The rebirth of a country school

Month: July 2014

Why are the Windows to the West bricked up?

When we first explored the outside of the school, we wondered why the west facing windows were all bricked up.



Supplied again by our neighbor, here’s an interesting (if a bit long) early theory on why covering those windows was better for children – at least the right handed ones.

Vonnkgot & Bohn, Arohitbots, Indianapolis. (Bee Figs. 21, 22; 54,55.) 
If the great majority of children were not right-handed, it would so unreasonable to demand that the windows be so placed in schoolrooms as to admit the light from the left side of the pupils when seated at their desks. 

But, since we are a right-handed race, with brains organized accordingly, the great majority of children are rid of troublesome shadows in writing only when light is admitted from the left side, thus carrying the shadows away from the written work and relieving the vision from the disturbances which would otherwise come. If the reader will take a seat in a closed room near a window and attempt to write with the hand which is next the window, he will realize more fully than words can tell how the shadows of his hand and pen will trouble him. Children suffer more from such disturbances than older people, because their eyes tire more quickly and their attention is more easily distracted. Hence it is a matter of importance to the health and comfort of all right-handed children to bo so placed in the school room that light should come from the loft rather than from the right.

All left-handed children should be taught from the first to write with their right hands. Contrary to the general belief, this is not a serious undertaking if it is made when the child is just learning to write. If, however, a child has not been early taught to use his right hand and has reached the upper grades with an established habit of using his left hand for writing, it is often better to let him continue rather than to insist on a late change. In all cases, however, it is only fair to the left-handed writers to seat them, if possible, so that the light may come from their right, so as to throw the shadows back of their hands. But, since the great majority are righthanded, schoolhouses should be built to meet their needs and special provision be made for those who have not been taught the use of the right hand for writing.

But some one may ask: “Why not have windows on both sides of a classroom, for is it not impossible to have too much well-diffused light in a schoolroom?” Until very recently all school buildings were constructed in this manner, and it is still hard to convince some people that lighting from one side is better than lighting from both sides.

Suppose we consider a schoolroom with east and west exposure, with the same number of windows on each side, located in the same relative positions. At 10 o’clock in the morning, other things being equal, the light is stronger from the east than from the west, and the line where the light from each side is equally strong is well toward the west side of the room. This line will shift toward the east side the rest of the day, reaching the center at noon. But at any time in the day there are always two shadows of the hand and pen. These shadows are of equal intensity only at this shifting line of equal light. Here they are comparatively inconspicuous, but still visible. To the left or right of this changing line one shadow is stronger, and hence it is impossible to seat all pupils so as to give them an equally good light for writing. There is no desk in the whole room where double shadows of the hand and pen may not be seen; but those pupils who receive the stronger light from the side opposite the hand used in writing experience less difficulty. If the heavy shadow falls athwart the work and within the focus of the vision, it will fatigue the eyes uselessly. For this reason it is impossible to seat all of the pupils in a schoolroom with bilateral lighting without imposing some slight hardship on all and a serious hindrance on something less than half of them.

There are other reasons why bilateral lighting is not to be preferred. The best place for a blackboard is directly opposite the source of light, and hence it ought to be placed on the wall of one side of the classroom. The common custom has been to place the blackboards between the windows on both sides. Such a setting of blackboards is responsible for an untold amount of eyestrain, headache, and habits of inattention. He who roads these lines and can not recall from his school days a distinct memory of pain from such blackboards will understand the justice of the criticism if he will face an unshaded window and attempt to follow the demonstration of a problem whose solution is worked out on a board adjoining the window. It must be remembered that the eye is to a large degree an automatic or reflex organ and accordingly accommodates itself to the light entering it. If one looks at work on a blackboard adjoining a window, a conflict in the demands of vision takes place. The strong light from the window causes the pupil to contract so as to reduce the number of rays of light which would otherwise enter the eye and overstimulate and shock the retina. But this is just the opposite of what the eye demands in order to read easily what is written on the blackboard; for when the eye is focused on a dark surface the pupil expands so that all the needed available light may enter. This conflict is the cause of much eyestrain, fatigue, and the accompanying revulsions.

Wow!  That’s some theory.  We will take it into consideration, but I have a feeling we will much more want the light to shine in.

No new work pics this week, as Janelle is off bike riding in Iowa and there’s no one to hold the camera.  But here are some historical pictures of the school provided by our neighbor (many many thanks!).

Bass Lake or Manitou School from Allan Swenson 2

Turns out this is Manitou school, but is an interesting larger version of Bass Lake. Our clue? Too many side windows.

Bass Lake School kids 1944

Here you can see the back windows we recently uncovered.


Should we put the flagpole back where it was?

Bass Lake School unknown date Walter E on pic back from Jeanette Erickson



bass lake school kids 6 1 44 Jeanette Lucken Bass Lake School from Louise Swenson bass lake school sterlingbass lake school 1925Bass Lake School 1934 teacher Johansen  Evelyn Taylor photo








And to close, these two pictures seem to be taken from about the same point of perspective in the schoolhouse.

Bass Lake students 1929 Howard Jorgensen Teacher 1 Schoolroom Revealed!

Let there be light!Schoolroom Revealed!

Last weekend was a wall-opening experience.  We started with plywood windows and lots of extra walls.



Kevin worked on installing windows in the front of the school while I decided to tackle the interior walls (those being the theoretical easier ones.  The exterior walls are drywall over lath and plaster over more plaster over block.

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Here are the ‘during’ pics.  Slowly revealing the true sense of the schoolhouse under all those walls.

First view of the tin ceilingsHalf done0713140930a



The opened up schoolroom is amazing.  There is such a feeling of space and character.  

Back windows uncoveredWe discovered the old North windows, which were previously completely covered with drywall.



The windows also make a huge difference letting in light, keeping out chipmunks and just bringing us one step closer to a watertight seal.







Two final notes – not sure about the war, but we may have won this battle vs the racoons.  RIP little guy.

And finally, sometimes, it’s the simple things that bring the most joy….


Of Basements and Bystanders

Some weeks bring a variety of experiences, this week was one of those.  The first came through the wonderful new acquaintance of Russel, a local historian.  He provided a wealth of historical pictures of the school ‘back in the day’ and its attendees.bass lake school sterling (2)
Better than that, he spawned the idea of a reunion.  It has been 70 YEARS since the closing of classes at Bass Lake School, but there are so many people who attended that are still in the area.  Wouldn’t it be great to bring them all together for an afternoon, to hear their stories and relive memories with them?

Bass Lake School students

The 4th of July weekend we set up camp. A huge note of thanks to Shane and Brenda for mowing us a yard.




The holiday itself was celebrated in liberating the basement from a hundred years worth of old heating units and plumbing and evaluating what the next step is.0704140954




We took Saturday off to hunt for windows.  Just looking for something to seal it up until we can afford ones the exact right size.  While picking up a couple, we locked the keys in the car and spend a lovely couple hours talking to the sellers.  Thanks to our innocent bystanders Tom and Brenda for letting us take up your driveway and your morning!

0703141833aLast but not least, score one more for the racoons, they’ve found their way back in. Boo says they are right there.



I’ll be adding a Historical Pictures page soon…check back later this week.

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