Class in session at historic Bunert schoolhouse

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published June 1, 2012

 From rear left, Dolly Slicker of the Warren Historical & Genealogical Society and the Warren Historical Commission helps Westwood Elementary second-graders Kayla Yang, 7, Tiana Vang, 8, and Ally Dickens, 8, all of Warren, with hats and aprons during their visit to the historic Bunert One-Room Schoolhouse Museum May 30.

From rear left, Dolly Slicker of the Warren Historical & Genealogical Society and the Warren Historical Commission helps Westwood Elementary second-graders Kayla Yang, 7, Tiana Vang, 8, and Ally Dickens, 8, all of Warren, with hats and aprons during their visit to the historic Bunert One-Room Schoolhouse Museum May 30.

Photo by Brian C. Louwers

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WARREN — The bus ride from Warren’s Westwood Elementary to the Bunert One-Room Schoolhouse Museum was just over a mile, about as far as some kids would have walked to class — in all sorts of weather — 100 years ago.

But inside the historic school-turned-museum, student life once was about as far as you can imagine from what you’ll find in today’s classrooms.

Chalkboards have been replaced by whiteboards. The students once worked with slates instead of computers. And the rules, though they somewhat remain the same, were once enforced with the threat of a good paddling, instead of a bad report sent home to today’s parents.

A group of Westwood second-graders from Warren Woods Public Schools got a 45-minute taste of early 20th century classroom life May 30. The presentation was hosted by the Warren Historical & Genealogical Society, which owns the Bunert One-Room Schoolhouse Museum.

“They get the history of one-room schools, and they get to participate in the curriculum. And I tell them all the rules, about how things were conducted 100 years ago,” said Dolly Slicker, vice president of the Warren Historical & Genealogical Society and vice chair of the Warren Historical Commission.

The children are asked to raise their hands if they wish to speak, to stand while addressing the class and to refrain from talking while they sit in desks with their hands folded.

The 137-year-old schoolhouse, conveyed to the society in 1987, was moved shortly thereafter to its current location on the east side of Bunert, south of Martin. It was originally built on the northeast corner of Bunert and Martin in 1875.

Slicker said the school originally served local students as the Warren Township District No. 4 School. She said it remained in the service of what would become the Warren Woods district until 1944.

The building has been repainted inside and out by volunteers as recently as two years ago.

Slicker said the floorboards, once infested with beetles, were replaced in 1988.

She said the schoolhouse furnishings were either bought or donated, but that most of the structure is original, including the tin ceiling and walls.

Slicker said she does a few class tours this time of year, but would prefer to do more.

“We’re always looking for more teachers. We’d love to expand the program to other schools and other districts,” Slicker said.

Westwood second-grade teacher Lisa Meneghin said this was the second year she’d brought her class to the school, which supplements their local history curriculum.

“They love the experience. It makes it so real for them,” Meneghin said. “They love it when things they are learning about in the classroom are out in the community. They get so excited.”

Slicker said the Santa Maria Lodge, located at the original site of the Bunert one-room schoolhouse north of Martin, was originally built as classroom space for fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students. The schools once operated side by side, serving families that settled in the area.

She said the Warren Historical Commission plans to honor the Santa Maria Lodge with a historical plaque on July 19.

Slicker said efforts are also under way to secure a place for the Bunert one-room schoolhouse on the National Register of Historic Places.

“If we get it, it will only be the second in the city,” Slicker said. “GM has one (at the General Motors Technical Center). We’re hoping to be the second one in the city.”

The Bunert One-Room Schoolhouse Museum is open to the public from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month except January, February and July. Special showings can be arranged by leaving a message at (586) 258-2056.

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