A group of boys stand in the grounds of Middlefield. They are accompanied by two women, who are probably their teachers. The boys are all holding a type of instrument with two rounded handles at each end. They appear to be pressing their chests into the instrument. This exercise is probably intended to improve their posture.
Having ‘good posture’ was very important in the 1800s and early 1900s. This means being able to stand up tall and straight and having no bend in your backbone. People with bad posture were seen as being of bad character, lazy and crude. As many people who lived at Middlefield had some degree of physical disability, doing ‘physical drills’ such as the one in the picture may well have been seen as a ‘corrective’ - that is, a way to ‘cure’ their disability and make them a better fit for the society of the day.