Big Sky Schoolhouse Survey


Launched in 2015, this comprehensive statewide architectural survey of Montana’s one- and two-room schoolhouses seeks to locate and document the remaining schoolhouses in every county under the Big Sky. With assistance from student interns and volunteers, we have completed survey work in about half of Montana’s 56 counties. Our long-term goal is to provide technical assistance to endangered schoolhouses with notable historic integrity. Additionally, our research will be collected into a database, usable for
future studies and preservation work.

Without You There is No Alliance

It goes without saying that in a state this big we cannot complete this survey work alone. We are always in need of volunteers who are willing to get out on the back roads and help give these incredible schools a second chance at serving Montana. The process depends on the size of the county and how much time a volunteer can dedicate, but estimates have been given to better inform you.


Step 1: Research
Three - Six Weeks

Research can be conducted via satellite from almost anywhere. In this phase volunteers will call local historical societies, libraries, school superintendents, and any other resources available to collect the names and locations of schools that once existed in their assigned county.

Next they will use the locations collected to start identifying and contacting owners. This way volunteers can establish that a schoolhouse is present before committing to a visit for documentation. Many volunteers find it helpful during this process to create a working map that will be used in the documentation phase. A “Resource Packet” is given to every volunteer, intern and partner organization, click here for an example.

Calvert Student 1.JPG

Step 2: Documentation
One - Two Weeks

Once a volunteer has culled their list of schools to eliminate demolished buildings he or she can begin visiting the schools. Documentation is completed on a tablet or phone via the Fulcrum app. For more on the Fulcrum app click here. During this process volunteers will answer questions about the buildings architecture in a form that follows the State Historic Preservation “Historic Property Record” closely. To see that form click here. This process can also be completed on paper and typed into the database after returning from fieldwork.

In addition to the basic architectural report, volunteers will also need to take 5 to 7 photos of the school to depict its condition and collect the contact information of the owners.

Selstrom 2.JPG

Step 3: Reporting
Two - Six Hours

The final step for volunteers is to label and share all of the photos they have taken with the MPA via Google Drive. Any forms completed in Fulcrum will need to be synced. We also love to hear about their adventures in a short response.

Once this work is completed a volunteer can rest assured that the schools they have visited will have an improved chance of receiving technical assistance and standing for generations to come.


A Sneak Peek

As we move along we will create regional Google Map with locations, photos, and history of Montana's existing one- and two-room schools so you can see where Granny's school was moved to, find out what Aunt Gertrude's classroom looked like, or get an overview of the history of the schoolhouse where Grandpa Joe learned his ABCs.

This map was created to show the remaining schoolhouses of Lewis & Clark County.

Green - Standing
Yellow - Unable to Located
Red - Confirmed Demolition

To read more about the origins of the Big Sky Schoolhouse Survey click here. 

Or to tell us about a one room schoolhouse in your area
click here.