Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/76

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

lack of facility in expressing his ideas. In his youth he had no training worth naming in drawing or in written description. To know and not to know how to express what is known is questionable science. The true scientific method must include adequate expression.

As a rule, such objects are selected for study as will serve for a good drawing (thirty-six rocks and minerals excepted)—shells, crystals, leaves, seeds, seed-vessels, flowers, ferns, mosses, and insects—including butterflies, moths, crickets, grasshoppers, locusts, flies, dragon flies, beetles, bees, wasps, and hornets—each kind being sufficient in number to supply each pupil with a specimen. Butterflies emerge from chrysalids and moths from cocoons discovered and brought in by the pupils, who draw and describe the various stages of these insect metamorphoses as they see them going on. They have studied in the same way seedlings in successive stages of growth—corn, squash, maple, acorn, etc.—each pupil having his own marked pot.

The school garden contains much available material—many varieties of wild asters and golden-rods, spring flowers, fall flowers, wild and cultivated, vegetable roots, small patches of wheat, rye, oats, barley, and buckwheat, cucurbitaceous plants, corms, tubers, bulbs, and ferns. The pupils cultivate the plants, and compare, draw, and describe the varieties from notes taken on the ground.

Once a year, on "public day" in May, the pupils bring in for exhibition their collections of minerals, rocks, shells, woods, insects, and pressed plants—usually from five to six thousand specimens which change from year to year. All the specimens are labeled carefully, classified, and arranged in the large hall on long tables covered with white paper. The best collections have a printed card label accompanying each specimen.

The work done outside of school in getting these collections together is of great educational value and the natural result of a method suited to the child's condition. It runs neither into haphazard channels nor into cast-iron molds. The child, rather than the subject matter, is the focusing point. The principal things sought are the science of his interests and habits of work, and the development of his powers of observation, expression, and self-reliance.

Many schools in various parts of our country are doing similar work, and in the summaries of such work made accessible ta educators we shall soonest discover a scientific method thoroughly suited to the needs of elementary schools. Colleges and scientific schools have not the points of vantage to make the discovery.