Pleasant Bay School has been part of the Green Schools community for three years. As of today, there are five students enrolled in this school, from Primary to grade five. The school has changed a lot over the years. Herman Timmons is a fisherman who has lived in Pleasant Bay for his whole life. He attended the school when it first opened in 1947. Back then there were 25-30 students at the school and two teachers who taught all levels, from Primary to grade 11.
When Herman went to school there was no garbage truck to take away their trash. Anything made of paper was burned, and anything that couldn’t be burned was “chucked over the bank” into the ocean. Back then people didn’t realize how much of a problem waste was causing, especially for wildlife on land and sea. However, at that time, folks in Pleasant Bay didn’t have plastic. Herman remembers the first time he saw plastic was in the 1960’s.
Students brought their lunches to school but there were no yogurt tubes, cheese strings, or Dunkaroos. Each day, Herman brought bread with butter, if they had made butter that week, and some milk from their cow. There was a store in Pleasant Bay where the family purchased staple items like flour, sugar, molasses, and tea. Everything else was grown or raised at home. Talk about supporting local!
Before there was electricity, there was no refrigeration. Each home had an ice house. In February the family would take their horse down to the harbour and cut around 50 "cakes" of ice. These would go in the ice house and be covered in sawdust to insulate them. The ice would last until July and during that time food could be kept cool in the ice house. No electricity in Pleasant Bay also meant that there were no lights at the school. “That didn’t matter,” Herman said, “there was enough sunlight coming through the windows to see most of the time.” When it was dark they used lanterns that burned kerosene. The toilet was outside and to get water, they used an outdoor hand pump. I have a feeling they didn’t have to worry about students taking too much time in the bathroom- especially in winter! Herman said the school was heated with a coal furnace. He remembers that the smell of the coal was very strong in the classroom. In 1956, electricity came over the mountain to Pleasant Bay. Everyone welcomed this change, and life in Pleasant Bay became a bit easier.
Today the classroom at the Pleasant Bay school has lights. Students throw their garbage in the trash or recycling bin rather than over the bank, and they are working on improving their school compost. People can drive to and from Cheticamp, even in the winter. Today, the school is heated by an oil furnace, and the students don’t have to endure the smell of burning coal in the classroom. But some things haven’t changed. The students still save energy by keeping the lights off if there is enough daylight coming through the big windows in their class, and they have a small garden where they grow some of their own food.
Ms Ashley Crowley is the new teacher at Pleasant Bay School. This is her first year teaching in a one-room school. She loves that she teaches her students one-on-one, and knows them as individual learners. She can take them on field trips in a single vehicle. It can also be a challenging position because she doesn’t have a team of colleagues. There are teachers at nearby schools to talk to, but their experience in the classroom is quite different. However, in her own words, Ms Crowley “wouldn’t go back to teaching in a large school.” Small rural schools are not the norm anymore, but for the few that still exist, they are an important part of the community and often have a unique story, like Pleasant Bay School.