In June of 2015 a high school in the Oklahoma City School District (Emerson High School) was undergoing renovations for the new school year when an amazing discovery was made.
As the construction crew began to take down some chalkboards to be replaced by “white boards” in four classroom they came across hundred-year-old blackboards with writings and drawings dating to November-December of 1917…the year the United States entered World War I.
What they found was enlightening to modern day educators…the penmanship was beautiful, lessons were aligned across the curriculums and problem solving for math used different (but successful) techniques to arrive at correct answers.
Obviously, the students were transitioning from Thanksgiving into Christmas and had started their December count-down calendar to Christmas.
Civics (good citizenship) was practiced every morning with this altered Pledge of Allegiance. (Definitely can see the influence of WWI on families whose fathers, uncles, and sons had gone off to war.)
And check out the penmanship displayed by students….don’t we wish we could see this quality of writing again.
The students were definitely using their own personal hand-drawn visuals to help them with arithmetic/math concepts.
The principal and staff were astounded how bright the colors from the colored chalk still were after all that time. The mystery is why everything stopped sometime around December 1. No one knows why…here is one thought on the puzzle.
“It’s like I walked into a time capsule,” said Sherry Kishore, the principal of Emerson High School in Oklahoma City. The school is being remodeled, and contractors taking down chalkboards in four classrooms discovered another set of blackboards hiding underneath.
The bottom sets seemingly haven’t had eyes on them since 1917, and while some of the teaching methods are dated, many of the pictures, words and numbers are in near-perfect condition.
I was shocked, first of all, that the colored chalk was so vibrant and still very colorful,” Kishore said. The pictures, probably drawn during November/pre-Thanksgiving lessons, show pilgrims, turkeys and children. A calendar is in the process of transitioning into December.
And a note from a custodian leads many who work at the school to believe that the preservation of the boards was intentional:
“We this day give this room slate blackboards,” says the note, signed R.J. Scott, custodian.
“We don’t know if anybody knew about the plan, but now we get to reap the rewards of his plan and get to see this beautiful work of art. That’s all I can call it, a work of art. It should be in a museum somewhere,” said Emerson teacher, Cinthea Comer.
Wherever the chalkboards end up, Robert Neu, the superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, said they will definitely be preserved, no matter what it takes. “It may mean we have to delay the start of school in these classrooms, but we’ve got to preserve these,” he said.
In addition to figuring out how to keep the boards in their pristine condition, school employees are also looking forward to the next phase of restoration on other floors, in which they hope to unearth more of the historic boards.
“We are all just like holding our breath because we don’t know if there’s going to be anything behind those boards,” said Comer. “We’re so excited to see and have all this wonderful history come to life for us…hopefully by Christmas we will have found a place to house our school’s history.”
*Thanks Joan for sharing this story with me…I loved it…the mystery of the chalkboards ending in December…a great Christmas gift for the newly renovated school.
*Isn’t it amazing how light can bring magic to anything…even a wreath? The other evening I had turned on the porch lights and Christmas lights while I was adding baby breath to the green pine cone wreaths on each front door.
The wreath was serene in its simplistic state…but when the decorative lights hit the glass storm door with the lights reflecting off the glass…the image of the wreath completely changed…magic at Christmas.
Happy Birthday to my eldest son….my Walshie- He arrived on December 23 and we got back home from the hospital on Christmas Day- Kringle Dingle! A wonderful Christmas present for all…well, maybe not exactly all… big sister Mandy wasn’t too thrilled.
Happy Birthday Pap….You and Woo Woo….a great day for birthdays! Have a good one Pap!