One Room Schoolhouse: What's it Like?

Tuesday, July 2, 2019
Children exiting the one room schoolhouse in Cody, Wyoming.


What's it like teaching and learning in a one room schoolhouse? 

The one-room schoolhouse may seem like a distant memory from U.S. history, but about 200 of them still exist today, including tiny Valley Elementary School in Cody, Wyoming. It has only six students, but in Wyoming, education funding is redistributed so that students can have access to similar resources, no matter how small or remote their location. Mason Baum of Student Reporting Labs has the story.

Watch the video and answer the discussion questions below. You may want to turn on the “CC” (closed-captions) function and read along with the transcript here.



One Room Schoolhouse Discussion Questions

1) Essential question: What are the advantages and disadvantages of going to a small, rural school?

2) Funding for many school districts across America is based on property taxes. The wealthier the community, the higher the property taxes and the more funding there is for schools.

  • How is Valley’s funding model different than the property tax model? (Jillian Balow, Wyoming superintendent of public instruction, explains how the state funds small schools like valley: “Wyoming spends between $15,000 to $18,000 per student per year in K-12 education. Among the top in the nation and maybe unique to Wyoming is our funding model that recaptures money from our wealthy districts and redistributes those to school districts that we call entitlement districts.”)

  • Which system seems more fair to you? Explain your response.

  • How might the level of funding affect the quality of the schools?


State GRade on school Finance - how does a One room schoolhouse in Wyoming succeed?


3) What effects do you think a school closing has on its students and local community?

4) Media literacy: This story was produced by NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs, NewsHour’s youth journalism program. What kinds of preparation (referred to as pre-production) do you think the students had to do before filming the piece?

One Room Schoolhouse Extension Activity

Check out Extra’s resource on PBS’ Time for School: #WhyIGo2School Lesson Plan

For 12 years, PBS followed six school children from six different countries in the documentary series “TIME FOR SCHOOL.” After watching these short segments, students will learn about multiple factors that may affect a young person’s ability to go to school throughout the world.

Students will then write a short personal essay that they may post on Instagram or Twitter using #WhyIGo2School along with a picture that helps communicate their own experiences going to school.

Visit PBS NewsHour Extra for more education resources designed to help teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories. You can read the original story here@NewsHourExtra