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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/74

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

fair prospect of discovering the true scientific method in teaching children.

I have seen an elementary school of some six hundred pupils, in which teachers and pupils follow closely the scientific spirit, if not the very letter, so far as it should be followed by children varying from five to fifteen years of age. All do the same kind of work, which is allowed to vary in quantity and quality in accordance with the natural ability, individuality, and originality of each pupil. Local material almost exclusively is examined individually, each pupil thinking and passing judgment for himself, and expressing his ideas accordingly in writing and drawing. The disposition to attack, to take hold, to investigate, and to make careful records of his own ideas and discoveries is cultivated studiously by keeping the pupil in the foreground and the teacher in the background. The prominent instructor, questioner, talker, gives place to the quiet director, inconspicuous but working with the effectiveness that characterizes the silent forces of Nature. The work is entirely independent of the normal school and the scientific school, but it is suitable, plastic, and power-giving.

A brief mention of some of the materials used in the work and a description of how they are used may serve to show whether the work is worth doing.

Each pupil is supplied with a specimen (all the specimens being of the same kind), such as can be found in the neighborhood—a leaf, a vegetable root, a nut, an insect, a rock, a flower, etc.—which he examines carefully, draws, and describes in writing, according to a very simple plan consisting of four or five words written on the blackboard. The words indicate the order of the work and the paragraphs of the description. The pupil is let entirely alone until he has done all he can do.

To draw his specimen he looks at it one way and gets one good presentation and impression; to describe it he examines it in a different way and gets another good presentation and impression—a process that holds him to his work without his being told what to look at, what to draw, and what to describe. He helps himself, and soon forms and fixes the habits of application and self-reliance. His work shows his teacher exactly where he is in drawing and descriptive work. Constantly judging of proportions, especially those of irregular objects, he soon learns to grasp the proportions of various forms quickly and to represent them with such facility and accuracy as to surprise teachers who have carried out only the regulation course in drawing. Many pupils can draw natural objects much more satisfactorily than they can describe them in words, and that, too, without formal instruction.

The ordinary courses of instruction in drawing, treating almost exclusively of artificial and symmetrical forms, have not