Open Air Schools in Indiana
The open air school movement began in Europe and was quickly adopted by the United States. The first open air school in United States was in Providence, Rhode Island in 1908. The Indiana Society for the Prevention of Tuberculosis (later known as the American Lung Association of Indiana) worked to establish open air schools in Indiana. In 1913 the first open air school in Indiana opened in Indianapolis at the Lucretia Mott School.
The main goal of the open air school movement in Indiana was to care for children who were anemic and/or under nourished, or who had tuberculosis or had been exposed to it. Children with any communicable diseases, severe diseases, or were mentally challenged were excluded from open air schools.
Here are some of the attributes of an open air school as set out by the Indiana State Board of Health:
- Smaller student to teacher ratio in the classroom.
- Fresh air and sunshine: Provide children with more mental stimulus and greater physical activity.
- Food: Provide the children with wholesomely cooked food.
- Rest: At least one rest period for one hour a day.
- Curricula: Highlight manual training, gardening, and handwork so as to provide greater elasticity and freedom of movement to the children.
- Personal hygiene: Emphasis on bathing and dental care.
A typical day at an open air school in Indianapolis went as follows:
Arrive at 8:30 AM.
9:00-9:15--Lunch of hot chocolate, bread and butter.
12:00-1:00--A substantial dinner is served. Milk in menu.
1:00-2:30--Rest period (children sleep on sleeping porches).
As a greater understanding of tuberculosis developed, open air schools grew out of favor. They dwindled out in Indiana in the 1930s.
All images are provided for the personal use of patrons and researchers and may not be incorporated into publications, websites, or exhibits without written permission of the Indiana State Library or other appropriate copyright holder.
Photographs are from the American Lung Association of Central Indiana Collection housed in the Manuscript Section of the Indiana State Library. Other images are from the Indiana Division Pamphlet Collection and Clippings file.
Text on verso of photographs
Bodenhamer, David J. and Robert G. Barrows. Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1994.
Indiana State Board of Health. The open Air School Movement in Indiana. Indianapolis, IN, 1918.
Kingsley, Sherman C. Open Air Schools and Open Window Rooms: How to Build and Equip Them. New York: 1916.
Sunnyside Sanatorium. A History of Sunnyside Sanatorium, 1917-1952. Indianapolis, IN, 1952.