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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/100

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

whether one place lies to the north or south of another. They know that in passing between them you go to the right or left, as the case may be, but there their power of localization ends. What is needed is greater quickness and precision in orientation, and this ought to be acquired from early training at school.

When some progress has been made in elementary geographical conceptions, the blackboard should be brought into increasing use. After the school-room, for example, has been paced, and its dimensions and proportions have been thus ascertained, its plan should be drawn on the board by the teacher, with the relative positions of door, windows, and fireplace. From this beginning, gradual steps may be taken until the pupils can themselves draw on the board and on their slates rough plans of the school and of the play-ground. At first it will be sufficient to aim only at a general resemblance of proportion. The great object is to teach the young minds to realize the relations between the actual boundaries and the artificial representations of them. To succeed in this is by no means so easy as might be thought; but success in it is absolutely necessary, and must be attained no matter at what expenditure of time and labor. When it has been achieved, efforts should next be made to depict the plan to scale, and with a nearer approach to correctness.

It is desirable to ascertain and arrange the conceptions that children already possess as to time. They know that day and night follow each other in unbroken succession. They further know that each day has a morning, a noon, and an evening. These and their other notions should be drawn from them by questioning, and the answers, corrected by the class (or by the master if no member of the class has the requisite information), should be methodically summarized and repeated in the simplest language, as the basis of actual experience from which the pupils are to advance to further acquisitions of knowledge.

In taking the school surroundings as the basis of instruction, the teacher will readily recognize that, while the principle of his method remains the same, its details must necessarily vary according to the circumstances of the locality. The two most obvious distinctions are those of town and country. In a town, illustrations of the political side of geography are most prominent; in the country, it is the physical side that especially invites attention. The teacher should from the first realize that some of the most valuable parts of the training his pupils can receive are not attainable within the walls of the class-room. Where practicable, he should himself take walks with his pupils, and direct their attention to the objects to be seen as they go. There are, no doubt, practical difficulties in the way of carrying out this method, but these arc generally not insurmountable.

In all these lessons, the system of question and answer must be scrupulously followed. Anything approaching to a style of lecturing