Museum of Education Foundations
The Winter School acts as a traditional museum where you can glimpse into the life of a one-room school through items on display; it also acts a participatory art & history museum where we use the one room school era as starting point to discover the origins and evolutions of our current school system.
Through interactive activities designed for the whole family we explore questions about goals, curriculum, teaching (pedagogy) and the dynamic nature of knowledge. Members of the community - both physical and virtual - are encouraged to contribute their experiences, questions and thoughts.
History, Notice Me
Stories from history have an incredible power to widen our perspective and help us understand the human experience. However, history (like curriculum) is not neutral. It is told from a particular perspective, usually shaped by privileged narrators. If passed off as objective, it can unintentionally legitimize particular ways of living while ignoring the success, struggles and knowledge of others. Exclusions and emphases are not innocent.
In this (biased) exhibit we pay homage to our ancestors who attended the Winter School while expanding the context in which they lived. All pictures were taken within the lifespan of the Winter School, from 1870 to the early 1950s. Most feature people who lived in Douglas County and all images are relevant to the state of Kansas. You will see family members who have spoken directly to us, as well as silent voices from the past whose schooling was dramatically different from the traditional Americana tale of country schools. The photographs recall still-relevant issues of restriction, resistance and representation.
While there is ”no one true picture of any historical situation, no one objective description” (Zinn), we can relate to our ancestors with the same sensibilities that bind us as humans across space and time. We are forever searching for the balance of belonging and the free expression of our individuality. Stories from history have an incredible power to show us what we are capable of and to strengthen our resolve, if we listen.
We Are All Stars
An explicit goal for education in the country school era was to cultivate literate and informed participants for a democracy. Interiors in one-room schools had few embellishments but usually included a flag and portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. They meant to inspire students to a similar greatness, however, less than half of the population was allowed to participate and aspire to this definition of greatness.
Modern districts have made a more conscious effort to add classroom materials that better reflect the characteristics of the entire electorate. Though seemingly benign, the teaching materials we use can send implicit messages about who and what is valued.Included in this exhibit are more examples of what types of participation and leadership are important in a healthy democratic society – although they might be less honored or appreciated.
Mamie Williams was raised in Topeka around the turn of the 19th century and became a revered teacher for 42 years, drawing out the inherent potential in her students. The portrait of an unknown mother and baby represent the unmeasurable strengths of trust, empathy and patience indispensable to the democratic process. Overlayed with hand drawn constellations, the artwork lightens up a traditional portrait and allows us to look at seemingly disparate figures in a unifying perspective. We are all teachers. We are all stars.