From the Jan. 21, 1966 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

The little red schoolhouse and the one-room schoolhouse have not yet entirely been “progressed” out of existence. Several still remain through Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, and one is in full swing on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard.

There it stands in all its glorious red paint, with the American flag streaming proudly from a pole out front. It stands perched on a bluff with the undulating Atlantic on one side and the comparatively still Vineyard Sound on the other. It stands swathed in a magnificent abundance of the elements on the tip of the Island, at Gay Head. It stands also for a fast-vanishing way of American life.

This year, within its red protective walls, five children are learning their three “R’s” on different levels ranging from first to third grade. The school actually goes up to the fourth grade, but no one has gotten there this year.

Mrs. James Manning is the shepherd of the little group, and has been for the past ten years. She teaches all subjects to all grades, all in the one sun-filled room. The most students she has ever had is thirteen, but this is her smallest group. At first Mrs. Manning thought it would be dull, but the small group has proved more fun and of more interest than others.

Subjects taught at the school are reading, writing, phonics, spelling, penmanship, English (both oral and written), social studies, health and nutrition, art, music, games, or more correctly, physical education, and science. The school nurse comes once a month to give the health course, and Mrs. A. Douglas Stewart comes for an hour on Wednesdays to conduct the music class. She teaches the children singing, and how to read music. Before she leaves she gives the children an assignment to be completed before their next lessons.

Mrs. Manning teaches the art work and the decorations around the school room attest to her ability, but she calls her instruction incidental art.

In science the first grade, consisting of Battina Malonson, has been learning about seeds, and the second grade, composed of Matthew Vanderhoop, has been studying the earth, moon and sun, while the large group of third graders, Chester Cook, Marianna Harkless and Jean Ann Madison, have been learning about magnets. Of course, during most experiments the three classes tend to blend together since fascinating things attract fascinated little people.

A row of brown paper bags is thumbtacked to the wall just above the floor. The bags have letters on the front, and it was intended that the first grade put pictures in the bag that began with the proper sounds. It was not long before the entire school had to join in. This was fun!

A shelf runs beneath one sunny window and houses treasures collected by the group. There were stones and shells and an aquarium containing a snail and a salamander (which never “comes out”) and some fossils.

In the yard there is the usual exercising equipment like swings and slides, but the school is proudest of its little pond. This is where the salamander and other of their possessions have come from. Last summer there was no water in the pond, but some collected during the fall. Then Gay Head parents pulled a lot of the weeds so the children would be able to skate regardless of the shallow water.

Once a month Mrs. Manning tries to take the children on a field trip. They have been to the state forest, Fischer’s Farm, and hunting on the beach. Last week they paid a visit to the Gazette.

Sometimes they have visitors, such as a parakeet or a bunny, and every now and then a man selling apples sticks his head in the door.

The school day begins at 8:45 and lasts until 2:30. The children bring their own lunch, and during the winter months the Tuberculosis Association gives them milk or soup.

Accomplishment is great. Little Bettina, the first grader, has already finished reading four books this year. The children have lots of things to laugh about, too. One thing in particular is the water fountain, which tends to freeze in severe weather. When it is turned on there is a moment’s pause before it gleefully squirts in the would-be drinker’s eye. This is a delight to the children.

A project for the children is their bird feeder, which they keep filled with sunflower seeds. They are hoping to be able to get a record player so they can add music appreciation to their program.

Mrs. Manning was born in Gay Head and taught school for a while in Washington, D. C. While home on a vacation one summer, she heard that the Gay Head school needed a teacher, and she couldn’t resist the job.

After Mrs. Manning had taught at the school for several years, she married a Gay head man and, as she said, “I guess this is where I’ll be for a while”. In this the school is lucky. Not many people can handle thirteen children in four grade levels in one room. But Mrs. Manning has no trouble. She says it’s easy. “Everyone really participates in everything; it gets to be like home.”

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox