12 SEPTEMBER 1925, Page 9


[The writer, who is a School medical officer in New Zealand, informs us that an Open-Air Schools League has been established in that country.—ED. Spectator.] gc slow growth of the open-air school movement Tit England is hardly creditable to our national good sense." So said Sir George Newman. The more civilized we become the further we get away from Nature, and the further man is removed from Nature, the more do his diseases increase and multiply. Universal education is of comparatively recent growth, and is one more factor of civilization which removes yet another section of the population still further from Nature. The child is the only young animal which is shut up during the best hours of the daylight, and up till quite recently educationists have entirely failed to see the folly of so confining the young and restricting their activities.

Some twenty years ago it was first realized that there was a section of the child population so enfeebled, if not actually diseased, that it was totally unable to stand the ordinary school curriculum, and in 1904 the first attempt was made at Charlottenburg to return these children to Nature, and carry out their education amid the natural surroundings of a pine forest. The results were better than the most optimistic had anticipated.' Not only did these weak children improve in health, but their school work compared favourably with that of the more robust children in the ordinary schools.

In 1907 the London County Council started its first open-air school for anaemic, debilitated and pre-tubercular children, and in 1908 the United States followed suit. Since then open-air schools have increased in number, but not half so quickly as might have been hoped for. All the original open-air schools were for sick or debilitated children, and it was not until the excellent results that were obtained in these had been very definitely demon- strated that it occurred to anyone that what was good for the sick child must also be goOd for the normal child.

The work of Professor Leonard Hill has given us a scientific explanation of the vast importance of the open air, and the work of Dr. Bonier at Leysin and Sir Henry Gauvain at Alton has shown us the importance of sunlight in the cure of surgical tuberculosis, and it is surely only wise that these two great health-giving agents of fresh air and sunlight should be provided in abundance for our children in the schools. Dr. H. C. Mulholland, Medical Officer of Health to the Swinton and Pendlebury Urban Districts, has said : " It is not sufficient that a school should be proved to do no harm to the children. Each school should be expected positively to provide health as well as education. In no school is health better provided than in the open-air school, and in so far as other schools depart from the principles of health there exhibited they are wanting."

A country which up to the present has almost entirely neglected the open-air school is New Zealand, and the reason for this is not far to seek. With her magnificent climate and her good social conditions, sick children do not present the same problem that they do in the crowded cities of the Old World. The gross deformities of rickets so often met with in Glasgow are unknown in New Zealand. Surgical tuberculosis is a comparatively rare complaint. Hence the need for open-air schools as cura- tive agents has not been felt to anything like the same extent as it has, for instance, in England. To-day, how- ever, New Zealand is waking up to the fact that the open- air school is the right school for all children, and there is a growing body of opinion which is demanding that all new schools shall be open-air schools. If New Zealand has lagged behind in the past, there is every hope that ohe may, in the future, take her place in the very fore-front of the open-air school movement, not only because her climate is an ideal one for the open-air school, but because there is inspiration behind the ideal school which she hopes to evolve.

Those who are convinced of the need for the proposed reform advocate that in place of the airless buildings in which the children are at present immured, they shall have a " School Village " in which each class has its own separate " Bungalow Classroom." The " Village " con- sists of a row of little bungalows so turned as to catch the sun, and avoid the prevailing winds, and each surrounded by its own little garden. One side of each bungalow is fitted with sliding doors so that it can be thrown com- pletely open. This side, of course, is turned away from the prevailing winds, but towards the sun. Among these little bungalows is a slightly more imposing one containing the administrative part of the school, while in front of the buildings lies the green playground with its shady trees.

Given a sufficient area, and the area required is not as large as might be expected, this type of construction presents many advantages. By isolating the classrooms each room can be made to get the maximum amount of sunshine ; and as there are four walls to each room with openings into the outside air, a cross-current of gently moving air can always be secured under all conditions of wind and weather. Noisy corridors are done away with, and quiet and peace is obtained.

The open side of the bungalow classroom allows of its being rapidly emptied, so that the children may have a run at the end of each half-hour's lesson, stretching tired muscles and straightening little backs, quickening listless lungs, and toning up the circulation so that the next lesson may be tackled with new energy. The old shut-in imprisoned feeling is done away with by the open side.

This scheme is still in the air, but the one bungalow* classroom, which was erected a year ago in the neighbour- hood of Christchurch, has proved itself up to the hilt, and has been the means of, if not converting, yet materially changing the point of view of the educational authorities. After all, what shall it profit a child if he gain the whole curriculum and lose his health ?

H. N.-S.