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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/516

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

with seventeen, and rapidly increased till the roll contained four hundred names. Within the limits of this paper only the bare outlines of our methods can be given. We began with the properties of things. The gardens and fields were open to us and furnished us the objects. When familiar with these and their relations, books were brought in to extend our knowledge beyond the limits of personal experience. The zoölogy and physiology classes, under Prof. Straight, were at once engaged in laboratory practice. They obtained their knowledge of the animal world from direct observation and through actual dissections. The neighborhood was laid under contribution for cats. Any feeling of repugnance at first shown for the work soon passed away as interest in the study grew eager and absorbing. The absurdity of rote-teaching was shown by an incident in the professor's classroom.

One day he called the attention of the class to the description of a certain sea-animal, as given in a popular text-book. This description he asked the pupils to commit to memory, which they proceeded to do, wondering why. One morning, only a few days later, the table was furnished with a specimen of this same animal preserved in alcohol. Not a member of the class recognized it. The elaborate verbal definition had given them no correct idea of the animal, if, indeed, any image whatever had been present in their minds.

In botany, books were unopened, except to aid in analysis. Materials for study the students found in their walks, and the keen delight awakened when examination revealed to them this new world of facts left no doubt that this was the very method of nature. The study went deeper than systematic botany, and led to an extended investigation of life processes in the plant.

Physics was taught in the laboratory and illustrated by apparatus which teachers and pupils united in making. This proved of double value; for, while primarily it helped to solve the problem in physics, incidentally it constrained the pupil to test knowledge previously gained by its practical application. The inventive powers were also stimulated, and a long step was taken in the development of faculty.

The teacher of geometry followed the method of Prof. Krüsi, of Oswego. This, in essentials, is the same as that outlined by Herbert Spencer in his work on education. It was developed incidentally out of the needs of constructive art, and was carried forward slowly, as the gradual progress of the pupil called for further applications of its principles. It was specially gratifying to witness the cheerful activity of pupils in this line of work, so often dreaded and shirked, and to watch the stimulating effect of power gained in mastering a difficult problem.