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Growing Children Out of Doors: California’s Open-Air Schools and Children’s Health, 1907–1917

Camille Behnke Shamble, University of Virginia, Junior Fellow 2015–2016

During the fellowship year I completed critical progress on my dissertation. I revised and expanded my project using library materials on school gardens, playgrounds, and healing gardens; California landscape architecture; and Progressive-era gardens and ethics. Participating in the interdisciplinary Mellon Initiative in Urban Landscape Studies also enhanced my research by encouraging relationships between landscape design practices and history. My dissertation, the first detailed study of American open-air schools, examines the relationship between landscape architecture and building design, considering how these innovative educational facilities simultaneously reflected and shaped Progressive-era reforms related to children’s health and welfare as well as more problematic American discourses surrounding nationalism and racism. This project focuses on the peak of the movement in California, from 1907–1917, in which single-story modern school structures with integrated gardens and permeable pavilion classrooms transformed the state’s educational landscape. As such, this project contributes to an understudied area of landscape history, while also considering the movement’s complex position at the intersection of environmental design, education, medicine, and technology. It is significant to a wide audience because it examines how the landscapes of childhood were shaped, both in their design and everyday experience, by gendered, racial, and class dynamics. Finally, it also has contemporary significance, as it demonstrates the importance of space and landscape to the educational experience and campaigns for greener and healthier school design.