Early Colonial Schools: Some Moravian Examples

Early Colonial Schools: Some Moravian Examples
Martha Jefferson: Religion, Social Issues and Reform

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: Two to three class periods


Among the many protestant church groups to come to the American colonies during Martha Jefferson’s life, the Moravians were perhaps the most interested in formal education of children—everywhere they went, they built both churches and schools.  Although Martha Jefferson was educated in a manner traditional to the southern plantation family, the Moravians did have a major presence in the south, particularly in North Carolina. 


Students who participate in this lesson will gain a general knowledge of schooling in various parts of the colonies, as well as an introduction to the role of the Moravians in building schools in several parts of the colonies and new nation.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; access to print materials, if available; digital camera.


1.  Introduce the lesson to students by talking about schooling in the colonies.  You can use the first two websites listed below, or have students explore them, noting the differences in formal education in New England, the Middle Colonies, and the South.
2.  Then, give students a brief history of the Moravian church, and the Moravian church in America, stressing its commitment to formal education.  If you have students explore the website, “The Moravian Church,” preview it first so that you can be prepared to define some of the terms.
3.  With this background, assign groups of students to explore examples of Moravian schools in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.  Ask each student to draw a picture of something school-related he or she finds on these websites.  Take pictures of these drawings to create a PowerPoint presentation on Examples of Moravian Schools.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson might be extended by having students create their own hornbooks.  A hornbook lesson can be found among Lucy Webb’s lessons, Elementary Lesson #2, “Creating Your Own Hornbook.”

Sources & Resources:



Education in the Colonies

Colonial Education

Moravian Commitment to Education

The Moravian Church

The Moravian Story in North Carolina

The First School for Girls (Pennsylvania)

Early Schoolgirl Needlework

Schoenbrunn Village, Ohio


This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.