Sunday, May 31, 2015

The History of Education in Beiseker

As you know, Beiseker Community School is celebrating 100 years of education in the village in a couple of weeks.  As a tribute to this milestone, I am doing a series of blogs on the history of education in this area.  This is the first.  I hope you enjoy looking back.

If you would like a more detailed history, go to the Beiseker Station Museum or the school itself.  Most of the information for my thumbnail history was taken from the Beiseker history book; Beiseker's Golden Heritage, published in 1977 and a few other books on Alberta's history.

Alberta became a province in 1905, and shortly thereafter settlers began pouring in to build new farming communities throughout the southern part of the new province.  In that first twenty years, Alberta's population grew and grew.  The Province started to urge the new communities to set up their own school districts, both in the new communities and in the rural areas.

Rural school districts were usually designed around a township or portions of one or more townships.  The school was built in the approximate center of the new school district on a corner of land a farmer donated or sold to the new district.  The position of the school was important.  It was supposed to be placed such that all the students could ride or walk to school easily, no more than three miles.  A barn was built on the school property to house the students' horses and a "teacherage" was constructed to house the teacher.

Some teachers lived in the basement of the school house itself;  that was more common in Northern Alberta.

School districts often got their names either from the farmer or colonization company who gave up the land, the first chairman of the new district, or the name of the area based on a geographical feature.

Around Beiseker we had many such districts.  Some of the names of the districts around here are; Greenfield, Paddy Springs, Beeman, Scotia, Brushy Lake, and Silbernagel, among others.  These tiny school districts paid their teachers a few hundred dollars a year to teach the formative grades in those little one room schools. Supplies were short, times were tough, but these little districts started what I consider one of the best educational systems in the world! 

Many famous Albertans got their start in such a school.

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