Inspiration - Simple


Photo of Anne Talbot, Curator of the School on Wheels Museum

Photo Source: KADIMA village


From time to time, we all could use some inspiration. That’s what you’ll find here. We hope it inspires you to stay curious to look for what’s not already in front of you, yet. Enjoy…


Today people love to make things complicated and even complex.

When it really doesn’t need to be.


Take for instance the approach to delivering education to children in schools during the pandemic. Everything from online learning to mask on/mask off was made so complicated and confusing that no one knew what was in or out. In the end it’s the children who suffered.


Education initiatives and plans don’t always need to be ridiculously ambitious laced with jargon talk and actions. In fact, providing education to children was once very simple.


Simple Idea

In the early 1900s families who lived in remote Northern Ontario regions had little or no formal education. This included immigrated railway workers living along the line, woodsmen, hunters, trappers, and Indigenous peoples.


Alfred Fitzpartrick, of the Reading Camp Association and Dr. James B. MacDougall, public school inspector and principal of North Bay Normal School, believed education was important for the social and economic fabric of the north. It was a way to bring together diverse ethnic groups and bring them to an understanding of the values and institutions of Canada. The challenge they faced, to bring education to the north was, there were no schools. They knew the obvious answer wasn’t to propose to build schools. The provincial government wouldn’t agree to it.


Read: Dr. James B. MacDougall

Fred Sloman

So instead, in 1922 Dr. MacDougall convinced the provincial government, to bring education to Northern Ontario’s outlying regions, by funding railway car schools.


It took four years to get the first of seven cars to commence operation. The first car was staffed by Fred Sloman, a teacher and ardent supporter of the innovative education programme. With his wife Cela and their 5-children, Mr. Sloman would travel weekly along the CNR line from Capreol, near Sudbury, north-west to Foleyet for 39 years stopping at designated areas to teach young and old and anyone who wanted to learn.





The front of the car, in the photo above, was the school, and the back of the car, here, was where The Sloman family lived.

Photo of School on Wheels Museum

Photo Source: KADIMA village


When Albert Einstein was asked what was most helpful to him in developing the theory of relativity, he replied, ‘Figuring out how to think about the problem’. Dr. MacDougall, Mr. Fitzpatrick et al figured out how to think about the problem of bringing education to the north. In the process, the simple idea of using a railway car as a school ‘became an integral part of the Education Department’s broad policy of extending educational opportunities in the province’ and so much more.


Our Unlearning Lab Method is about helping you to figure out how to think about the problem, challenge or opportunity. Click here to learn more about our October 12th, 2022 Lab: Uncertainty Is A Mind-Reading Game And Journey.

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