Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/473

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SCHOOL GARDENS.

The reason for such classification becomes apparent in the grouping of plants similar in form, structure, and habits; and the comparison of many such plants impresses on the child's mind the characteristics of families, genera, and species in the most forcible manner. What cultivation will do by way of increasing the vigor of plants and making them blossom and fruit more freely is fully illustrated every season. Pupils learn that they can be instrumental in starting the wonderful development of plants. They learn how Nature provides for the continuance of species by storing up food in seeds, roots, and fruit, and protecting delicate organs by impervious gums, imbricated coverings, and woolly packings. Lessons in human economy are learned from the study of vegetable economy. The mutual dependence of insects and plants is seen to be characteristic of mutual dependence in the world at large.

The school garden affords by far the best means for the cultivation of the powers of observation. Pupils find excellent forms to draw, colors to imitate, habits to describe, and motives to use in decorative design. They find something to take care of, something that quickly responds to love's labor, and as interest is added to interest they lay up for themselves resources for happiness that should be the heritage of every child, even the poorest city child; and this would be so if school authorities and the people behind them had more real insight into children's best natures, more foresight, more humanity, and more liberality in the purchase and equipment of school grounds.

To spend large sums of money on architectural beauties and stone carvings of historic ornaments—which have but little attraction for children—to make a school building look like a palace, and then to leave the school yard looking like a desert or the top of a bituminous lake, without a single attractive flower or one bit of beauty, are inconsistencies which seem possible only in the modern system of education. Weather-beaten houses in the country, log cabins on the frontiers, railroad stations in the "Great American Desert" and all over our country have their beautiful flower gardens, and it refreshes one's soul to see them; but there is no such source of refreshment, inspiration, and instruction where children are being educated in the "essentials."

Once in a while some discerning man, outside of the regular school interests, sees the inconsistency of educational systems, and gives expression to his thoughts on the subject, as Lowell did in his letter to a student, and as Hamilton W. Mabie has done in his Essays on Nature and Culture. Mr. Mabie says: "Relationship with Nature is a resource of inexhaustible delight and enrichment; to establish it ought to be as much a part of every education as the