ROCK HILL, S.C. - A documentary film about one-room country schools and how they transformed rough-hewn pioneers and multilingual immigrants into a literate and patriotic new nation makes its world premiere this month in Des Moines, Iowa. Winthrop’s Mark Dewalt, a one-room school scholar and chair of the Department of Counseling, Leadership and Educational Studies, is among those interviewed.
“Country School: One Room – One Nation,” written and produced by award-winning filmmakers Tammy and Kelly Rundle (“Villisca: Living with a Mystery” and “Lost Nation: The Ioway”), will be screened Nov. 19-21 at the State Historical Building.
“One-room country schools played a significant and prominent role in Iowa’s past and they remain a source of interest today,” Department of Cultural Affairs Director Cyndi Pederson said. “Many Iowans either attended a country school or had a relative who did. This film will bring back cherished memories for everyone whose lives were touched by a part of rural Midwestern education that simply doesn’t exist anymore.”
From the first schools in new states to the demise of their widespread use in the 1950s and 1960s, “Country School” takes viewers “back to school” for a dramatic new look at the lasting impact of America's one-room schools.
The visually stunning film features a unique country school designed by Frank Lloyd Wright along with dozens of more traditional structures of brick, stone or wood – in all stages of restoration or decay – in picturesque rural areas of Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin, Missouri and Nebraska.
“In creating this film, we also wanted to focus on stories that were handed down from one generation to another,” Kelly Rundle said. “What we found was a treasure trove of memories that are full of nostalgia, drama, humor and often heart-wrenching situations.”
Shot in the midst of all four seasons, the film features interviews with a who’s who of one-room school scholars, including authors Dewalt, Bill Samuelson, Jerry Apps, Dorothy Schwieder, Vera Hurst, Frank Yoder and Bill Sherman, as well as former country school teachers and students. The running time of the film is approximately 80 minutes.