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Records of the Oberlin Kindergarten-Primary Training School (Group 24)
[43] Records of the Oberlin Kindergarten-Primary Training School, 1894-1933, 5.8 l.f.

Administrative History

The Oberlin Kindergarten Training School (OKTS) was founded in 1894 for the purpose of instructing young women to teach kindergarten according to the methods of German educator Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852). The Oberlin Kindergarten Association, a group of 13 women, developed plans for the school, drew up a constitution, hired the first teacher, and organized several free kindergartens in Oberlin Village where OKTS students could fulfill practice teaching requirements. Over a 39 year period, the school had three principals: Belle Goodman (1894-1895), Bertha Emeline Montgomery (1895-1915), and Clara May (1915-1932). Under May’s leadership, the school acquired five dormitory buildings, increased its enrollment, and placed its graduates in kindergartens throughout the world. In 1916, the introduction of the novel Montessori method by Clara May at the Centennial Kindergarten in Oberlin led to curricular additions in primary education; the name of the school was changed to the Oberlin Kindergarten-Primary Training School in 1927. In 1932, the school’s two-year course of instruction came into conflict with a new state law mandating four years of preparation for teachers. Since the school could not afford to comply with the law, it ceased to operate independently and merged with the Department of Education of Oberlin College. At that date, the College acquired training school property, including the Metcalf house and the “Orchard Laboratory,” both at 128 Forest St.; the Goodrich house, 125 Elm St.; the Burroughs house, 117 Elm St.; May Cottage, 108 Elm St.; the Squire house, 100 Elm St.; and Webster Hall, 51 S. Professor St. According to an Observer article [December 11, 1980, p. 3], Oberlin College desperately needed these properties to house its women students.

Scope and Content

Series I “Operating Records” contains the administrative files and financial records of the OKTS, 1894-1933. Included are the minutes of staff and board of trustees meetings, correspondence, and annual reports. The treasurer’s correspondence discusses the 1920 purchase of the Carpenter House and Wright Inn, 145 Elm St., to board students, and the funds needed to repair the Centennial Building. The board minutes, 1929-1933, mark the discontinuance of kindergarten at the Pleasant Street School in 1930, and the closing of Webster Hall dormitory in 1931; they also provide information on the Building Fund. More complete documentation of the Centennial Building Fund Drive, 1914-1932, are with the financial records of series I. These papers describe the building and grounds of the newly-purchased Goodrich property, 125 Elm St., the funds required to establish a permanent home for the school, and the 1932 merger with Oberlin College. Two blueprints, 1926, are also included.

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