Open air school, Topeka

“The forty children of the open air school–where underweight children are brought up to normal–in their polar suits which are worn when the temperature is low.  The windows are never closed.  The observation of health rules becomes a pleasure under the direction of Mrs. Mary Hoover, supervisor, and Miss Emily Rogler and Miss Vivian Peabody, teachers.”

Such is the caption under the photograph above which was published along with an article in the Topeka State Journal of March 15, 1930.  Open air schools were established in Europe and the United States for children who were thought to be susceptible to tuberculosis.  Here is the article which accompanied the photo:



By John B. Jolley

“The road to health is easy to tread”–for those who attend the open air school in the old College Hill school building at the corner of Redden and Euclid avenues.

From early in the morning until classes are out in the afternoon, they make work into play by placing it in the light of competition and an honor to be accomplished instead of mere duties to be performed.

Under the supervision of Mrs. Mary Hoover, supervisor of public school nurses, Miss Emily Rogler and Miss Vivian Peabody, the teachers, daily do their part in improving the health of forty of Topeka’s under weight children.

For the doubters who think that the few hours each day that a child is in school are not sufficient for any appreciable amount of physical improvement, let it be said that the thirty-seven children who have been in school since last September have gained a total of 241 pounds. This is an average of three and nine-tenths per cent of their total weight. One child alone gained 13 3/4 pounds and another gained 11 per cent over his previous weight. Some of the children have gained as much as 2 1/2 pounds in a single week.

This is accomplished in a simple and scientific method. Part of the work is done in the building and part of it is done by the child after he goes to his home.

While at school each child drinks one quart of milk and sleeps one and one-half hours every day. The windows are kept open all day and one hot nourishing dish of food is served each child at noon. Prizes given to the fastest gainers and stars for the best sleepers furnish plenty of incentive for co-operation from the pupils. The food furnished at noon is prescribed by the dietician and is usually fruit or a vegetable.

Each child has a polar suit consisting of a hooded overcoat, felt trousers and boots; a cot and two blankets, and his own towel, besides the regular school equipment.

Miss Peabody is the teacher of the first to the fifth grades and under her methods these grades have been organized into “The City of Healthville.” Healthville is on the second floor of the school building and the stairway leading to it is called “Health Highway,” the sleeping room is “Sunny Camp.”

Healthville is organized in the true American form of city government with its mayor, Catherine Hollister, in charge of the commission. Health Commissioner Ruby Hansen has charge of the preparing of the noon lunches, Street Commissioner Viola Tuffley has charge of the washing of the dishes; Traffic Commissioner Barbara Fitch keeps the class in order when it marches to its lunches and to Sunnyside camp, and Health Commissioner Bobby Frost is the general supervisor of the city in its efforts to obey the Healthville laws.

Miss Emily Rogler has twenty more mature pupils in the fifth to the seventh grades and while she does not have the interesting form of government in her section, her work goes along smoothly and her students work hard for the end which is perfect health.

To gain entrance to the school a pupil must be examined at the city health clinic by Dr. Forrest L. Loveland. No pupil with a contagious or infectious disease is allowed to enter. Each Monday the pupil’s temperature is taken and if any irregularity is recorded the child is taken to the clinic for examination. When the child leaves the school a final examination is given. At all times the teachers are watchful and special examinations of the teeth, eyes, ears, noses and throats are given when deemed necessary.

Each child keeps his own health chart, on which he records his weight every day. Values of various types of foods are taught and notebooks are kept by each pupil on this subject.

The special rules that are taught the underweight children are: to get plenty of fresh air, to eat a balanced diet, to drink a large amount of water, and to sleep as much as possible. Unnecessary exercise is discouraged while a child is under weight.

The parents all co-operate, according to the teachers, and the reports of the children who were in the school last year who are in other schools now are reported to be doing better work and in better health than previously.

img647 300 crop 1 40% share

I did a little digging on and lucked into a photo of Miss Emily Rogler, the teacher of grades 5-7, in the 1913 yearbook of the Kansas State Normal School at Emporia:

Emily Rogler 1913 at The Kansas State Normal School crop 50%

Source: U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Various school yearbooks from across the United States.

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