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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/101

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GEIKIE ON THE TEACHING OF GEOGRAPHY.

should be carefully avoided. Instead of appearing to discourse himself, the teacher should aim at obtaining clear, articulate expression of the knowledge and experience of the children. He may then judiciously sum up what has been gained during the lesson from the united experience of the whole class, and supplement it by filling in some of the more notable gaps. But the additions thus made by him to the common stock of acquirement should never be too preponderating a feature in the earlier lessons, and should come as naturally suggested by what has been obtained from the class.

It is often of advantage to let the lesson be suggested by some incident of the day, or something that has arrested notice since the previous lesson. The attention of the children is thereby riveted to the subject. They are ready to say all that they know about it, and eager to hear anything more which the teacher may tell them. A wet morning will profitably suggest a lesson on rain; the replenishing of the school-room fire with coal will furnish materials for another lesson, of a more advanced kind. The flitting of a butterfly through the open window of the school-room will suggest a lesson on insect-life, and give the teacher an opportunity of unfolding some of the wonders of the animal world and enforcing a reverence and sympathy for all living things. In short, his eye should be ever on the watch for materials on which he can train the observing and reflecting faculties of his scholars. If an incident likely to be of this useful kind should occur even in the midst of a lesson on another subject, he may profitably interrupt the work to direct attention to it that it may be distinctly seen, and he can afterward, at the proper time, return to the elucidation of it.

An observant teacher will not fail to notice that, long before children can understand or take any intelligent interest in the geography-lesson as ordinarily given in our schools, they are quite alive to the attractions of that large mass of phenomena embraced within the scope of what is called physical geography. They at first care little about the political boundaries or subdivisions of countries; but if you speak to them of the changes of the sky, the movements of the wind, the fall of rain, the nature of snow and frost, or of rivers, lakes, and glaciers, of waves and storms, of the soil and the plants that grow in it, of insects and birds and familiar quadrupeds, in short, of the outer world which they see around them from day to day, their attention is at once arrested. The subject is one that comes within the range of their own observation. And in education, the importance of connecting the subject of instruction with the personal experience of the pupils can hardly be overestimated. As the school district constitutes the basis from which, as far as possible, the pupils are to realize what the world is as a whole, early attention should be given to its natural features. Among these the configuration of the ground should claim special notice. In flat regions, it must obviously be less easy to find