The time required to get ready the old-fashioned apparatus makes it utterly impossible for a teacher in a public school to use it. Again, the time required for the manipulation of it in the class, causes the pupil's mind to wander to other thoughts than that of the principle which is to be illustrated. Add to this the fact that home-made apparatus is so suggestive of scientific principles that, while the student is making it, his mind is constantly learning something new, and we have ground for the statement that home-made apparatus economizes time sufficiently to make it practicable to teach science experimentally in the public schools.
Perhaps the chief argument in favor of home-made apparatus is what might be called the manual-training argument—i. e., the argument of its educational value to the student who constructs it. It is always noticeable that the student who makes his own apparatus is not only liable to get a better comprehension of the principles which it illustrates, but his mind is thereby stimulated to inquire into many kindred principles.
The third great difficulty in the solution of our problem is often stated in this way: Teachers in the public schools have not sufficient skill to do this work. The reply is, (1) that it requires less skill to illustrate principles with home-made apparatus than with that which has been the awe and admiration of pupils and teachers alike for ages, and (2) that patience and a love for the work are far more essential qualifications than that which is usually called skill.
To summarize the arguments for home-made apparatus:
1. It teaches the principles better than the cumbersome and expensive forms of apparatus can. Pupils, as a rule, are not machinists and do not understand a complex machine.
2. The student takes a more lively interest in it and understands it better because he makes it himself.
3. All schools may possess it because of the slight expense involved.
4. It is applicable to the lower grades because of its simplicity.
5. It is applicable to subjects which have not hitherto been taught experimentally.
The last argument has special reference to physiology. It has been customary to speak of physics and chemistry as the experimental sciences, but there seem to be equally good reasons why physiology should be taught by experiments also. The processes of respiration, circulation, action of muscles, formation of voice, digestion, and many others admit—nay, demand—illustrative experiments, and the advantages of home-made apparatus are quite as apparent in this field as in the realm of the physical sciences.