The Farmingville Historical Society was formed in 1992 to preserve and restore the Bald Hills One-Room Schoolhouse. The Bald Hills Schoolhouse is a one-room Greek Revival Schoolhouse built in 1850. It stands on its original foundation on Horseblock Road in Farmingville and served the Farmingville community until 1929. After 84 years of being closed, the Schoolhouse was re-opened in November 2013 to educate the community through student field trips, history speaker presentations, historic events and now through The Virtual One-Room Schoolhouse.
Rising Costs Impact School Field Trips
The Farmingville Historical Society Board discussed a Virtual One-Room Schoolhouse program a few years ago and COVID was not part of their vocabulary at that time. They noticed that field trip transportation costs were significantly increasing, making it tougher for schools to participate in multiple field trips. Schools were forced to become more selective when deciding which field trips to invest in.
In addition to the concern about rising field trip transportation costs, their One-Room Schoolhouse property lacked a few critical elements for hosting students. It did not have a bathroom onsite and they could only accommodate 25-30 elementary children inside the schoolhouse at one time. They currently do not have additional historic buildings onsite that are usable.
Both of the above challenges were resolved when they hosted students from their local Sachem elementary schools. They rotated one bus of 25-30 students every 50-60 minutes, therefore the students were not on the property for a long period of time and typically the bathroom was not an issue. They were able to accommodate an entire grade over the course of 3-5 hours! It worked out very well, however, if the school was more than 10-15 miles away, their rotation plan was not very cost and time effective.
For over 8 years, they hosted students from local elementary schools at the One-Room Schoolhouse and also hosted in-school history programs for 5th grade students. Additionally, the historical society gives out an annual 5th Grade History Award to the 5th grade Sachem students who demonstrate an innate passion for history. They have honored over 10 students over the past four years at Lynwood Avenue, Chippewa and Waverly Avenue Elementary Schools.
Expanding our Local History Programs
Given the obstacles, if they wanted to expand their local history programming, they had two options:
1. Add a bathroom and complete construction of the historic Terry House to provide extra space that could accommodate more students at one time and/or
2. Add a Virtual One-Room Schoolhouse program that could allow many more students to get educated about what it was like to go to school in the 1850s.
Option 1 has been in the works for a while and is a very slow-moving process, so that option was not going to allow them to expand their programming any time soon, therefore option 2 became the plan. They explored grants that could help to fund a very comprehensive virtual program. Then the pandemic hit and the grant opportunities disappeared.
They also realized that their local grant funding was most likely in jeopardy for 2021 and beyond, but there was some funding in 2020, which needed reallocation due to the cancelation of many events and fundraisers.
They brainstormed about what type of virtual programming they could do given the restricted funding. They had been working with a company called Frameless Technologies, who was introduced to them through a Gardiner Foundation Grant Seminar that they attended. Michaela Gaaserud, the CEO of Frameless Technologies, and their Board worked on virtual program options based on the funds that they did have and they designed a modified plan.
Change of Virtual Programming Plans
Their scaled down version of the Virtual Schoolhouse field trip would become a 360-degree inside and outside view of their 1850 Bald Hill One-Room Schoolhouse. It allows the user to navigate the schoolhouse, inside and out, and learn about all of the features and artifacts. A few of the artifacts are 3D images that can be twisted, turned and viewed from all dimensions. All of the Schoolhouse features and artifacts are defined for educational purposes.
They also developed an outline for the program and did a photoshoot with Frameless Technologies at the end of September 2020, before heading into the cooler weather. Frameless Technologies then created the images and added the educational content and then they had a very interactive and educational tool for anyone to view the inside and outside of the One-Room Schoolhouse from anywhere in the world!
Accessing the Virtual One-Room
Visitors to their property can access this 360-degree tour from a QR code found on the property and online users can access the 360-degree tour through their website. With teachers and the field trip curriculum that they previously taught in mind, they took the 360-degree One-Room Schoolhouse images one step further and added several videos and short quizzes on topics related to school in the 1850s including:
• The President during 1850
• The Origins of the American Flag
• The Pledge of Allegiance
• Recess & Games that were played
• Food during the 1850s & what students brought for lunch
• Chores – before, during and after school
• 1850-Style Clothing for Men, Women & Children
• Student Punishments
• Writing Instruments
After navigating the 360 degree images and taking a short quiz to enforce their learning, students can then explore these additional topics in detail. Quizzes follow each section to enforce what is being learned. By the end of the program, students have a thorough understanding of what school was like for a student their age in the year 1850. In addition, teachers have an option to receive a One-Room Schoolhouse gift for their students.
Far Reaching Educational Impact
This Virtual One-Room Schoolhouse truly allows a student or adult to immerse into an 1850 setting and learn about all the aspects of student life at that time. With these educational tools, The Farmingville Historical Society has the opportunity to continue educating students about local history during these challenging times. They are also thrilled that they are able to create a program that can bring us outside of our local footprint and educate students throughout the United States. They currently have students in several states participating in The Virtual One-Room Schoolhouse! Anyone who is interested can participate in it too. Learn more at www.farmingvillehistoricalsociety.org.