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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/70

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62
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

The former course in science in the Boston schools having failed, a somewhat radical change of base in such work has recently been made. In the first place, the term "elementary science" is not approved by many teachers who adhere to the dictionary meaning of the term. They say that no real science work can be done in elementary schools, and will not admit that elementary science means simple knowing, when used to designate children's acquisitions of knowledge at first hand, but insist on limiting the term to the scientist's elements and organized knowledge. They give an unscientific excuse for failing to teach science in a natural and successful manner. On the whole, "observation lessons" is an acceptable term to use in designating children's work with natural objects. If a mere name be made a stumbling block, it had better be changed at once.

Now, the course in the Boston schools requires "observation lessons" on the "structure and habits of familiar and typical articulates and vertebrates," including the frog, fish, robin, hawk, hen, duck, cat, dog, pig, rabbit, horse, and cow, in the fifth grade. In the sixth grade the work is continued by observation lessons on "typical and familiar specimens of radiates and mollusks (sponge, coral, starfish, oyster, snail, jellyfish)," and ends with observation (?) lessons on the elephant, whale, seal, cochineal, and ostrich.

The study of minerals is begun in the sixth grade, as before, but the materials used are common rocks, instead of native minerals and chemical elements, which are studied in the ninth grade.

In this radical change from the former course there is an evident intention to depart from the so-called scientific standpoint and approach the child's point of departure; but those inevitable errors have been made that always attend the laying out of courses on paper before working them out carefully with many large classes of children.

It is manifest that there can be no proper observation lessons not to mention what commonly pass for science lessons on the whale, the seal, the ostrich, etc., in an ordinary city grammar school. The same may be said of the frog, the hawk, the pig, the cow, etc. Such things can not be brought into the schoolroom with compensating advantages. If pictures are made a substitute, the work with them deserves no better designation than information lessons, and speedily degenerates into first-class cramming.

Concessions to the scientists may be seen in the requirements in regard to the structure and classification of articulates and vertebrates in the fifth grade, typical radiates and mollusks in the sixth grade, and the order of studying minerals in the ninth grade, beginning with elements and working up synthetically to com-