Photo courtesy of Penfield Library Special Collections, SUNY Oswego
Then: The educational fad of the "open air" classroom briefly took root at Oswego's practice school in the 1910s. Proponents believed wide-open windows and cold classrooms could better stimulate children mentally, while physically boosting students who were frail, anemic, undernourished or potentially exposed to tuberculosis. The pupils, taught by Oswego Normal School teachers in training, would learn while wearing Eskimo suits, wool blankets or sleeping bags. Fortunately, it proved a short-lived concept.
Now: Today "open air" can refer to students learning in nature via hands-on activities -- and, through Oswego, they can learn in the open air on any of the seven continents. Oswego's Global Laboratory includes the Brazilian Pantanal where these students took part in an extensive survey of flora and fauna (including their small furry friends) in this very diverse ecosystem. With the Pantanal project, student research will help determine whether this region, the size of California and largest contiguous wetland on earth, becomes open for human development ... or if it will stay, in a sense, open air.