Have fun investigating Norwich schoolhouse history!

If you haven’t had the chance, try the schoolhouse podcast driving tour!

NOW: How do you get to school today?

Drive from your house to your school. 

Take note of the mileage when you leave and arrive. Have a quick math practice to figure out how far it is from home to school.

Download a road map of Norwich and have your child trace your route; or have them draw a map from scratch as you make the drive.

THEN: How did children get to school in the past?


For 200 years, Norwich children walked to school. In winter they might have had a ride by sleigh. Because of this, most children lived within 2 miles of a schoolhouse.



Look closely at this 1869 map of Norwich. Each color represents a school district. Every school district had a schoolhouse.

  • How many school districts were in Norwich in 1869? (18)
  • Why do you think there were so many schools?
  • Can you find the little lines representing a mountain or hill? Look carefully for rivers and streams—they will also help you figure out your answer. (Geography played a role in settlement)

Another hint: Think back to your drive to Marion Cross. How long do you think it would take you to walk from your house to Marion Cross? (a Village School for all wouldn’t become possible until motor vehicles–the final schoolhouse closed in 1952!).

THEN: Where might you have attended school long ago?

Look again at the 1869 map. Can you figure out what school you would have attended? If it’s hard to tell, click at the bottom of the page on Google Earth basic. The 1869 map will layer on a current map of Norwich.

If you live right in the center of Norwich, you would have attended the Village School, District 1. This map shows the center of Norwich.










Let’s find out what the school looked like. Now that you know which schoolhouse you would have attended go to our Historic School Photograph collection on Flickr and find the right schoolhouse album.  Over time, schoolhouses closed and children were sent to the next closest school and eventually to the village school. If you can’t find an album with photographs of the schoolhouse, it probably closed and you would have attended a school further away—or nobody took a photo!


Can you figure out where the schoolhouse was that you might have attended in 1869? Children would have walked to school—sometimes as much as 2 miles. Try taking a walk from your house to the schoolhouse (or to where the schoolhouse was). Would you have gone on the road? Are there some shortcuts you might have taken?

  • Take a picture of yourself at the schoolhouse or schoolhouse location. Can you do a then and now photoshoot?
  • Draw a map of your route; compare it to your route to Marion Cross School.

Who were the children who attended school?

Can you find a class photograph on the Flickr site?

You can try colorizing the photograph to see what the students might have looked like.  Here’s how to do it: https://www.myheritage.com/incolor

Look closely at the class photograph.

  • Can you find the teacher? Sometimes they were as young as 16 years old.
  • How many students attended school?  ____________________
  • How many boys? __________  girls? __________
  • Do they look like they are all the same age? _______________
  • How does a “class” in an old Norwich schoolhouse differ from your class today?

What was it like to go to school?

This painting shows what it was like to attend a one-room school.

Here is a worksheet and writing prompt for the painting, comparing classrooms then and now.

What games did children play?

Children often made their own games to play at recess.  This folder has instructions for:

  • Making a Tic-Tac-Toe board with felt
  • Making a Button Buzzer
  • Rules for playing marbles
  • Dice Game–be creative about your counting pieces. What would kids have used in the past?
  • Nine Men’s Morris which can be played using the paper template or use the paper template to transfer the game onto a board. Pound small nail holes at each of the intersections and connect the lines with a sharpie. Use rocks or dried beans for your playing pieces.