Page images

impelling him to do. It seeks to teach such patience and accuracy in achievement as life will require of the man.

This ideal demands also that the children shall not spend too much of their time on set tasks, but that the activities shall lay hold on some deep interest in the child and be an expression of himself. It doubts the value of boys spending much time in making fancy joints and sections, but sets them to making carts and boats and such things as the boys want to make. It sets the girls to making dresses or doll clothes instead of learning a dozen different stitches. In so doing it hopes to secure interest, prolonged effort, and pride in the work when it is done.

The constructive work is carried on in connection with the work in designing in many schools, as in New York, and the children first make a plan of the basket or cart they wish to construct aud then execute it.

Vatirre study.-Nature study has been another subject. There seems to be a general awakening of interest in nature stndy of late years. This new interest has come, in part at least, as a result of a belief in the moral valne of natural surroundings, and of the feeling that one who is really fond of nature has an element of nobility in his character which will tend to keep him from doing mean and contemptible things. The nature work in the vacation schools has also been influenced perhaps by the feeling that the natural place for a child in the summer time was the country; and that if the child could not go to the country, the schools must bring the country to the child.

There has been a very great diversity of method in the different cities. In New York there is a special department of nature study under a general director. During the first years specimens were gathered in the country every morning and sent by express to the schools, where they were made the subject of talks, of lessons in drawing, etc. Now rature is studied from window ses that are planted by the children, fron ontdoor gardens when these are available, from aquaria, which are furnished hy the New York Aquariun, and from mounted specimens, which are furnished by the Natural History Museum.

An interesting experiment in nature study has been conducted in New York for the past two summers by Mrs. Henry Parsons. A tract of land has been secured in the De Witt Clinton Park and laid out into garden beds 4 feet hy 12. There are soine 300 beds, or farms, as they are called, this summer. Each of these small farms is owned for the season by some small farmer boy or girl who plants some seven different kinds of vegetables in it. These throve last year and were not molested. The vegetables that had not been used were pulled up, roots, leaves, and all, at the end of the season and sent around to the different schools.

In Providence, Baltimore, and Pittsburg the children have cultivated gardens of their own, either on the school grounds or on lots near by. Pittsburg has a very well-arranged course of nature study, besides planting window boxes and having gardens. The first two weeks were given to a study of the common fruits and vegetables to be found in the groceries of the neighborhood. The third week was given to the study of the common birds from the cases loaned by the Carnegie Museum. The fourth week was devoted to the study of the wild flowers of the neighborhood, and the fifth to the study of insects from the Carnegie Musenm.

Nature study in the school curriculums generally means a study of flowers; but it sometimes means a study of tocks, trees, birds, animals, and insects.

Chicago has made nature study the basis of all the work. The children were taken on very carefully planned excursions one day a week. A large part of the work for the remaining four days was given to the discussion of the things seen and the study of the things brought home.

It is to be regretted that a closer correlation with the city park departments can not be effected, whereby the natural objects of the park might be made more serviceable for study. If the park departments could be induced to devote some part of their park area to the systematic growing of wild flowers and another to the raising of the common vegetables, a very great service might be done to the children. In Germany flowers are distributed to the schools from the parks just as books are now distributed froin our public libraries, and birds and animals are in some cases sent around from the museums. In order to hare nature study highly successful in a city like New York, where the land is so valuable, some such arrangement must be made with the park department, or the board of education must establish gardens of its own and send around flowers and plants to the different schools as it would books.

It seems to me a question worth considering whether the time has not come for each school and playground, in order to cultivate a love for animals and promote nature study, to maintain a small and very accessible zoological garden.

The new custom of museums and aquariums of loaning specimens and living fish to schools, which seems to be coming in now, is an exceedingly hopeful sign and promise of progress in this field.

City history and geography.-A number of cities, as New York, Philadelphia, and Cambridge, have undertaken to familiarize the pupils of the vacation schools with the local geography and history of the city. This work has aimed to give the children a practical acquaintance with the city and its environs by excursions to all the principal points of interest. It has sought to interest the children in the city's history by excursions to places connected with its past. New York has a general director and six special teachers of this work.

Excursions.-Excursions have been one of the constant features of the vacation schools. There have been three chief purposes in the excursions carried onpleasure, nature study, and the study of historic spots. In very many cases the railroads and street-car companies have carried the children free, as in St. Louis and Pittsburg. Generally they have at least given a reduced fare. New York, however, has generally paid full price for transportation. In some cities the children have paid for their excursion themselves, but in nearly all cases the expense has been borne by the school. Pittsburg provided its children with a picnic dinner as well. In St. Louis a practice was madle of taking parties of the older boys to see the great baseball games that were played in that city. Two of the most ambitious excursions the writer has seen any account of were the trip of the Chicago children by whaleback steamer to Milwaukee and back, and the trip of the Philadelphia children to Atlantic City for a day on the beach.

Story-telling.–Story-telling has been a feature of nearly all vacation schools. Some have had a regular period set aside for story-telling. There has been no outline of what stories should be told, so far as is known, but the children's classic stories have generally been suggested.

Story-telling has perhaps been even more popular in connection with playgrounds than with vacation schools. Pittsburg has had this very good arrangement. The Carnegie Library has furnished a librarian to take charge of the circulating library kept in the schcol. This librarian has given a certain period each day to storytelling. Another exceedingly suggestive arrangement in Pittsburg was the placing out of a number of home libraries in the homes of the children of the vacation schools.

Music.-Music is so intimately connected with the idea of freedom and jollity that one is surprised that it has received so little attention in the vacation schools. The only place where it has been given prominence, so far as is known to the writer, is Boston.

Scholastic work.-As to how far it is wise io teach regular school studies in vacation time may be a question. Newark and Denver are examples of cities where this has been largely done. In Denver the work has been especially adapted for children who had failed of promotion or who wished to make up a grade. The work was for the forenoon only and there was no homo work. It seems to me there might well be a class cr two of this kind in each of the great vacation schools of a city like New York. The child perhajs would not need to give more than half of his forenoon to this work, and thus would avoid the discouragement of being left behind by his class. It might be a question, however, if it might not encourage listless work during the terın if the child knew he had a chance to make up his deficiencies during the vacation.

The teachers in our vacation schools are coming to be a regular corps at fixed salaries, holding their positions from year to year.

The discpline in the vacation schools is usually very lenient. Freedom of movement and freedom of conversation are allowed within limits. This gives a far greater social opportunity to the child, and it is to be hoped that the teacher will stand in a more personal relation to him than is usual in the regular school work.


Regular attendance is always a problem for the summer school. The child is always getting opportunities to go on picnics or excursions or to pay a visit to the country. All of these things, of course, interfere with the regularity of his attendance. It has been the custom of some vacation schools to secure regular attendance by keeping a waiting list and giving the place of any child who is absent twice without a sufficient excuse to a waiting child.


An idea which has been influential in the vacation school from the first is the idea of social and moral culture. The vacation school has always been regarded as a semiphilanthropy, and as such it has been expected to exercise a good influence over the children. It has sought to do this by keeping the children away from the temptations of the street and by the direct influence of the teachers.


Constructive and Preventire Philanthrophy. Joseph Lee.
The Battle with the Slums. Jacob Riis.
American Municipal Progress. Charles Zueblin.
Vacation Schools and Playgrounds. Harper's Magazine, June, 1902.
The City for the Children. Outlook, September 6, 1903.



Before entering upon a discussion of the present playground movement in America it may be not inappropriate to give some account of the status of play in the countries in which this movement took its rise.

German playgrounds.-As Germany has been the source of most pedagogic movements of the last century, so it has been the source of the playground movement as well. Our present system started in the sand gardens of Berlin. In Germany there has been a very great interest in play of late, and great efforts have been made to encourage it. Commissions have been sent to England to investigate the system of athletics in the English schools. Special inducements have been offered to English cricket and football teams to tour Germany and play matches in the different cities. Play conferences are being held in the great cities every year, and thousands of teachers are being taught to play games with the children. A German annual of some four or five hundred pages, Das Jahrbuch des Volkundkinderspiel, is entirely devoted to the promotion of play. In many schools there is a regular curriculum of games for each grade. There is often provision for regular directed play during the school intermissions. In several cities, as in Munich, there is a law requiring that each school shall furnish a certain minimum play space for each child attending the school. In Munich this is 25 square feet of playground for each child. In Berlin, playgrounds in the parks are allotted to the various schools, generally three schools to a playground. Each school has a right to use this playground two afternoons a week after school.

Playfulness, however, does not seem especially characteristic of the German man or of German life. The present movement springs rather from an intellectual appreciation of its value than from an outflowering of German nature. The German nature seems better expressed in its gymnastics and its military system than it does in its play. There is no great German national game like baseball or football or cricket. So far as the writer knows there is no great organized game of any kind.

The German universities make almost no provision for athleties or games, and there are no baseball, football, or rowing contests between the different universities. Dueling with narrow swords seems to take the place of athletics and is still very prevalent. The universities, instead of haring fraternities, have what are known as corporations, which are largely dueling societies. The writer saw some 20 duels in one forenoon at Heidelberg last summer. The only athletic game which is popular is tennis, which seems to be much more popular throughout Germany than it is with us.

The first German playgrounds to attract attention in this country were the sand gardens. These are playgrounds for small children. They are often situated in the parks, but may also be located in any other available space. A load or two of yellow sand from some neighboring sand bank is deposited in an open space and benches are placed around it. In some cases the sand is placed in raised trays so the children can stand around and play with it; in others there is merely a heap of sand on the ground. The sand is changed frequently for sanitary reasons. There is no one in charge. These gardens are an interesting sight any afternoon in summer. One sets perhaps fifteen or twenty children there, and the benches filled with mothers or nurse girls who are sewing, knitting, reading, or watching the children, as the case may le. This seems to be quite as good a recreation for the parents as for the children, and it must give them a better knowledge of childhood.

These sand gardens often occur in connection with playgrounds for larger children in open spaces in the cities.

In Berlin there is a playground of 40 acres that is intended solely for the small children. It is situated in Treptom park and is a broad, level meadow, surrounded by four concentric rows of cottonwood trecs. Between the trees are benches for the parents or for the children when tired. This playground on a pleasant day is a sight to be remembered; its whole expanse covered with playing children in bright dresses, with toy balloons and kites, nurses with baby carriages, and parents out for a picnic with the children. Everyone seems happy, and the playgrounds beneath the trees give relief if the open becomes too hot.

Nearly all German cities have athletic fields for tennis and football, similar such grounds in our own cities.

One of the most interesting playgrounds in Germany is what may be called the concert-garden playground. It is for the children of parents who are attending the concert. As everyone knows, concerts and beer are two constant factors in all German cities. In every city of any considerable size there will probably bo a dozen or more military concerts being given every afternoon in summer. At these concerts there are always beer and wine to be had as well as very excellent lunches served at moderate cost. If one goes from one concert garden to another


on a summer afternoon, it is very evident that a very large proportion of the women of the city are present. They do not drink excessively as a rule, but sit at the tables under the trees, sew or knit or talk while they drink in the music along with the beer. They are quite relieved of the care of the children. Lecause there are playgrounds provided for them in almost every case. These playgrounds are generally located under the trees and equipped with gymnastie apparatus, swings, ser saws, maypoles, merry-go-rounds, etc. Sometimes there are artificial hills for the children to ride down in their carts. These concert playgrounds occur at the botanical and zoological gardens, and in many of the smaller parks of the cities.

Many of the large beer gardens also have playgrounds.

A great many playgrounds that might be called cooperative playgrounds are now being laid out in Germany. They are grounds usually of 3 or 4 acres in size, have a bicycle track around the ontside and tennis grounds in the center. They are floorled for skating in winter. Each person is charged a certain fee for the use of the grounds.

There are also a few playgrounds in Germany under regular play leaders, whose qualifications are fised by law.

French playgrounds.--France has never manifested much interest in play. The games played by the children are mostly of a trivial nature. There appears to be no literature on the subject.

Playgrounds of England.-England is often spoken of as the home of athletics. For every American that plays baseball there are probably 10 Englishmen who play cricket or football. There is a universal interest in sport. Every gentleman plays some game or games as a thing of course.

English laborers get a half holiday on Saturday, and a large proportion of them always find their way to the cricket or football field. Most of the villages and towns seem to own their own cricket and football fields as much as they do their townhall. The acquiring of skill in play is a part of the education of the English gentleman, consequently we are not surprised that play is compulsory in the English - public school.”

Even the board schools of London are surprisingly well furnished with playgrounds. In the more crowded sections there are roof playgrounds, but most of the schools that I visited, even in densely crowded sections where the land must have been very valnable, were surrounded by grounds of considerable size. One school near the Bank of England must have had nearly an acre of playground. These yards are covered with cinders or gravel, and are open to the children from the time of closing of school until dark every day. There is no one in charge but the janitor, except so far as the interest of the teachers leads them to coach their pupils. Many of the teachers make a practice of taking their pupils to the park grounds to play cricket once a week or once in two weeks. At certain seasons each teacher of the upper grades takes his class once a week to the city swimming baths for a lesson in swimming. There are a great many cricket and football fields in the parks of London, and schools can usually get a license to use a ground two or three times a week at least. An exceedingly interesting expedient of certain London schools, which are not able to own a playground in the vicinity of the school, is to secure an out-of-town playground and then make some arrangement with the tram companies to carry boys for a reduced fare on half holidays.

All of the great “public schools" of England have magnificent playgrourds. They are many acres in extent and perfectly lept. Even Westminster, lueated as it is within a stone's throw of the Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, has a playground 10 or 12 acres in extent which must le worth nearly as many million dollars as there are acres.

As everyone knows, cricket and football are compulsory in the English public schools, and every boy must play whether he cares to or not. There are always

« PreviousContinue »