Regis students hear math lesson in Sunnyview Schoolhouse

·3 min read

May 19—EAU CLAIRE — On a dreary spring afternoon, area students filed into the one-room Sunnyview School, chattering about their days. Surrounded by aging books, yellowed maps and the telling scent of time, they took their seats at creaky wooden desks and faced a faded blackboard.

Their teacher stood at the front of the room. The day's lesson was in mathematics.

While this scene could've easily come directly from 1882 — with some minor discrepancies — Mike Nerbovig's math investigations class brought the 1800s schoolhouse to the 21st century on Wednesday.

Nerbovig, a teacher at Regis High School, taught two groups of upper-level students lessons involving mathlink cube puzzles in the historic schoolhouse at the Chippewa Valley Museum on Wednesday. The students, comprising Nerbovig's math investigations and trigonometry classes, were offered the unique opportunity to both learn in the authentic schoolhouse and tour the museum with Regis Principal Paul Pedersen.

The idea came to Nerbovig while visiting the Irvine Park schoolhouse in Chippewa Falls with his daughter several years ago.

"As we walked around the classroom, I noticed a seating chart, so I read the names of the various students enrolled and was surprised to read the name of a student who graduated with me from Chippewa Falls High School in 1964," Nerbovig said. "That coincidence started me thinking about what it would be like to allow my current students to experience this type of learning."

The COVID-19 pandemic and Nerbovig's brief retirement from Regis delayed his implementation of the field trip, but he said he now hopes to see the trip become an annual event for Regis students.

The Sunnyview schoolhouse, which originally provided education to children in Grades 1 through 8, stood in the Town of Washington from 1882 through 1961 before its relocation to Carson Park in 1963.

According to the museum website, a single teacher would present 20 class sessions daily across all grade levels during the school's heyday, with students free to listen to any of the presentations to catch up, stay current or learn ahead. Students were also expected to complete chores for the school or partake in fun activities during downtimes.

"The Chippewa Valley Museum has offered a warm welcome for us to use the facility and we are very excited," Nerbovig had said in a Regis news release.

As his students worked through their puzzles at their desks, Nerbovig said his goal in bringing them to Sunnyview was to foster an appreciation for the past — and mathematics, of course.

Evelyn Shepich, a senior at Regis and one of Nerbovig's math investigations students, said the day's lesson had been exciting and unique. Though she had once been to the schoolhouse before in elementary school, she said this was her first learning there as a student.

"It's really cool to be able to see a different side of history — what it used to look like and how we progressed so far," Shepich said. "It's really interesting to be here with my classmates."