Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/653

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BIOLOGICAL WORK IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS.

pleasure in the exercise of its powers." Laboratory work upon any given object should always precede, never follow, the class discussion of it. If it is impossible for the teacher to supervise laboratory work previous to each recitation, then at least three recitation periods of each week should be thus spent, with drawing as a regular part of the work.

In the study of neither plants nor animals should the work be confined to the highest groups. After trying various methods, I am fully satisfied that the plan in general should be to study the simpler forms of life first, and proceed from these to more complex ones, until the highest forms are reached. I find that even young pupils enjoy following Nature's order in the study of living things. To do this to good advantage it is necessary to have the use of at least one good compound microscope; but I take it that most teachers of science are now agreed that to attempt to do biological work without this instrument is not using time to the best advantage. If it is impossible to equip the school for doing biological work in the right way, it is far better that pupils should spend their time upon something from which they can get good discipline. But a properly trained science teacher will not let a school be long in such a condition.

As botany is more generally studied in our secondary schools than zoölogy, and as the method of presenting it is ordinarily so poor, I shall speak of plant study the more fully. It is well known what the usual method is. It is about the same as that which was in vogue when even the oldest of us studied what was called botany. We began in the spring, and learned the names of the different shapes of leaves, stems, roots, and flower parts, with as much seriousness as if this knowledge were really important; then we "analyzed" (as it was called) a few plants, probably pressed and mounted them, heaving a sigh of relief as the name of each was determined and the plant properly ticketed. There was little discipline in such work. The principal aim was to be able to find the scientific names of a few plants. The result to most of those who pursued such a method was a bundle of dried plants and a bundle of still drier facts. To be sure, the statements of the book are often verified or illustrated by specimens brought in by teacher or pupils; but it seems to occur to few instructors that the process ought to be reversed, and the pupils be directed in making a careful study of a plant, in drawing and describing its organs, and then be given the names for these organs. The study of plants should extend through the year. There is little to prevent this in any State. Prof. Bessey, of the Nebraska State University, says:[1] "Remember that plants are


  1. Elementary Botanical Exercises. Lincoln, Neb., 1892, p. 3.