Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 20, 2014

Filmmakers to show one-room schools documentary Tuesday

Sep 13, 2013

MOUNT PLEASANT — Filmmakers Tammy and Kelly Rundle will show their Emmy-nominated documentary film “Country School: One Room — One Nation” at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Oakland Mills Nature Center.

Admission is free.

A question-and-answer time with the Rundles is planned after the film.

More than 80 hours of interviews, vistas and historic sites shot in all four seasons in Iowa and four other states have been distilled down to a feature-length documentary that tells the dramatic true story of the life, death and rebirth of one-room schools in the upper Midwest.

“They did what they were suppose to do,” said Iowa historian Dorothy Schwieder. “There was a time when they met the needs of society. There was also a time when they ceased to meet the needs of society.”

Along with the expected nostalgia, the Rundles’ journey revealed a few surprises: guns in school, bullying, lunch-stealing ponies, weather disasters, a country school designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and the passion former students, teachers and preservationists have for the sometimes forgotten and neglected little schools.

“The mythology both demonizes and glorifies the one-room school,” said writer Bill Samuelson. “The truth is somewhere in between.”

“Country School” also takes a closer look at rural schools and how they attempted to unify American immigrants during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Iowa is ground-zero for one-room schools. Just after 1900, the state had nearly 13,000 — more than any other state. Iowa still has 3,000 existing buildings and 200 restored schools — again, more than any other state. More than 50 Amish and Mennonite one-room schools are still in operation in Iowa, and several of those are still part of a public school district.

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