A School Decides to Replace Their Chalkboards and Finds 100-Year-Old Untouched Drawings
Discovering hidden treasures can be an unexpected delight! In mid-2015, such a discovery made headlines in an Oklahoma City educational institution. While replacing chalkboards at Emerson High School, the contractors found something remarkable underneath – blackboards dating back to 1917 that still had the writings intact.
Let’s delve into the story further.
Emerson High School
Emerson High School was founded in 1895, but its original building was destroyed by fire in 1911. However, the school was rebuilt in 1917 and resumed operations, showcasing a stunning Collegiate Gothic architectural style.
Over time, the need for modernizing the school became evident. In order to stay current with teaching techniques, the chalkboards needed to be replaced with smartboards. The administration, therefore, developed a plan to renovate the entire Emerson High School in phases.
The Unexpected Discovery
In the summer of 2015, the school’s first phase of renovations began. However, an unexpected discovery was made during the renovations.
The workers stumbled upon well-preserved slate blackboards beneath the ones being replaced, offering a fascinating glimpse into the school’s past.
A Travel Back in Time
The discovery of the well-preserved slate blackboards from a century ago was astonishing. The legible writings and vibrant drawings on the chalkboards remained untouched and without a smudge. Upon first inspection, the high school principal, Sherry Kishore, expressed that she felt as if she had entered a time capsule displaying various lesson plans, including those for math and music.
It was a pleasant surprise to see that the company that installed the slate blackboard left a chalk-written note with their name and the installation date of November 30th, 1917.
The Girl With the Turkey Drawing
One of the blackboards featured a calendar for December, with Thursday the 29th marked in red. The turkey and girl next to it signify the transition from November to December, likely referring to Thanksgiving day.
We can only assume that the teacher made the dots on the dates using yellow chalk to count down to the national holiday. Also, the atmosphere in the classroom was likely lively and filled with excitement during this time.
The Multiplication Table
The hidden boards proved that while some things have remained the same, others have changed drastically. For instance, the multiplication table, drawn clearly on one of the slate boards, is not something we are used to using to learn math.
Not many may figure out how to read the century-old multiplication table, but we are glad that it has been simplified further over the decades to what we use today. Notice the tiny multi-colored stars lining the top of the board? Hopefully, they brightened up the days of the hardworking students.
More Math and the Sound of Music
Many more chalkboards had varying math lessons, including addition, subtraction, and multiplication. Some of the methods used by the educators of that time have evolved into simpler versions. That board, for example, uses a step method we are not familiar with.
Surprisingly, another chalkboard showed math lessons alongside music notations. It immediately reminded us of the classic The Sound of Music when they say “do re me,” written five decades before the movie was released.
Cursive Writing and the Penmanship
The discovery of the slate blackboards left everyone involved, including the school district and authorities, in awe. The principal was particularly impressed by the remarkable penmanship of the teachers from that era. Most of the writings were in stunning cursive handwriting, with the letters appearing fluid and artistic.
Unfortunately, only a small number of students today use cursive writing. Thus, when the teachers discovered that it was used regularly on blackboards during the 20th century, it was a surprising and valuable find. This discovery could tempt many to revive the art of writing in cursive and introduce it to present-day students.
The Girl Blowing Bubbles
The recently uncovered chalkboard drawings elicited a chorus of admiration for their stunning vibrancy despite being over 100 years old. Of all the sketches, the one of a girl blowing bubbles became a favorite of many.
Sherry Reid, a math teacher at Emerson High School, added to the excitement by sharing that they tried to guess whether the children were good or bad when seeing names like Mabel and Gladys accompanying mathematical equations on the board. Further fueling their curiosity about the school’s teachers and teaching methods.
The Pledge and the Pilgrims
Another exciting find was the simpler and more concise version of the Pledge of Allegiance that today’s Americans have grown up reciting.
Written in neat cursive handwriting with white chalk, it called upon the student’s allegiance to one nation and God above all else. Several drawings of the pilgrims and the detailed lessons verbalized some parts of the curriculum in 1917.
Emphasis on Hygiene
Among the things that have stayed the same throughout is the emphasis on hygiene. There were elaborate lessons on the need for basic personal hygiene then as there are now.
The chalkboard had a list of rules every student had to follow to keep themselves clean. The rules ranged from maintaining the clothes neatly, clipping fingernails, and washing hands and feet regularly to bathing every day.
Lesson Plans With Illustrations
Everyone quickly noticed that detailed illustrations accompanied almost every lesson plan. From parks and trees to pilgrims, all the discussion topics were colorfully depicted in vivid sketches. Why don’t we do that anymore? Were the 20th-century educators more artistically inclined than the present-day teachers?
Even the colored chalks were more brightly-hued than the ones in use now. With the slate boards and chalkboards being replaced by smart boards and digital screens, there is less scope for teaching kids through manual drawings.
Homework or Classwork?
A blackboard full of interesting questions and activities had us wondering about the grade it was meant for. It had specific instructions like “Draw six circles and color them.” The fascinating part of the exercise was that the questions got more challenging towards the end, such as asking how many pints were in half a gallon.
We wonder if they were meant as classwork or homework and if the students enjoyed the task. Irrespective of that, it was an eclectic mix of subjects.
Need for Proper Preservation
Even though the accidental discovery of the hidden blackboards started as an internal matter for Emerson High School, it soon became Oklahoma City’s priceless treasure that gave an invaluable peek into the educational system during the early 1900s. There were lessons to be learned there.
Many suspected the well-preserved state of the boards was intentional. Hence, it became their priority to protect and preserve them in the same condition they found them. While some have been carefully covered in plexiglass, others had to be sealed with wooden frames to make more classroom space.
More Exciting Discoveries
Six months after the initial renovation phase uncovered the valuable blackboards at Emerson High School, the school moved forward with upgrades to the rest of the building. To their excitement, they found many more interesting blackboards with detailed lesson plans and vibrant sketches.
Although most of the walls have been removed and the renovations have been completed, it is unlikely that any further discoveries will be made. Nevertheless, the school officials will continue to treasure the uncovered artifacts.