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Prairie Child


"Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water-bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud-turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns,.... trees to climb, brooks to wade in, water-lilies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hay-fields, pine cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets; and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his education." These words were penned by Luther Burbank and were part of the Child Culture Series No. 4, which was presented by the State Normal School at Valley City on this date in 1911. Based on that, it appears the open prairies and rural lifestyle of North Dakota seemed ideal for the development of a child.

The study by Professor G. R. Davies and edited by Professor A. P. Hollis of the Normal School was to inform both parents and perspective teachers that children needed exercise and outdoor activities before their minds could develop fully. They believed that the fine fibers of the mind did not fully develop until at least twelve years of age and the first business of the child was to become a healthy animal.

Life on the farm was advantageous for learning as the variety of the chores and the physical labors that went with it were instrumental in developing the body as well as the mind. Reading fine print was not recommended for younger children as the ability to read fine text needed to be developed over time to avoid eye strain. Recommended sleep hours for a six-year-old was thirteen hours while an eighteen year old should get eight and a half hours of sleep.

Today, studies much like the Child Culture Series have recommended that exercise is essential to good health and is a necessity to avoid obesity in young children, but we also need to excite and develop the mind at the same time. In 1911 it was believe that children needed to first develop their physical attributes and then good mental development would result. It is interesting that Professors Hollis and Davies chose the writing of Luther Burbank to document their study for Mr. Burbank was a horticulturist, better known for developing the Burbank Russet potato. In horticultural terms, Mr. Burbank summed up his study in this way: "We do not look for fruit from orchard trees until after a long period of growth; so with the child."

It appears that this 1911 study shows that North Dakota prairies are as good for children as they are for potatoes.

By Jim Davis

The Hope Pioneer January 26, 1911 Page 1.