A Program Built on a Deep History of Educating Flathead Valley Students
The Central School as it looked when completed in 1894.

The historic Central School building first opened its doors to students in 1895.

In nearly 100 years of providing the educational needs of the Flathead Valley, it has served as a high school, a junior high school, and a grade school, as well as provided classrooms for the growing Flathead Valley Community College.

The building was boarded up and threatened with demolition in 1991, but the City of Kalispell renovated the structure at a cost of $2.4 million dollars, and since late 1999, has leased it to the Northwest Montana Historical Society for exhibits, performances, and community meetings.

Mr. John White

An important part of the School’s history includes Mr. John White, who served as custodian and bell ringer for more than 30 years. He knew and was beloved by all of the early students. Students tell the story of how Mr. White watched out for them. He would look out from the attic windows at arriving students in the morning and would hold off ringing the late bell until the tardy students were in their classrooms.

It seems only fitting a museum that started out as a school, should create and provide an educational program that carries out the time-honored tradition of ringing the historic school bell to welcome students from around Flathead County to learn what school was like in the 1890’s.

An Enriching Cultural Experience and Important History Lesson for Over 6,000 Flathead County Students

Students line up for the classroom using 1890’s rules: girls and boys in two lines

The 1895 Schoolroom Program was started in 2007 as a hands-on cultural and historical experience for Flathead County third grade students. Since then, over 6,000 students have had an opportunity to take part in living history.

1890’s classroom in session

As the students arrive, they are welcomed by the old school bell which is still rung by hand. Once inside the school, students begin to experience what life was like in the classroom during the 1890’s. Students are taught subjects of the period using 19th-century teaching tools and are introduced to early classroom social skills.

Students learn about Indian canoes from a museum docent.

As part of the learning experience, students are given a tour of the museum where they will have a chance to learn more about their community, region, and state. The tour gives the students a look at how people lived, dressed, and worked.

Students use 1800’s MacGuffey’s reader as a learning tool.

When students leave the 1895 Classroom and the Northwest Montana History Museum, they go back to their 21st-century classroom with a better understanding of what it was like to be a student attending school 124 years ago.

To help continue the student’s interest in history, the Museum will be sponsoring a contest asking them to submit a drawing or story about the 1894 Classroom experience.

Planning for the Future

As the Northwest Montana History Museum begins the 11th year of the 1895 Classroom Program, it is planning to enrich and grow the Program. The plan calls for acquiring, replacing, and providing more teaching tools, as well as extending the program outreach so many more students throughout Flathead County may attend.

To continue to engage and teach students, worn replicas of early student textbooks need to be replaced.

Expanding the learning experience will require purchasing a more diverse library of early textbooks.

After 10 years of use, damaged teaching tools like replicas of student hand-held slate boards need to be replaced.

Introducing a new recreational and learning component to the program will require purchasing early games and puzzles.

To teach local geography, pull down maps will need to be added to the classroom.

A student booklet needs to be created so they can share their visit to the 1894 Classroom with family and friends.

And, last but not least, a class picture to save the memory.

For teachers who have an interest in the Program and would like to introduce the 1895 Classroom to students at their school, the Museum intends to provide a traveling version of the program.

The traveling classroom would be packaged in a portable trunk on wheels and would include all of the materials used in the Program at the Museum.

Whether students are provided an educational trip back in time in their respective classrooms or at the Museum, this rich cultural experience and valuable history lesson will help bring them up close to Northwest Montana History.

To help make the 1895 Classroom more accessible to the 1,000 plus third-grade students in outlying Flathead County schools, the Museum will implement a transportation fund that will help offset county school budget shortfalls that prevent many Flathead County schools outside Kalispell from attending the 1894 Schoolroom Program.

Your Support Will Help Us Grow the Program and Reach More Students

The Northwest Montana History Museum is seeking funding to upgrade and maintain The 1895 Classroom Program for 3 years.

3-Year Funding Request

Classroom Materials and Supplies: $7,100

  • Replacing worn replicas of early textbooks
  • Add new subjects of early textbooks replicas
  • Replace damaged hand-held chalkboards
  • Add early games and puzzles
  • Create student classroom visit booklet
  • Provide students with a class photograph
  • Add pull-down maps to the classroom

Traveling 1894 Classroom: $1,800

  • 6 Oversize Footlockers on Wheels
  • 6 Sets of Homestead Folk Toys
  • 6 Sets of Early Puzzles and Games
  • 6 Sets of 30 Handheld Chalkboards
  • 6 Sets of Chalks
  • 6 Sets of Various Early Pioneer Story Books
  • 6 Sets of Early Textbook Replicas

Outreach Transportation Fund: $4,500

  • Fulfilling the fund request would allow each of the outlying schools’ third-grade classes to attend the 1890’s Classroom once a year for three years.
  • The fund would cover the cost of the bus, driver, and fuel.

Total Funding Request: $13,400

Levels of Giving in Support of the 1894 Classroom Program
  • Classroom Volunteer: $100 – $499
  • Teacher’s Assistant: $500 – $999
  • Teacher: $1,000 – $2,999
  • Councilor: $3,000 – $4,999
  • Principal: $5,000 – $9,999
  • Superintendent: $10,000+

Your gift to the Northwest Montana History Museum for the 1895 Classroom Program will be a significant step in ensuring that the program continues to reach out to young students throughout Flathead County.

All gifts large and small help to propel us forward. Your charitable gift is fully tax deductible.