Week-Day Church Schools


This was written on October 15, 1937 as one of the WPA projects in Dayton during the Great Depression

 

Week-Day Church Schools.

 

            The Community Week-Day Schools of Religious Education of Dayton, Ohio, conducted under the auspices of The Sunday School Council of Religious Education, and offering religious instruction to public school children one hour a week during the school term, are generally recognized as models of their kind.  Though the system was introduced in Gary, Ind., and in Van Wert, Ohio, several years before it was adopted here, it was never developed in those cities on such an extensive scale.  Indeed, Week-day Religious Schools have been conducted here with such signal success, that they have become recognized among religious educators as demonstrational and experimental schools.  During the past 16 years, many eminent executives and teachers of religious education have come to Dayton to see these schools in operation and to study them from the standpoint of organization, courses taught, financial arrangement, correlation with the public schools, size of the classes, relation to home, school and church, aims, accomplishments, etc.  Not only do they come, but constantly they write for this help.

            Even today, though a greatly reduced budget of the Sunday School Council has limited the enrollment of these schools to fourth and fifth grade pupils, except in a few special cases, they are recognized as ranking with the schools of Cincinnati, Kansas City, St. Paul and Minneapolis, where they have also been highly developed.

            To Miss Blanche Carrier, organizer and first supervisor of the Week-Day church schools of Dayton and Montgomery County, much of the credit for their excellence must be given, according to Rev. F. A. Shults, Sunday School Council executive.  Upon coming here from Boston University in 1922, she set up the system, planned the courses, and opened the first school at the Wayne Avenue Evangelical Church, for pupils of Ruskin and Emerson schools, teaching all the classes herself the first year.  Later, as other centers were added and other teachers were engaged, she trained the teachers and added other courses to the curriculum.  Three of these courses, “Seeking the Beautiful”, “Building Christian Character”, and “The Kingdom of Love” are still widely used as text books in cities with Week day schools across this country.  They have not been used in Dayton for several years, since religious education has changed in approach and procedure.  The staff has replaced these courses with units of work, which more nearly meet the religious needs of children today.  These the staff has also prepared.

            When Miss Carrier resigned her position after serving six years as supervisor of the week-day schools here, they had increased from 16 to more than 200 classes, with from 35 to 40 pupils in a class.  They system included 26 grade schools, schools for special and primary pupils, and the senior high schools, cared for with credit courses.  The total enrollment was approximately 13,000.

            Since leaving Dayton, Miss Carrier has become even more prominent as an authority on church schools and religious teaching.  She went from here as a teacher to the School of Education at Pittsburgh University.  After several years there she studied for a year at Columbia University, earned her doctor’s degree, and was appointed to the chair of religious education at Northwestern University four years ago.

            Her successor was Miss Helen Stearns, who remained as supervisor only two years, being succeeded by Miss Florence Martin, the present supervisor.  Miss Martin has been associated with the Week-Day Schools 14 years; she was one of the first teachers trained by Miss Carrier.

            Five teachers now assist her in teaching about 3,500 pupils in the 39 centers associated with 41 schools in the city and county.  Most of the pupils reside in Dayton and are in the fourth and fifth grades.  But in three centralized county schools, know as contract schools, some of the pupils are in higher or lower grades.  Contract schools are the following: Pasadena School at Beavertown, where classes are organized for pupils from the second to the eighth grades; Osborn and Fairfield schools in Bath Twp, Greene County, where six classes of fourth and fifth graders are taught, and Ft. McKinley School, the pupils of which belong to the third, fourth, fifth and sixth grades.

            In recent years Miss Martin has introduced new units of work to meet the religious needs of boys and girls of today, to help them discover and desire to live and have actual experiences in living. These units are: “The World Family at Worship”, fourth grades; “Living as Christians With Our closest Neighbors”, fifth grade; “Discovering God”, sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

            Many methods of guiding the children are used.  Among the principal ones are conversation, discussion, dramatization, research, interviews, creative writing, art, worship, hymn singing, Bible references, committee work, etc.  The courses are all built up by the supervisor, who is assisted by the staff.  Each child receives a note book, in which he records class and individual findings, and is allowed to keep the note book at the end of the year in payment for his ten-cent enrollment fee.             

            For those who are unfamiliar with the workings of Week-Day Schools of Religious Education (for they are only about 20 years old and have been operated in Dayton and Montgomery County only during the past 16 years) certain facts will be of interest.

            Here they are organized under the auspices of the Council of Religious Education, an interdenominational organization supported by the Protestant churches, and they are directly operated by a Commission of 21 members, chosen chiefly for their ability along education and religious lines.  They are conducted by an arrangement with the Board of Education under these conditions; Religious study must be elective and pupils may be enrolled only at the request of their parents; reports of attendance must be sent regularly to each principal and to the superintendent of schools; thee teachers must be trained not only in the subject which they teach, but also in general teaching methods and principles, so the instruction which they offer meets all educational requirements and standards of the public schools; the instruction must be carried on in buildings other than public schools, unless no center with proper equipment is available, and it must be given in rooms that have equipment and facilities adequate for effective training.

            The schedule of classes is worked out by the director with the help of the principals.  Much of the success in its maintenance depends on the attitude of the teachers and principals.  But their attitude has been favorable and there has been no interruption with the schedule even in schools whose principals are not of the Protestant faith.  This would seem to speak well for the non-sectarian character of the teaching.

            The standard class has 35 pupils, but no more than 40 pupils are permitted in any class.  This is so the teacher may include all members of the class in the class activities and so she may know and help each child individually.

            Enrollment is secured in this manner.  During the first week of school, each teacher of religion goes into each public school-room of the grades in the districts to which she has been assigned.  She speaks briefly to the pupils, announcing the place of meeting, and the courses for the year.  She also distributes request cards for parents who wish their children to enroll.

            The policy of requiring written requests from the parents was adopted to avoid legal charges by parents who are not Protestant.  The Council of Religious Education does not wish to teach its religious conceptions to children whose parents do not care to have them so instructed.

            At the end of each bi-monthly period, reports are sent to each principal and to the superintendent of schools, giving at he enrollment, attendance and other matters common to such report.  But the attendance or absence is not recorded at the public school.

            No school credits are given to pupils of the lower grades for work in the Week-Day Schools of Religion, but the report cared which goes home at the end of the semester helps to establish a report standard.  In general, the average daily attendance of religious schools is comparable to public school attendance.

            Reference has already been made to the establishment of the week-day schools usually in some church center that is near one or more school buildings.  In exceptional cases the week-day school is conducted at a schoolhouse, but only when no church is available.  The church chosen must have a room large enough for the class and must be adequately lighted, heated and ventilated.  The Council makes a financial arrangement for the coal and light and adds a dollar a day to the janitor’s salary for the extra trouble that he is causes.  Where the church cannot provide adequate equipment such as tables, blackboard, screen and wall maps, the room assigned to the classes is furnished by the Sunday School Council of Religious Education.

            County Schools often have to be conducted in public school buildings when no church is available.  But the Sunday School Council protects the principles of democracy just as faithfully in the county as in the city and observes the rules of the request card system, insisting that pupils not electing the course should be taken to another room during the session.

            Each teacher has a fairly heavy schedule.  With an assignment of about 20 classes a week, she must spend half a day at each city center except in the case of township schools.  She teaches four or five classes a day, four and a half days a week.  The other half day she spends in community contacts, which means she visits the homes of the parents of some of her pupils, or she confers with teachers or principals.  Besides she is expected to attend a general meeting for two hours each Wednesday afternoon during the school year, part of which is devoted to business and administrative matters and the other hour to the discussion and study of some professional subject - a teaching method, the use of certain material or contacts with the child and his parents, etc.

            Besides her teaching duties, her guiding of teachers and her conduct of staff meetings the supervisor, Miss Florence Martin devotes her time to the duties of administration, preparation of various courses and observation of classes for the purpose of checking results of teaching material ahd helping the teachers to find the most effective methods of religious training.   Administrative work includes preparation of public programs; preparation of newspaper publicity; friendly contracts with principals in all adjustments and problems between the schools; working out relationships with the churches, and studying such problems as the transfer of pupils between school and church, etc.  It has also been her duty to help week-day work nationally and state-wide.  She serves on a number of committees for the County Council of Religious Education, the State Council and the international Council.

            So much for the main facts regarding the operation of the program of the Week-Day Schools, the duties of supervisor and teachers and other matters concerning them.

            After sixteen years in Dayton and Montgomery County, they have amply demonstrated their worth in Dayton and Montgomery County, and are recognized as perhaps the most effective means of imparting religious education, according to F. C. Shults, Sunday School Council Secretary.  Their aims have been fully realized; That is, they have given the child a wholesome conception of God and Father, Jesus His Son and His Spirit in the world, they have given the child an intelligent knowledge of the Bible, they have trained and prepared him for active church membership, and they have helped him build such a Christian character as makes him want him to live out the ideals of Jesus at home, at school and at play.

            Finally they have accomplished much for the child as regards his relations to church, home and school   To such accomplishments local pastors, church school teachers, superintendents and principals have paid tribute.  Pastors have testified the Week-Day Schools of Religious Education have created an atmosphere in the homes of pupils which makes it less difficult to approach parents in an endeavor to win them for the church.  Sunday School teachers confess that it has become increasingly necessary for them to make better lesson preparation on account of the presence of pupils in the Week-Day Schools.  Principals of grad schools have stated that the atmosphere of the school particularly in the upper grades, has been different since the children have been studying at the School of Religion, and both the late Superintendent Paul C. Stetson and former Superintendent F. C. Courter commended the religious schools both in writings and in public addresses.           

            In an article in the Elementary School Journal, April, 1924 Stetson wrote:

 

            “The Work in the Week-Day School of Religion makes a real contribution to the pupils in the solution of the problems of their lives as they find them in school and at home.  These schools have resulted in establishing friendly relations between the public school system and the churches.”

           

Summer Vacation Schools.

 

 

            A revival of the Summer Vacation Church School movement occurred in Dayton and Montgomery County during the summer of 1937 in harmony with the general recognition in the world of religious education regarding the value of these schools.  The result was that the Sunday School Council of Religious Education, with the cooperation of the downtown Protestant churches, conducted a summer vacation school for four weeks at the First U. B. church, while about 30 city and county churches operated their own schools.

            Improved conditions were partly responsible for the recrudescence of the Summer Vacation School movement.  They were abandoned during the depression years to save expense.  But their value in taking the time of children and offering something constructive for them during a period when they might get into mischief has always been admitted.

            The Westwood Lutheran church was probably the first local church to operate a religious training school for several weeks, twenty years ago.  The experiment proved so popular with teachers and pupils that various other churches organized them during the next summer and ran them for a long period.

            The most comprehensive and best equipped of the vacation schools was organized and operated by Rev. Miles Krumbine at the First Lutheran church up to the time of his departure from the city.  It cost more than a thousand dollars to operate for six weeks during the summer.  The teachers were all competent and thoroughly trained, receiving salaries on a par with public school teachers.  Many leaders in the Sunday School world came here from other cities to see this school in operation and it became the subject of laudatory articles in various religious publications.

            Last summer’s vacation school at the First U. B. church, the first to be conducted under the auspices of the Sunday School council, was run for four weeks for the comparatively modest sum of $280.00.  It was attended by 88 children, between the ages of six and 14 years, 21 of whom came from families having no church affiliation.  It was supervised by Mrs. Cecil E. Edwards, (a Week-Day Religious Education teacher) who taught herself and was assisted by six teachers, two for each department.  During the two and a half period, the children were put through a program which included religious discussions, dramatizations, Bible readings, worship, the keeping of notebooks and other things, pertaining to leading a Christian life according to their surroundings.

            As a result of the success of last summer’s experiment, the Sunday School Council is preparing to open vacation schools in several parts of the city and county in the summer of 1938, if the funds are available.  IN addition, it is likely that the number of summer vacation schools privately operated by the churches will be greatly increased.

            The Sunday School Council holds an Institute yearly in May for Vacation Church School workers of the county, and a training school course is offered for them in connection with the Leadership Educational School of the Council.

            The purpose of the Summer Vacation Schools, like that of the Week-Day Schools, is the guidance of boys and girls in living abundant Christian lives in present-day situations.