Oberlin's Namesake: John Frederick Oberlin (1740-1826)

Student recitation card

Oberlin's educational innovations were remarkable for his time, with his emphasis on direct observation, learning through play, object teaching, and the introduction of French language lessons to both children and adults (there were many dialects in France at the time). He began with providing a warm room with a stove for young children and hiring a young woman to teach them to knit. The people lived in conditions of extreme poverty, and the children previously had few comforts or activities. This innovation predated the kindergarten movement in Germany. He built schools and trained teachers, both male and female. Students were expected to make recitations in church on appointed days to demonstrate their mastery of Bible study, lettering, French and computation. 

This work on a paper is a recitation card for a 13-year old student made by a teacher or the student himself in 1822. The recitation was made at Fouday. The card is splayed open to reveal the front and the back (top) and the inside pages (bottom). Note the toy Napoleonic officer (or perhaps Napoleon himself) illustrated on the back side. This was likely drawn from one of the many toys, its little stand included, that Oberlin collected and displayed for educational uses. 

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