Field Trip to the Vale Schoolhouse
By Elif Sigindere Omur
The Summer II EDUC 500: “Introduction to Education and Educational Research” class visited the Vale Schoolhouse on Tuesday, July 29, 2014 along with Dr. Rebecca Sachs and Dr. Jillian Wendt. Members of the Vale Club and Friends of the Vale Schoolhouse, Liz Jones and Chris Leichweis, hosted the visit and shared their expertise. It was a wonderful experience for all of us. We had the opportunity to see how education was approached in the past in Fairfax County.
Students attended the school from the surrounding Oakton, VA area from 1884-1931. The schoolhouse consisted of just two rooms—one room for primary students and one room for secondary students—with two doors for entry into the main area of the schoolhouse. One door was used for girls while the other one was for boys. During class, girls were typically seated on one side of each room while boys sat on the other. Class was started by ringing a bell, which towered over the schoolhouse and could be rung from indoors. The schoolhouse was heated by a small pot-bellied stove. Students were required to provide wood for heating the school in the cold winter months.
Visiting the Vale Schoolhouse allowed us to see how the structure of the education system was different in the past as compared to how it is today. Students were being educated in school, but were also working in the fields and on farms to help support their families. The curriculum was different as well. While visiting the Vale Schoolhouse, we saw some examples of their books which were unbelievable. Looking at those books gave a sense of the real history of the education system at that time. To see this kind of historical place gave us a better idea about the development of education in the United States. When I imagined how teachers were teaching and students were learning at that time, I felt really emotional. It was also an honor to visit the Vale Schoolhouse and to see people’s efforts for education even with the struggles of the time period. By visiting, we understood more clearly that people made many efforts and sacrifices to bring education up to the level at which it is now. The efforts that people made at that time were priceless. While our trip to Vale Schoolhouse was ending, we were each given the opportunity to ring the bell. It was awesome and was such an honor for me. We appreciate that our teachers gave us the chance to see the Vale Schoolhouse.Elif Sigindere Omur is a first-year graduate student in the Master of Education program at VIU. More information on the Vale Schoolhouse can be found at www.valeschoolhouse.org. Additional information about the School of Education can be found at www.viu.edu/sed.