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Interpreting the Evidence

Horse-Drawn School Wagon, n.d.

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Horse-Drawn School Wagon, n.d. in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Photograph of an example of a horse-drawn school wagon (bus), n.d.
Historical Context
Since 1900, the total number of school districts nationwide has decreased from 150,000 to fewer than 16,000.  In New York, the decrease has been from 11,000 to 720.  Schools had to consolidate, or combine, and serve a larger number of students from a greater area.  As a result, students needed a way to get to their new schools, which might be farther away.

At first, it was typical for a local farmer to be paid by the state government to carry students in a horse-drawn wagon to school.  Later, school wagons were purchased to transport students to their schools.  The need to transport all children to school, combined with the fact that rural schools began to serve a much larger area, made school buses a vital part of public education.

Essential Question
How does culture influence a society's education system?
Check for Understanding
Describe the object in the photograph and identify key characteristics of the American education system during this time period.
Historical Challenges
When and where was the first school wagon used to take children to school?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: What percentage of school districts nationwide can be found in New York State?