The Gary, Indiana, public schools, developed by Superintendent William A. Wirt (1874–1938), quickly grew into a famous example of progressive education. Born in eastern Indiana, Wirt attended nearby Bluffton High School, graduated from DePauw University, and returned to Blufften as school superintendent in 1899. His school innovations, particularly a diversified elementary curriculum, led to his move to Gary in 1907. Founded by U.S. Steel Corporation the previous year, Gary grew quickly and attracted a heterogeneous population, many from eastern and southern Europe.

The Work-Study-Play system, or Platoon School Plan, as it was later known, focused on two central features, but only in the elementary grades. Wirt believed in maximizing school facilities by constant use of all classrooms. He also expanded the curriculum to include manual ...

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