the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center in Enid also offers a one-room schoolhouse program, and a variety of living history events and reenactments are presented at OHS museums and historic sites each year across the state.

“The largest of these events always feature an education day component,” said Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Historical Society. “These include the Oklahoma National History Day contest, the Fort Gibson Fall Encampment, Fort Towson Education Day, the Honey Springs Battle Reenactment, the Land Run Festival at the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center and the Fort Washita Civil War Weekend.”

In addition to these programs, 84 Oklahoma schools in 36 counties are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, said Melvena Heisch, who directs the National Register program in Oklahoma.

“The Rose Hill School program won an interpretation award from the American Association for State and Local History,” said Dickson, director of OHS museums and historic sites. “The program originally was offered two days a week. This school year it is offered four days during most weeks plus a few Mondays.

“Fourth-grade students come from all over the state to the Rose Hill and Turkey Creek schools for an enlightening and educational experience on what it was like for young people who lived in 1910,” she said.

The scholars, as they are called, are dressed in period clothing and carry makeshift syrup buckets containing their lunch, said Dickson. They pretend to travel back in time to become scholars at one of Oklahoma's early one-room schools. They are greeted by a “stern-looking schoolmarm,” said Dickson.

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