Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/71

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
63
THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD WITH CHILDREN.

pounds. Such study is unquestionably better adapted to the ninth grade than to the sixth or lower grades. The classification of radiates, articulates, and vertebrates has never had marked success in high schools, and nothing worth mentioning has been done in that line in grammar schools.

After all that has been done in formulating courses in elementary science on paper in Boston, not to mention other places, the work has never been in a more unsatisfactory condition than now, since the first course was introduced into the schools a dozen years ago. What has been called the scientific method has failed in the elementary schools, if not in the high schools; and now another overturn of the course in science work is taking place in Boston.

How far the traditions and methods of the scientific schools are responsible for the delay in reaching the child's point of departure for things scientific can not be set down with exactness; but their isolation and conservatism certainly have not furnished them with such conditions as could be turned to the advantage of children just starting out into school life.

In writing, we no longer adhere to pothooks and trammels; learning the alphabet and spelling a-b abs are not our best means of teaching reading; mere ciphering with abstract figures in arithmetic has been superseded by more rational processes; committing to memory paradigms and grammatical rules has failed to enable students to use language fluently and correctly; nevertheless, all those things were formerly considered essential elements, and the only proper starting points for scientific teaching in the lines of work indicated. So the starting points of the scientific schools must be discarded for more natural and appropriate ones in the elementary schools. We shall use the children's elements, and discover upon what they work with interest and independence, how they work, what will best call out their activities and enable them to teach themselves, and by what means they can express their ideas best. The basis of instruction in elementary science must be the child's natural method of working upon his own elements, the things that are simple to him. His elements of expression in language are words, not the elements of words; in drawing outlines, not points and straight and curved lines; in science, what he knows at first hand through the medium of his own senses—superficies, externals, not internals, anatomy, and remote elements. A lack of knowledge of this side of science work will make all other sides ineffectual.

The science of teaching demands full recognition of an adequate presentation of the subject to be taught. The normal schools rightly claim that good reproduction naturally follows good presentation; but unfortunately they too often assume that