School Exhibitions And Corn Clubs
These are two of the more recent school movements that are now lending a new interest to school life and country life. It is very difficult to say how general they are, but school exhibitions have been held in many of the rural schools of Iowa, Oklahoma, and North Dakota, at least, for some time. In most places the exhibitions are at the school and are of the products raised by the children who attend the school. It is difficult to give a general account of a work which as yet has no historian. I choose, rather, to give an account of it as carried on in the states of Virginia and Oklahoma.
COUNTY SCHOOL FAIRS IN VIRGINIA
So far as I know, the county school fair originated In Campbell County, Virginia, in 1908. These fairs were held in 1911 in twenty-five different counties of that state. Perhaps a better name for them would be children's fairs, for they are an attempt to exhibit the work and play of children outside as well as inside the school. These fairs are rapidly growing in attendance and popularity, and the Campbell's County fair is now housed in a permanent building.
During primitive times fairs were among the most important means of education, and even today there are few things that are more educative than attending a well-planned exhibition along the line of one's especial interest. The World's Fair in Chicago was one of the greatest educational influences that has come to this country. Even the ordinary county fair, mismanaged and undeveloped as it is, has much of value for children. Probably the fair idea is more applicable to them than it is to adults. They have a great natural curiosity. They are observing and remember very much better the things they see than the things they read about. I am confident that these Virginia fairs are stimulating every phase of child development in the counties-where they are held.
I quote from the report of the State Superintendent of Schools for Virginia the following account of one of these fairs :
They came in large groups, often by schools, bedecked with their school colors, waving school banners, giving their school yells, and singing their school songs. It was the gala day for the county public schools, and even early in the morning the holiday spirit was in the air.
By ten o'clock, between 3000 and 4000 people had assembled at the School Fair exhibit hall. The entrance to this hall was then thrown open, and this vast throng of people surged in. Their eyes fell upon an unique exhibit — different from anything they had ever seen at any other fair. Near the entrance was a long table loaded down with loaves of bread, biscuit, cakes, pies, home-made candy, butter, jellies, pickles, canned peaches, pears, and tomatoes. On another table was the Domestic Art Exhibit — shirtwaists, aprons, handkerchiefs, and a large group of dolls tastefully dressed in the latest fashion by the school children of the primary classes. On another table was the Flower and Nature Study Exhibit — ferns, chrysanthemums, geraniums, dahlias, and collections of wild flowers. Further down the hall was the table containing the Agri-cultural Exhibit. On this table were piled ears of corn, ears of popcorn, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, and black-eye peas. In a corner was the Manual Training Exhibit, containing book-cases, writing tables, picture frames, brooms, farm rakes, axe handles, shuck door-mats, baskets, and rabbit "gums."
Nor had the literary work of the school been neglected. A large space was occupied by this department ; on a table were a number of carefully prepared compositions. They were not upon such abstract subjects as " Intellect," " Faith," " Patience," but dealt with concrete, practical themes, such as " Good Roads," " The Value of Scientific Methods of Farming," " How to Make a Country Home Comfortable and Attractive," " The Cause and Prevention of Consumption," " The House Fly a Menace to Health." There were also numerous specimens of writing and drawing, and the walls of one side of the hall were decorated with skilfully drawn maps of the county and the State.
And remember that all the exhibits were prepared by the School Children of the county.
After viewing the exhibit, the large crowd gathered in the court-house yard, and listened to two short addresses, delivered from the courthouse steps.
Next, an old-fashioned spelling match was held. Each school was represented by its best spellers, and the rivalry was very keen.
After the lunch-hour came the most interesting and imposing feature of the day's program — the School Fair parade. All of the school children of the county were formed in line of march, grouped by individual schools and school districts. Each school was led by its teachers. All the pupils of the school were wearing the school colors, many were carrying pennants, and floating high above their heads was a large banner bearing the name of the individual school. Some of these names were unusual, to say the least. This immense parade of over a thousand school children, led by a local brass band, waving their banners and pennants, singing their school songs, and giving school yells, marched through the streets of the usually quiet country town. It was the most inspiring sight that could be witnessed this happy, buoyant army of the future men and women of a great Commonwealth!
The parade then returned to the courthouse steps, where the prizes were announced and awarded. They next marched to the athletic field (the local race-track), where the best athletes of each school contested in the too-yard dash, the 220-yard dash, the high jump, the baseball throw, and the relay race.
Such a fair as this cannot fail to do very much to make country life more interesting to children. The fair itself will be a pleasing spectacle — one of the greatest events of the year for them. The anticipation and participation in such an event will brighten many a dreary hour. The contests with the other children, and the suggestion of things to do and make, will be very stimulating. t is sure to lead to closer observation and better-directed effort. To the children who enter the competitions there will be a vigorous motive for excellence that has been largely lacking from the ordinary school work.
The exhibitions of potted flowers will surely do something to make the homes of Virginia more beautiful, and to give the children a greater appreciation of beauty everywhere. The domestic-science exhibition will make the girls ambitious to excel in the household arts, and the exhibits of what the children have made in the way of wagons, water wheels, etc. will give many helpful suggestions to other children, and make them more resourceful in entertaining and helping both themselves and their parents. t will tend to develop the ingenuity of the entire county.
Various forms of observation are encouraged. The following seems to me one of the best ways to stimulate a love for, and an intimate knowledge of, the birds :
Record of migratory birds. Each competitor for prizes offered for " best record of migratory birds of county " must begin in February to keep a record of the migratory birds observed by him at his station, according to the form required by the " migratory schedule " prepared by the Bureau of Biological Survey of the United States Department of Agriculture, a copy of which will be furnished by the Department to every teacher in county. Pupils must observe and record the birds seen from day to day until the close of the spring migration in June.
All who have made creditable observations and records should, on or before the 15th day of July, apply to the Division Superintendent for a migration schedule upon which to transfer their record. The Department, at Washington, has promised to furnish blank forms for good records, with the understanding that the records are to be sent to the School Fair, and from thence sent back to the Department for use there..
These records are put on exhibition at the fair and awarded prizes on the same basis as the other exhibits.
The spelling matches held at the fair will help to revive this once honored institution in the various country schools throughout the county.
The school parade might easily be developed into a pageant, which would be one of the greatest annual events in the county, and might be made to teach history more effectively than books, if each school were responsible for the depiction of one historic event, and a number were represented in series. If these events were of local history, it is always one of the easiest ways of creating patriotism and civic loyalty.
Perhaps along the lines of games and play there is the greatest opportunity, for such competitions might well serve to introduce into the schools all over the county the games that are most suitable for school use and for the country community as well. The countryside has had far too little play, and especially has there been too little play at the farm home ; such a fair might well set all the children and ultimately the whole community to playing, as a strolling circus sets all the children to doing circus tricks. I believe that such fairs will add immensely to the educational and social value of country life for children and adults.
Perhaps it might be simpler to have a children's section of the ordinary county fair, or a children's day that is really given over to the children. In whatever way it is done, it will be worth while if it leads not merely to the attendance of the children, but to a genuine exhibition of their work. t is probable that a day given over in this way to them — to their athletics and other events — would draw a larger attendance to the fair than an exhibit of pumpkins.
Either just before or just after its county exhibition each school should hold a local exhibition of its work at the school-house. If this were held on a Friday afternoon and evening, it would make a pleasing social occasion for the adults of the community, and the praise and criticism of the neighborhood would be very stimulating to the children. Ten such local fairs were held in Barnes County, North Dakota, last year.
Country communities are isolated and country boys and girls are diffident and backward because of a lack of social experience and a limited acquaintance. Almost anything that will broaden this experience and acquaintanceship will be a good thing. The great difficulty with the school work has been that to the children it is not directly helpful, and it is not at all evident to them that most of the things that they are learning will ever be of any use. If the work is to be exhibited, it furnishes a motive for excellence that did not exist before. This will make the work more interesting. The fair itself will be more educative to children than one where the products are raised by adults ; this fact also lends it a new interest and gives it the constant suggestion " Why should I not do this ? "
It was estimated by the State Superintendent of Virginia in his report for 1912 that fifty counties in his state would hold county fairs in that year. The work is being taken up this year by the state of Kentucky also.
BOYS' AND GIRLS' INDUSTRIAL CLUBS
One of the most hopeful movements for the improvement of country life that has arisen during the last few years is the movement for boys' and girls' clubs. I regard these clubs as very hopeful for three reasons, all of which seem to me worthy of consideration. First, they are giving the boys and girls who take part a very valuable social opportunity. A corn club merely as a club is worth while, if its only pur-pose were sociability and the discussion of problems and the learning to cooperate. t is to be expected that the boys who have worked together in the corn and other clubs will be the stanch members of the grange and other farmers' organizations later ; that they will make possible the type of rural cooperation which the times so insistently demand. Second, the rural school has in the past been in no way adapted to the country. t was simply a general school, as well fitted for a manufacturing or mining town or a great city as the farm. These boys' and girls' clubs are actually doing what the rural school has failed to do ; they are giving the children of the farm a real education in rural life and its problems, which is not only more practical than the education of the rural school, but which is ultimately more educative as well, as it is not teaching things that will be soon forgotten, but things that will be remembered. t is planting seeds that will grow and develop in the mind all through life. The final reason that I would give for thinking these clubs very important is a corollary of the second — that they are making country life more interesting to children, and thus are preventing an undue migration to the city. The county or state that has none of these clubs should take thought of itself.
The development west of the Mississippi River has been very rapid during the last four or five years. I cannot do better than to make these quotations from the recent bulletin of the A. and M. College of Oklahoma.
Boys' and girls' clubs, A. and M. College. The Oklahoma boys' and girls' clubs have been organized by authority of the Oklahoma State Board of Agriculture, and are conducted by the Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College in cooperation with the county superintendents of public instruction and teachers as a practical feature in teaching the elementary principles of agriculture and domestic science.
During the past year the A. and M. College organized 1300 local clubs and fifty-five county clubs with a membership of 25,000 boys and girls.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction R. H. Wilson, in a letter to county superintendents, says :
I wish to invite and urge all county superintendents to cooperate with the management of the Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College, and recommend that you take an active interest in presenting this matter to the teachers of your county and urge upon them that they take an active part in organizing the Boys' and Girls' Agricultural and Domestic Science Clubs in their schools.
The purposes of the Oklahoma boys' and girls' agricultural clubs briefly stated are as follows :
1. To acquaint the boys and girls of Oklahoma with the state system of agriculture and industrial education extending from the common schools through the district agricultural schools to the A. and M. College.
2. To vitalize the studies for children in the common schools.
3. To develop in due course a system of education in common schools suited to the children of the common people.
4. To lead men and boys to study farm problems on their own farms.
5. To lead women and girls to study home and family problems in their own homes.
6. To awaken our people to the importance, the advantages, and the possibilities of farm life.
7. To inculcate a class sentiment and a sense of independence in the minds of farm-reared children.
8. To organize in the rising generation the farm community as an independent social unit.
Membership. There are three classes of members in the Oklahoma boys' and girls' agricultural clubs.
1. Local club members.
2. County club members.
3. State club members.
All boys or girls not under nine (9) nor over eighteen (18) years of age are eligible for membership in the Oklahoma boys' and girls' agricultural clubs, and when their applications are properly approved by their local teacher or president of the school board as supervisor, they may receive individual membership certificates, secure literature, and enter various local, county, district and state contests arranged for members of these clubs.
Local clubs. A handsome charter will be issued to five or more members in any school district who wish to organize a local club when they make application on the regular blanks and adopt a constitution and code of by-laws approved by the A. and M. College. The teacher, the clerk of the school board, or some good, practical farmer should act as local manager or supervisor of the club. The supervisor should arrange for a school fair some time during the school session and pro-vide suitable local contests and prizes under the direction of the A. and M. College.
County clubs. The club work in each county is under the supervision of the County Advisory Committee, consisting of the County Superintendent of Schools, the secretary of the Farmers' Institute, and the secretary of the Woman's Auxiliary to the Farmers' Institute. The County Superintendent in each county is expected to act as the County Manager under the direction of the Advisory Committee. If for any reason he is unable to act in this capacity, the Advisory Committee should select some other person for this work at the earliest possible date.
The County Superintendent or County Manager should issue a call for the organization of a County Agricultural Club and the election of temporary officers as early as possible during the summer. The permanent organization and the annual election of officers should take place at the county seat on the last Saturday in September. In order to secure a large attendance at each of these meetings, there should be an interesting program or a contest provided in which many of the boys and girls would be interested. This may be held in connection with the county graduating exercises of the eighth grade, the Farmers' Institute, county fair, county teachers' meeting, school fair, farmers' short course, or any other public meeting where a good attendance of the boys and girls of the county could be secured. In every case the officers of the Farmers' Institute, Woman's Auxiliary, the county fair, commercial clubs, Y.M.C.A., or other similar organizations, Boy Scouts, teachers and all leading citizens of the county should be invited to cooperate with the County Superintendent in securing a meeting of the boys and girls for organizing a County Agricultural Club. At the first meeting the County Club constitution furnished by the A. and M. College should be adopted, officers elected, the organization perfected, and plans for the coming year arranged as far as possible. Upon the proper application of five or more local clubs through the temporary president and secretary of the County Club, approved by the County Superintendent as County Manager, a special County Charter will be issued by the A. and M. College, which will insure the cooperation and support of the club work by the A. and M. College and the State Board of Agriculture.
Stale club. All boys and girls of white parentage who are not under nine nor over eighteen years of age, living in counties where no County or Local Club can be organized, may apply to the A. and M. College at Stillwater, Oklahoma, and have themselves enrolled as members of the State Club. All members of Local or County Clubs are accounted members of the State Club without further enrollment.
There are four types of contests open to these clubs, but the state and county contests seem to be most important. The county contests are of eight kinds, as follows : First, grain contest for boys fourteen to eighteen years of age, for the greatest profit from one acre of kafir, milo, or corn, produced by the contestant. Prize, a free trip to the State Fair school, short course, at Oklahoma City, all expenses paid.
Second, crop contest for boys fourteen to eighteen. For the greatest profit from an acre of cotton, broomcorn, or peanuts produced by the contestant. Free trip to the District Agricultural School, short course, all expenses paid.
Third, sewing contest for girls. Prize same as 1.
Fourth, canning contest for girls from fourteen to eighteen. For best display, consisting of twelve or more quart cans, of canned fruit and vegetables, including at least four varieties of fruit and at least four varieties of vegetables prepared by the contestant. Prize, same as 2.
Fifth, hog contest for boys.
Sixth, cooking contest for girls.
Seventh, poultry contest for boys and girls from nine to thirteen years of age.
Eighth, butter-making contest for boys from nine to thirteen years of age.
With such contests as these there will be something going on in the country community to think about and talk about. Many of the tasks of the farm and the farm home do not require much thought or mental direction, and the mind needs fresh materials to be worked over at such times if it is to grow. If it can be arranged so that the boys' and girls' clubs can meet in the same building and they can have a social hour and games after their business session, this will be a worthy addition to country social life. This is a practical method of giving an agricultural education without introducing agriculture into the rural schools. I believe there are sections in which these boys' and girls' clubs are doing quite as much for the children as the rural schools themselves. They will also be one of the most successful means of making country life interesting and staying the migration to the cities.
These clubs are now organized in nearly every state of the union. It is estimated that there are now about three hundred thousand members in the country, and that there will probably be four or five hundred thousand next year. The suggestion of the corn club is equally as applicable to adults as to children, if the farmers themselves could only. be persuaded that it is not beneath their dignity to enter into a contest of this kind. Perhaps the corn or other agricultural club might prove quite as effective as the demonstration farm or the farmers' institute as a method of teaching agriculture, and it would have the added advantage of its social opportunity.
( Originally Published 1914 )
Play And Recreation:
Play In The Home And Its Environs
Play In The Home
Play In The Dooryard Of The Farm Home
Some Experiences That Every Country Boy Should Have
The Improvement Of The School Ground
Equipping The School Ground
Organized Play In The School Yard
School Exhibitions And Corn Clubs
Recreation In The Rural Community
The Play Festival And Pageant In The Open Country
Read More Articles About: Play And Recreation