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Some Memories of a Silva School Student

By Mary Lynn Axtman, Fargo, North Dakota, May, 2003

Our appreciation is extended to Mary Lynn Axtman for writing her memories
of the Silva School.


My Silva School years of 1952 to 1959 were a very important part of my growing up years besides those learned within a loving family with six children and as members of the Balta Catholic Church.

Some of the important life lessons learned at Silva School besides the usual 3 R's were:

A] Tolerance and diversity: as the Silva teachers and students in the years I attended were about evenly mixed with either Scandinavian Lutheran or Kutschurgan Catholic German-Russian cultural heritage, we would learn about and share differences in foods, such as lefse vs. kuchen, lutefisk vs. pickled herring, Sunday Lutheran Bible School lessons vs. summer Catholic Catechism School besides sharing various Scandinavian or German words we knew; perhaps some not so nice!!

As there only about 35-40 students in all eight grades and two teachers when I attended, it was necessary that the girls be part of organized recess playground activities, such as softball, basketball, hockey or anti-I-over in order to play a game.

Thus the girls learned early on that they could compete and cooperate equally with or against the boys. All the students help organize and produce the annual Christmas and other various other programs for parents and community.

B] Independence: the two elementary classrooms (grades 1-4 and 4-8) taught independent studies and learning by the students in each of the other grades when the teachers were giving specific lessons to just one of the grades. We others could be working on our own school lessons independently, reading a library book or just listening, learning or reviewing what was being taught to the students in another grade. As my class had only two students in most of my elementary school years, I learned much from the older students as well.

C] Civic lessons: Silva School had an organized 'Young Citizens League" where we learned lessons in citizenship, government, leadership, public speaking and conducting meetings. As the Silva School building was used for the various civil elections, we would learn first hand about voting and the election process by our parents involvement in school, township, county, state or national elections and as elected officials or on boards of directors.

D] Higher learning: Both at Silva School and at home I learned of the resources available to both students and their parents through lessons and advice made available through the County Extension work at North Dakota State University in Fargo or the State of North Dakota Library in Bismarck. We discovered that learning continues all through life and where to find resources about many different subjects not specifically taught in the regular school lessons or in the books in our school library.

Silva Elementary School was a great learning foundation and produced many who went on to college and university studies, degrees and accomplishments.

Thank you Silva School with great teachers and people for such a fine elementary education.

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Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
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