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study. There was a great deal of rough handwork which exercised the coarser muscles, and some pottery, weaving, and drawing to gain control of the finer ones. Their arithmetic was related to the laying out of gardens and practical problems in measuring and building; they were taught the care of their bodies and of animals; and were themselves made to participate in the actual running of the school through the performance of duties that usually fell to servants and teachers.
An improvement in weight, vitality, reliability, and good temper was rapidly apparent, and some cases were entirely cured of incipient disease. These results, however, were not a matter of great surprise; but what was surprising was the fact that these children, while devoting to schoolwork somewhat less than half as much time as their companions in the regular schools, did not fall back in their studies, but were easily able to rejoin the classes they had left.
Of course the application of this educational idea to public-school methods of instruction involves changes so deep-seated and revolutionary that it can be approached only gradually and after many readjustments; but meanwhile the volume of fresh air in the world remains unlimited and readily accessible to those who can appreciate its value.
School practice, in its attempt to adjust itself to the tremendous strides in popular education, has been hampered by many conventions, the consequences of which have come to be regarded as more or less axiomatical, and received with a surprising amount of philosophic acceptance. The stuffy school-room is proverbial. A person who is not accustomed to remaining in one for any length of time invariably experiences a feeling of relief in getting out into the air again, even when the room has been ventilated after the most approved methods. If it affects adults apathetically, what must its effect be on children, who are subjected to it as a matter of course?
In city schools the absence of color is pronounced in the children. Colds and
contagious diseases are prevalent in winter, and there is so much fatigue at the end of the day that studies demanding mental acumen must be placed at the beginning of the program. All school-children are usually in poorer condition at the end of the term, and the mental and physical breakdowns and a susceptibility to disease at the adolescent period seem to be alarmingly increasing. Teachers suffer likewise. They are worn out at the end of the day from the high nervous tension and the wracking problems of discipline, and in poor health at the end of the year.
"Studies of air conditions in the classrooms for normal children," says Dr. Woodruff, Medical Inspector of the New York Public Schools, "revealed the fact that in most of them, as measured by present ventilating standards, they were very good. Yet the fact remained that teachers and children seemed to become 'run down' during the winter, while children already subnormal physically improved in the fresh-air classes for anemic children, and that the teachers in these classes reported themselves in much better condition at the end of the school year than prior to taking the classes."
Physicians are almost unanimously advocating the policy, which has proved effective in the treatment of the anemic classes, of throwing open the school-room windows winter and summer; of turning off the artificial ventilation and all but a little of the heat; of allowing the children to wear their outer garments if they desire, creating their own animal heat through physical exercise.
The first experiment of this kind was undertaken six years ago by Mr. Watt, principal of the Graham School, Chicago, with excellent results. Subsequently the idea was utilized in the reconstruction of the buildings of a large and modern high school in a suburb of Chicago, and it was discovered that the standard of scholarship among the students increased thirty per cent., while the expenses for fuel and current were decreased three thousand dollars. It has been found particularly advantageous in kindergartens throughout
the Middle West, and in some towns in Michigan has been adopted throughout the entire public-school system.
New York City, however; has put out the most concentrated effort in this direction. In the last three years the idea of these classes has been steadily increasing in favor, until now there are a hundred of them distributed over the schools of Manhattan and Brooklyn, with unanimity of impression enough to be highly suggestive. One New York teacher reports:
Children much brighter, more active, and more responsive. Self very much stronger, appetite improved. Never feel so tired and exhausted at the end of day as I did formerly. Would not wish to give up openwindow class under any circumstance while possible to keep it.
For the last few years I have been troubled with tonsilitis. This year, not at all. The effect on some of the children has been very marked. A few of my children were out a great deal last year on account of coughs and colds. Very rarely have the children had colds this year in the same class.
Beside the physical improvement, the gain in mental ability is fairly well established. Mr. Watt found that the Graham School children learned much faster and better, and in several cases classes were ready for promotion in a little more than half a year. In New York the temptation has been prevalent to turn them into rapid-advancement classes, which, of course, has been discouraged.
Discipline also seems to have been rendered easier, on account, no doubt, of the necessity of allowing greater freedom in moving about the classroom, and because some of the physical causes of restlessness and irritation were removed.
Of course any movement which breaks in upon long-established precedence has to run the gantlet of opposition from all sides, some objections reasonable and some
only superficially so, and there is always a danger that in the hands of well-meaning, but injudicious, people the measure may be made to defeat its own end. Also, certain combinations of circumstances have tended to bring about better results than others. Upholding it, however, we have several years' experience, the medical profession, and some of the foremost educators of the day; but the contribution of the open-air school to education has not been solely one of hygiene.
Francisco Ferrer, the educational martyr of the century, wrote a few years before his death:
Almost everywhere children still study text-books on grammar, arithmetic, and history by heart. That is to say, that a child's memory is exclusively advanced, instead of his intelligence being solicited. Hardly ever, even when it is easy to do so, is the living reality approached. A few yards away from the threshold of the schoolhouse grass is springing, flowers are blooming, insects hum against the classroom window-pane, but the children are studying natural-history text-books!
The education of the passing generation has been breathless in its endeavor to keep up with the ever-widening field of possibility. It has seemed necessary for one to know everything, so that no branch which might prove useful should be omitted. But the phantom we have been chasing has proved elusive; just as we are about to grasp it, it bursts out in a hundred new directions, and keeps us, footsore and weary, ever stumbling on.
There have been some pioneers, however, who have realized these efforts to be futile, discouraging, and misdirected. Since one can never hope to master all the branches of knowledge, they have perceived the necessity of restoring to educational processes that wholeness which enables one to meet and conquer the emergencies of life, and which comes only when all the physical and mental phases of the growing child are sympathetically included in the range of instruction.
Quietly and perseveringly, some private schools have been for several years testing both from its physical and psychological point of view the value of outdoor education for normal children.
Schools have so long been associated in our minds with large buildings, and education with formal classes, curriculum, and routine, that they have come to be confused with the process of learning itself. The open-air school movement has been directed away from formal and textbook knowledge, toward the cultivation. of the power of the mind, of independence and of intellectual poise, so that the child, well equipped, can set out by himself to discover the road to the world's glorious possibilities. Borrowing from Pestalozzi and all the great educators from Erasmus to Ellen Key, they have sent the child out into nature, and utilized his sense of freedom to give him the desire and strength to overcome the impediments which the giant Knowledge puts in the way of tiny, groping feet.
In the city, the favorite locations of private open-air schools are on roofs, in public parks, and in back-yard gardens.
Seven stories above the city street, with a view of the breadth of Manhattan Island and a good stretch of its length, the little open-air pupils of the Horace Mann School are being initiated into a process of live education. There the children study. the wind and weather changes at first hand; there they watch the sun and the rain, and keep close tabs on the weather prophet. In little garden-boxes they plant their nature-study seeds, and care for the tiny shoots day by day. In the sand-box they make their geography maps and primitive villages. They wear woolly little bags and hoods at their desks, but they much prefer warming up by exercise in the adjoining play-yard, because it 's such fun to use your wits jumping puddles. and clearing away the snow.
The parks of Boston, Chicago, and New York are dotted here and there in the morning hours with groups of teachers and children learning and playing together.
The founder of "The New York Outdoor School" believed that children turned as naturally to the out-of-doors as a flower turns to the sun. Restlessness and inattention seemed to her due to the child's thoughts wandering out of the window to the place where he wanted to be. With his mind at ease and his body freed from restraint, gaining his interest and concentration no longer became a problem.
The school has access to a large room in which it meets in inclement weather, but every fair day the children are seen pulling their loaded express-wagon across the street to the Natural History Museum Park, where they do their sums on the sidewalk, hold their reading-class on some logs in a shady corner, play games to cultivate their sense of sound and feeling, or carry out the directions of their drawinglesson on their movable chart. Nestled at the foot of one of the city's most classic fountains, the story class affords many a passer-by a pleasurable moment.
In a bright sunlit garden, with rabbits and all manner of growing things, the Child Garden of the School of Mothercraft flourishes. Here children and mothers come to school together, or else the little school goes traveling to the zoo, the aquarium, the park, or the museum.
In suburbs of large cities there is a particularly good field for the open-air school. Plots of ground are usually available there for various out-of-door activities, and there are always sufficient children in the neighborhood to form the nucleus of a school. The Misses Mills School at Mount Airy, Pennsylvania, represents a modernly equipped and welldeveloped example of this type.
Every class is carried on in a pavilion with sliding-doors and transom windows, kept open winter and summer. Between every recitation period there is time for a short run in the open. Physical manual work is emphasized, and the children make in their shop a great many of the things that are used in the school. They also bind their own books, make the armor and costumes used in their festivals, care for
their gardens, and recently the kindergarten has hatched a whole brood of chickens, with which they are delightfully
Ultimately, however, the country, with its limitless possibilities for human activity and experience, must be recognized as the particular province of childhood.
California has always made the most of her climate and verdure for bungalow schools filled with outdoor life, and the movement has been sweeping east, finding idyllic tarrying-places in Maryland and Virginia, to the New England coast.
In a broad expanse on the edge of the Connecticut valley, an experiment in man and woman making has been going on for the last five years. It is known by the It is known by the name of "The Little School in the Woods" and has as its patron that beloved friend of children, Mr. Ernest Thompson Seton.
The school work is carried on under the broad expanse of heaven on ground which is rich in the fundamental elements of nature. "Ancient trees, glacier rocks, many, many kinds of wild flowers, water running in a stream, little wild wood animals, and some domestic ones,—birds, and a broad sweep of sky"-all enter into the daily lessons of these fortunate children, and from these they study the various branches of natural science, learning the things of heaven and earth at first hand.
These studies are linked with regular graded lessons, but always, when it is possible, the deed is supplied for the written word. History is acted out over and over again in this peaceful valley: Washington crosses the Delaware with a fleet of canoes, and Paul Revere comes riding down the road at regular intervals to notify the Concord farmers to protect their homes.
When a boy or girl enters the school he learns that it is a place not alone of work, but a place to be happy; and in order to be happy one must always bear his share of the responsibility for the happiness of others.
The purpose of the school is to educate by living with the children, is the thought of the kindly interpreter, "by enjoying what they enjoy, by showing them how to enjoy what we like, by teaching them how to cultivate their happiness, their intelligence, their skill, by accepting with them and with their enthusiasm the common life and its wonderful procession of creative events from day to day."
And does a child really learn in these circumstances? is the query of those who are seeking an early fulfilment of college. requirements for their children.
In this regard, the results of the private open-air schools only confirm those of the Charlottenburg experiment, and demonstrate strikingly the economic value of more play and better work.