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Where Did Chalkboards Come From?

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(Image credit: Dreamstime/Life's Little Mysteries Illustration)

Hear that? It's the sound of thousands of schoolteachers resuming their swishy-click marking up of our nation's chalkboards. The ubiquitous learning aids have gone through some evolutions since the days of one-room schoolhouses.

Back then, students carried their own wedge of slate, reusable and cheaper than paper, and took notes on their laps. Larger chalkboards — sometimes just pieces of wood painted with black, liquid slate — hit the wall in the early 19th century, when they were introduced to America by a Scottish geography teacher at West Point Academy.

A greenish hue is more popular today because it is considered less harsh on the eyes. Concerns over dust allergies are also spurring the use of "whiteboards," porcelain-based boards written on with squeaky, colored markers. So much for the eraser-cleaning detention.

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Heather Whipps
Heather Whipps writes about history, anthropology and health for Live Science. She received her Diploma of College Studies in Social Sciences from John Abbott College and a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from McGill University, both in Quebec. She has hiked with mountain gorillas in Rwanda, and is an avid athlete and watcher of sports, particularly her favorite ice hockey team, the Montreal Canadiens. Oh yeah, she hates papaya.