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Interpreting the Evidence

School Interior, Near Princetown, c. 1900

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Era:

    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:

    Central New York
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load School Interior, Near Princetown, c. 1900 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Students sitting at their desks in a one-room schoolhouse near Princetown, New York, circa 1900.
Historical Context
This is a photograph of a typical American school around 1900.  Students walked to school in those days.  They would go home for lunch or bring a lunch from home.  Girls wore dresses to school, and the boys wore knickers or shorts.  There were no field trips.  The children studied math, English, spelling, art, geography, and civics (citizenship).  Notice how the desks are bolted to the floor.  They could not be moved to make other seating arrangements. 
Essential Question
How does culture influence a society's education system?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and identify key characteristics of the American education system during this time period.
Historical Challenges
Find out what the classroom rules might have been in this room. How would the children be punished if they misbehaved?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Make a pie chart showing the number of girls and boys in this classroom.
Science: Practice using an inkwell and a quill to write with. Compare and contrast it with the writing utensils that we use today.
English Language Arts: Interview a grandparent about his/her school memories. Use this information to write a letter to a friend about what a day at school was like in the "olden days".