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Oral History Interview with School Principal Irma Achenbach Scudder

I came from Germany when I was 4 1/2 years old. It was 1924 and it was very different from it is now. We lived in College Park and there was no water no lights no street paving… My father… he bought a lot and he and a friend built us a little house in College Park. It grew and grew and grew. We’d live upstairs and the school was downstairs. So we would move and finally we’d just keep adding to it. We ended up with five playgrounds and five buildings. There are pictures of the playground at the school and this is my family. We had lots of outdoor activities. We had big tables outdoors and we did all our painting and nature studies and craft work outdoors. And we were called “Open Air School” at that time…

Irma Achenbach Scudder tells the history of The Open Air School which was started by her mother education pioneer Erna Wentzler Achenbach. Mrs. Achenbach who was trained in Germany by Maria Montessori and Friedrich Froebel came to settle in College Park and introduce our community to the concept of “kindergarten”.

My mother said that she had to go around and when she saw a bicycle, tricycle or wagons and things she would go in and tell the people what kindergarten was and how good it was. She had been trained in Germany by professionals. So that’s how it started and gradually, gradually people just got used to people going to kindergarten.

Soon the school at 26 W. Steele Street became the school for the mayor’s children and the school pediatricians suggested to mothers in the area for their children.

Mrs. Achenbach who served as a Red Cross nurse during the war caring for the Red Baron and others, would bring that same dedication and care to her students. The school’s reputation in the community was outstanding.

Irma Achenbach Scudder tells the history of The Open Air School which she took over as principal when her mother, school founder Erna Wentzler Achenbach retired. Interview conducted on July 25, 2013.

LISTEN (21:08)


View Photos of the College Park school, the students, instructors and read the history:

Erna Wentzler Achenbach: An Interesting Life: 1896-1996, Part I

Erna Wentzler Achenbach: An Interesting Life: 1896-1996, Part II

Listen to an archival interview with Erna Wentzler Achenbach conducted on June 25, 1975.

LISTEN Part I (31:18)


LISTEN Part II (32:40)


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The Open Air School

Photo of the Open Air School in College Park.

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