Popular Science Monthly/Volume 55/August 1899/Teachers' School of Science I
|TEACHERS' SCHOOL OF SCIENCE.|
By FRANCES ZIRNGIEBEL.
"HE who would most effectually improve school tuition must find out the most effectual way of improving the teachers. Hence he is the greatest educational benefactor who does most to raise the character and qualifications of the teachers," said John D. Philbrick; late superintendent of the public schools of the city of Boston, in his twenty-third semiannual report. By providing teachers with the best instruction on subjects the teaching of which was at the time of making this report, and is still, unsatisfactory, The Teachers' School of Science of the Boston Society of Natural History has for nearly three decades been a great educational benefactor. It stands unique as an institution which, while doing a great work for many years, has presented nothing of startling nature such as would attract the attention of the general public, and is therefore not so widely known as it deserves to be.
During a conversation held at the council room of the Boston Society of Natural History, in 1870, between Prof. Alpheus Hyatt and the late Mr. John C. Cummings, a Boston merchant interested in natural history and curator of the plant collection of the society for twenty, odd years, the latter expressed regret that the Lowell lectures for teachers had been discontinued. Professor Hyatt then suggested to him a plan for lectures for teachers exclusively. That afternoon Mr. Cummings gave five hundred dollars for the commencement of such a course, and soon after the matter was brought before a committee consisting of Mr. Cummings, Professor Hyatt, and Professor Niles.
Under the direction of the committee the courses of lessons were given as follows: physical geography, by Prof. William H. Niles, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; mineralogy, By Mr. W. C. Greenough, of the Providence Normal School; zoölogy, by Prof. Alpheus Hyatt, then custodian of the Boston Society of Natural History; botany, by Dr. W. G. Farlow, of Cambridge—in all thirty-three lessons. These courses were wholly tentative and experimental, but attained success that was most encouraging.
Through the kindness of Professor Runkle, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Huntington Hall, in which so many great scientists have spoken, was opened for the first lesson in geography. Professor Niles here delivered six lectures. "He undertook to give the more general features of the earth's surface, and then to apply these general principles to the explanation of the physical characteristics of Massachusetts." The success of this course may be judged by the average attendance, which was about six hundred teachers of all grades, and by the fact that the teaching of geography in some of the public schools at once underwent a change in favor of the more natural method introduced by him.
"On account of the necessity of actually handling and dissecting specimens, the tickets issued for the succeeding lessons were limited, and at the six lessons on mineralogy and eleven on zoölogy there was an average attendance of about fifty-five. The materials for the course in zoölogy were gathered in sufficient abundance through the extraordinary facilities for collecting marine animals afforded by Prof. S. F. Baird, United States Commissioner of Fisheries; those for the course in botany were furnished with equal readiness and generosity by Prof. Asa Gray from his botanical garden at Cambridge."
The society's attempt to introduce natural history into the public schools met with favor at the hands of the superintendent, Mr. Philbrick, and a committee of school principals was appointed, with Mr. James A. Page as chairman, who canvassed the teachers regarding this matter. Accordingly. in October, 1871, a circular was sent to teachers which said that lessons were to be given by "professors familiar with the object methods of teaching and skillful in the use of chalk." Seven hundred teachers signed this circular, and so signified their pleasure at the prospect of receiving such instruction.
While Mr. Cummings was generously providing these courses of lectures exclusively for the benefit of teachers, Mr. John A. Lowell, trustee of the Lowell Institute Fund, made liberal provision for free courses on different branches of natural science, to which teachers were specially invited and which were well adapted to their wants, although not intended exclusively for them. During the winter of 1872-'73, on account of the large fire in Boston and the absence of Professor Hyatt in Europe, the lessons in The Teachers' School of Science were necessarily suspended. In the autumn of 1874 they were resumed and supported by renewed donations from Mr. Cummings. Mr. L. S. Burbank gave thirty lessons on minerals, and distributed the specimens used at the lectures among the teachers. These minerals were then used in the schools
On the right, Building of the Boston Society of Natural History; On the left, Rogers's Building of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
for instruction. This was virtually the introduction of the teaching of natural science in the public schools of Boston. The following winter Mr. Burbank continued his teaching by giving fourteen lessons in lithology to a class averaging ninety in attendance. One hundred sets of seventy-five specimens each were distributed, and many of these sets placed in collections of the city schools. "A supplementary course of field lessons about Boston was voluntarily conducted by Mr. Burbank, who had in his class this year seventy-five per cent of the members of the class in mineralogy of the previous year. This class inclnded a large number of the busiest teachers of Boston and vicinity, and each member of the class was provided with tools, consisting of a small hammer, magnet, file, streak stone of Arkansas quartzite, a bottle of dilute acid, a glass rod, and the scale of hardness previously used in the mineralogical course."
In 1876 women were admitted to the Society of Natural History, and in that way further privileges were granted to teachers. As in previous years, through the liberality of Mr. Cummings, the lessons were continued, and a course of twenty-one lessons in morphological, physiological, and systematic botany was given by Prof. George L. Goodale, of Harvard University. Each lesson was illustrated by specimens which were distributed to the students. The analysis of the flowers and the determination of the peculiarities of floral structure were considered by Professor Goodale an important part of the course. For this purpose blank forms were distributed to the teachers, which enabled each one to pursue his examination of the flower in hand independently, and made it possible for the instructor to cover more ground than would have been practical by any other method. There was an unusually large attendance at these lessons, averaging one hundred. The following year Professor Goodale continued to teach in the school, giving twenty lectures on the principles of systematic botany. Printed synopses of the lectures were placed in the hands of the teachers, and nearly all the large orders of plants were illustrated by specimens or diagrams. The teachers were also provided with dried and named specimens of native plants suitable for private herbaria. About one hundred and fifty sets of these plants were distributed during the course, at which the attendance was even greater than that of the previous year.
It was at this time that, through the efforts of Miss Lucretia Crocker, the study of zoölogy was introduced into the high schools of Boston, and the study of Nature in the public schools took a definite form. At this time The Teachers' School of Science attained an extraordinary size and importance, a development which was sudden and unexpected. The supervisor of Nature study, Miss Crocker, assured the directors of the school that their assistance would be of great benefit, and in fact essential, to the success of the introduction of this subject iuto the schools. It was therefore determined to institute appropriate courses upon elementary botany, zoölogy, and mineralogy, if the means of paying the expenses could be raised. Mrs. S. T. Hooper and Miss Crocker undertook a considerable amount of the necessary work. and fortunately their scheme met with substantial appreciation from Mrs. Augustus Hemmenway, who subscribed most liberally, and they were assured of further support and interest. Obstacles arose on account of the number of applicants and the necessity of providing-identical specimens for all. The association and sympathy of Mrs. Elizabeth Agassiz with the undertaking was particularly gratifying, since Prof. Louis Agassiz was the first naturalist who ever taught the popular audiences in this country with the specimens in hand. Large sums of money were contributed by women, many members of the Natural History Society, and the teachers themselves joined in making up the necessary fund. The Institute of Technology generously gave the use of Huntington Hall upon the payment of a nominal sum for cleaning and heating. Count Pourtalés, Dr. Hermann Hagan, and Mr. E. C. Hamlin, of the Museum of Comparative Zoölogy, which was under the direction of Mr. Alexander Agassiz, at various times assisted by donations from their respective departments. Further assistance in various ways, such as the drawing of zoölogical charts, preparations of models, and donations of specimens, was received from other persons. There were six hundred and sixteen applicants for this winter's course, and the number of specimens distributed did not fall short of one hundred thousand. After an introductory lecture, at which the Superintendent of Public Schools, the President of the Society of Natural History, and the custodian, delivered addresses appropriate to the occasion. Professor Goodale completed a course of six lessons on botany, in which he instructed the whole audience of five hundred. These lessons were followed the same year by twelve on zoölogy by Professor Hyatt, and five on mineralogy by Mr. Burbank, which ended with a geological excursion to Marblehead. These lessons were given to very large classes, and were supplemented by the issuing of pamphlets under the general title of Science Guides. Three numbers—About Pebbles, by Professor Hyatt; A Few Common Plants, by Dr. Goodale; and Commercial and Other Sponges, by Professor Hyatt and others—were published by Messrs. Ginn and Heath, who have since brought out many such helps.
After a winter of intense activity there came a period of repose, and no lectures were given the next season. After lying quiet for a year the school once more came into active operation. Mrs. Quincy A. Shaw and Mrs. Augustus Hemmenway showed their sympathy with the efforts on behalf of education by most generously assuming the whole expense of the lessons given that year. Immediate measures were taken to carry out the plan which had been arranged several years before, which consisted in giving a series of lessons which would be a good preparation for a course in physiography. Accordingly, Professor Cross, of the Institute of Technology, was engaged to give eight lessons in physics. Professor Hyatt following with eight on the physical relations of animals to the earth; Professor Goodale gave four treating of plants in the same way, and Mr. W. O. Crosby concluded the course with four lectures on the relations of geological agencies to physiography. The applications for tickets to these lectures so far exceeded the expectations of the committee that they were forced to duplicate them, each speaker repeating his lesson on the same day before a different audience.
After this the work of The Teachers' School of Science was taken under the protection of the Lowell Fund, Mr. Augustus Lowell sending word that he would make an annual donation of fifteen hundred dollars. Mr. Lowell allowed the Natural History Society to make engagements and announce lectures one year beforehand, and also gave the use of Huntington Hall. Eighteen lectures were given that winter, under the title of the Lowell Free Lectures in The Teachers' School of Science. Eight of these lectures were on physics, by Professor Cross; five on geology, by Mr. Crosby; five on physiology, by Dr. H. P. Bowditch, of the Harvard Medical School, and all were very successful and well attended by the teachers. The Teachers' School of Science had another branch in active operation, which was courses of laboratory lessons paid for by the teachers themselves.
Through the liberality and co-operation of the Woman's Education Association the Society of Natural History was able to announce that a seaside laboratory, under the direction of Professor Hyatt and capable of accommodating a limited number of students, would be open at Annisquam, Massachusetts, from June 5th to September 15th inclusive. The purpose of this laboratory was to afford opportunities for study and observation to the development, anatomy, and habits of common types of marine animals under suitable direction and advice. It was believed that such a laboratory would meet the wants of many teachers who had attended practical lessons in The Teachers' School of Science. Twenty-two persons—ten women and twelve men (nearly double the number expected)—availed themselves of the privileges offered. The summer work, which was very successful, was due to the ability and energy of Mr. B. K. Van Vleck, who had the whole charge of the instruction and work done in the laboratory. The seaside laboratory continued to be used successfully in the same way during seven consecutive summers, and the work of the laboratory materially influenced the future science teaching in several colleges and in many public schools of this country. In 1886 Professor Hyatt called the attention of the Woman's Education Association and the society to the fact that the laboratory had reached a stage when it could claim the support of patrons of science and learning, and be placed on an independent and permanent foundation. The two associations accordingly called a meeting, made up largely of the representative teachers of biology, who decided to make an effort to establish a permanent biological laboratory and raise at least fifteen hundred dollars to carry it on for five years. The result was the foundation of the Marine Biological Laboratory, at Woods Holl, which now attracts to its general courses teachers and other students from all over the land, and also maintains a department for special research work.
In 1882 agents were obtained, by correspondence and through the kindness of the Secretary of the State Board of Education, Mr. Dickinson, in forty-four towns, who distributed tickets and filled out blanks so that the benefits of The Teachers' School of Science were extended beyond the limits of Boston. In this year there were two courses, one of ten lessons, by Professor Niles, on physical geography, and five on physiology, by Dr. H. P. Bowditch. These courses began in November and continued throughout the whole year, with a decrease in attendance after the Christmas and April holidays. These lessons were followed by five on elementary chemistry, by Prof. L. M. Morton, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His subjects were as follows: First Principles of Chemistry; the next, Chemistry of Air, Chemistry of Water, Chemistry of Combustion, Chemistry of Metallic Elements. There were also five on Practical Examination, with Simple Apparatus of the Physics and Chemistry of Vegetable Physiology, by Professor Goodale, which
Laboratory of the Boston Society of Natural History used by Classes of the Teachers' School of Science.
were divided as follows: (1) Vegetable Assimilation, the mode in which plants prepare food for themselves and animals; (2) The Kinds of Food Stored in Vegetable Organs, illustrations of the starches, sugars, oils, and albuminoidal matters; (3) How Food is used by Plants and Animals in a Formation of New Parts, mechanics of growth; (4) How Food is Used in work of all Kinds by Different Organisms; (5) Adaptations of Organisms to Extremes of Heat and Light, chiefly with respect to geographical distribution. This session was concluded with a series of five lessons on Chemical Principles illustrated by Common Minerals, by Professor Crosby.
At the beginning of this season there was the usual large attendance, with teachers from thirty towns, but the number was slowly reduced. It was evident to the curator that the decline in attendance was not due to the subjects nor the mode in which they were treated, but from fatigue on the part of the teachers, and this state of affairs caused him to say in his annual report that "proper and wise forethought should long ago have given teachers a portion of every week besides the usual Saturday holiday for the pursuit of information needed for teaching new subjects." He believed that the efficiency of the individual teacher would be greatly increased by this expedient, and that the pupils would gain more than they lost by the shortening of the school hours.
At the request of the Superintendent of Schools the curator gave the following year ten lessons, which were directed mainly to the subjects put down in the course of study under the title of Elementary Science Lessons. In his course in Elementary Mineralogy, Professor Crosby followed the plan indicated by Mrs. E. H. Richards in one of the science guides—First Lessons in Minerals. The curator, for his course on Structure and Habits of Worms, Insects, and Vertebrates, used many specimens which had been tanned by a process which was then in use. Over twenty-eight thousand zoölogical specimens were given away in two years. Professor Crosby, with a class of sixty, continued the course of the previous year, giving lessons in the mineralogical laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the specimens there studied were retained by the teachers.
In the winter of 1888-89 Professor Crosby, using for his auditorium Huntington Hall, gave a course of ten lessons on the geology of Boston and vicinity. "The object of the lessons was to acquaint the teachers of Boston and vicinity with natural opportunities by which they are surrounded, and specially to show them how to use these locality in the section under consideration formed the subject of a separate lesson, in which its structural features and the more important events of its history were presented. Special attention was given to tracing the relations of the existing surface features of each district to its geological structure, thus connecting the physical geography and geology of the region. These lectures were based on a large amount of original investigation and results reached by Professor Crosby in his studies of the Boston basin."for their own culture and the benefit of their pupils. The subject was treated in accordance with the following scheme: (1) A general study of the physical features of the Boston basin and of the geological changes now in progress in this region; (2) a systematic study of the various minerals and rocks found in the Boston basin, together with the more characteristic kinds of structure whicb they exhibit; (3) a summary of the geological history of the district so far as that is plainly recorded in the rocks. The course was freely illustrated by maps and diagrams, also to a large extent by specimens, more than ten thousand of which were distributed. Special pains were taken at every step of the work to indicate the localities where phenomena such as were described in the lessons might be most advantageously studied. This comprehensive course formed suitable preparation for a second series of lessons, the principal object of which was to apply the principles taught by the first series to a thorough and detailed study of the physical history of the Boston basin. Each important
During the winter of 1886-'87 Prof. W. M. Davis delivered a course on Problems in Physical Geographic Classification, treated of in two lessons, and the Laws of the Evolution of the Principal Topographical Types occupied the remainder of the course. Professor Davis gave the class the benefit of the results of his investigations, which were original contributions of importance to the progress of physical geography. "The graphic manner of illustrating the lessons upon the Glacial period and the effects of the great glacier upon the area of the Great Lakes was very effective. This was shown by means of a relief model whose surface was composed of an ingenious arrangement of overlying and differently painted surfaces. by removing these in succession the lecturer traced the whole history of changes following upon the recession of a continental glacier and its effects upon the surface waters. . . . These lessons were so novel and useful to teachers that he was invited to give a course of ten lesions during the next winter upon the physical geography of the United States. New matter, new models, and more extended illustrations were used in this course. The objects of the course were: To illustrate the value of systematic classification in the study of physical geography in order that forms of similar origin might be grouped together; to advocate the importance of studying the evolution of geographic forms in time, so that forms similar in origin but dissimilar in ace (and consequently in degree of development) might be regarded as their natural relations; to apply these principles to the physical geography of our own land; and, finally, to promote the use of models in geographic teaching. The different parts of the country were considered in this order: The mountains as constituting the framework of the continent, the plains and plateaus flanking the mountains, the rivers carrying the waste of the land into the ocean, the lakes temporarily interrupting the transportation of waste to the ocean and retarding the action of the rivers, the shore line where the land dips under the sea."
Persons interested in the improvement of the teaching of geography in the public schools suggested to the trustee of the Lowell Institute the advisability of hearing again from Professor Davis, and the curator was requested to invite him to give a course of eight lectures on geography in the autumn and winter of 1897—'98. The subjects treated of in these lessons were selected from among those presented by Professor Davis in his course on geography in the Harvard Sununer School, as they afforded material most directly applicable to the work of grammar-school teachers. At the end of each meeting opportunity was given for individual conference on questions suggested by the lectures. This course excited more interest among teachers than any which had been given since the beginning of the school, and it was consequently a serious disappointment to many teachers when it became known that Mr. Lowell did not feel able to re-engage Professor Davis and continue this kind of instruction.
The same winter that Professor Davis gave his first course on physical geography Prof. P. W. Putnam, of Harvard University, Curator of Peabody Museum of American Archæology and Anthropology at Cambridge, and now President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, gave lessons on American archæology. The topics selected covered the whole range of the remains of prehistoric man and his life on this continent so far as these subjects could be presented in ten lessons. The original methods of research elaborated by Professor Putnam, which have placed his name among the first in his department of archaeological work, rendered this course remarkably interesting and instructive. Specimens were studied and given away in sufficient numbers to illustrate the modes of making stone implements and some of the different kinds of pottery. Professor Putnam invited the teachers to visit the Peabody Museum, and there gave them an opportunity to inspect the larger objects which it had not been possible to bring into the city. The audience became so interested in the famous serpent mound in Ohio, which was then threatened with destruction, that a subscription was started which finally made it possible to purchase and preserve this ancient monument.
The winter succeeding the lessons on archæology, Mr. B. H. Van Vleck, who had spent a considerable portion of the previous summer in preparing specimens for this work, gave fifteen lessons on zoölogy. The study of the general morphology of animals was made under advantages such as had never before been offered in this school, and enabled teachers to see and study structures not usually within their reach. The work was mainly directed to the observation and study of a limited number of types, but general points in physiology and anatomy were also taken up in a comparative way. The microscope was also used in this work. This special course was continued during the next two terms.
Dr. J. Walter Fewkes gave a series of ten lessons, during the winter of 1890-'91, on Common Marine Animals from Massachusetts Bay. Special attention was given to the mode of life, differences in external forms, local distribution, habitats, methods and proper times to collect the eggs, young, and adults. The anatomy, embryology, and morphology of the species considered were dealt with incidentally.
"The relative abundance of species and individuals, local causes which influenced distribution, the rocky or sandy nature of the shores and their characteristic faunæ, and the influence of depth of water tides and temperature, were also considered."
The relations and boundaries of the marine fauna of New England were treated of under the following heads: Comparison of the Fauna of Massachusetts Bay with that of Narragansett Bay and the Bay of Fundy, and Causes of the Differences Observed; Pelagic Animals; Littoral and Shallow-Water Genera; Introduced and Indigenous Marine Animals; and Marine Animals which inhabit both Brackish and Fresh Water.
It having been found that for several years the audiences at the general courses bad been decreasing, it became evident that the giving of general information had accomplished a mission, but that there was a demand for more specialized courses of study and that a change of policy was warranted. It was therefore determined to abandon the general courses and continue the special prolonged laboratory courses.
Since 1891 all lessons have been given either in the form of laboratory lessons or field work, and the school was organized and conducted upon a new and more effective basis. The teachers have been required to keep notebooks and attend examinations in order to be candidates for the certificates which have been, and will continue to be, granted to those who have completed a series of lessons.
In the fall of 1890 was begun a course of lessons on paleontology which had been planned for some time but had not been previously undertaken because the teachers lacked the knowledge of the elements of zoölogy and geology which was a necessary preparation for those taking up the study of the history of animals as found in the earth's crust. The members of this class, which now began to make systematic observations upon fossils, were found to be sufficiently prepared to study certain groups which illustrated the laws of evolution. The class was limited in number and was under the instruction of Professor Hyatt, who for five years conducted the most advanced course of lessons ever given in The Teachers' School of Science, and such as have not elsewhere been offered to teachers nor to many classes of college students.
The lessons began with general instruction in the use of the microscope, the structure of cells and their union and differentiation into tissues, and then a study of simplest organisms—Protozoa. The work was continued through Porifera, Hydrozoa, and Actinozoa, and the types of fossils compared with their living representatives. The periods of occurrence of fossilized remains in the rocks were noted, and the characteristics of the different periods mentioned, but details of stratigraphic character were subordinated to the tracing out of the relations of the animals and the laws which governed the evolution of their forms. Special attention was given to those classes whose history is most complete and which furnish the best specimens for examination.
Echinodermata, represented by a large number of both living and fossil forms, was made the subject of study the second winter. The common starfish was examined in detail, and with it were compared other members of its class—Asteroidea, living and fossil forms in Ophiuridea and Echinoidea, the modern Holoithuroidea, the ancient Blastoids and Cystoids, and both extinct and modern Crinoids, the last of which were illustrated by alcohol specimens of Comatula. Professor Hyatt was assisted in giving these lessons By Miss J. M. Arms, who, in conjunction with him, had previously written the largest of the Science Guides—entitled Insecta—and by Dr. Robert T. Jackson, who has done much work on this group of fossils. One member of the class a few years ago, after receiving these lessons, looked over and prepared a large number of fossils, principally Crinoids, belonging to the Natural History Society, and discovered a form of paleozoic Echinoderm, which proved to be an interesting new species and was described by Dr. Jackson as Lepidesthes Wortheni.
The third year of this series consisted of lessons on Brachiopoda exclusively. Professor Hyatt was at that time in correspondence with Dr. C. E. Beecher, of Yale, the distinguished paleontologist, who has made remarkable discoveries and was then investigating Brachiopoda, and communications from him regarding this group were from time to time read to the class. "The sudden expansion or the quick evolution in the earlier periods of the earth's history and the slower evolution of the same types in their progressive history, after a period of sudden expansion had been passed through," were shown in several series.
The ancestral form of this group, the phylembryo, has been found in Paterina, whose adult represents the youngest stage, the beak of the shell, of other Brachiopods. There was, therefore, unusual opportunity to here illustrate theories of evolution, particularly the theory of constitutional tendency involving a conception of the youth, maturity, and senescence of species. In order to make the instruction clearer, terms used for the different stages of development by Professor Hyatt in his writings on bioplastology were explained to and used by the class.
The many specimens used in this study were carefully figured in the notebooks, and the teachers became so familiar with them that they were able to pass at the end of the term a severe nation. The final test of the season's work consisted of three parts: The passing in of lecture notebooks, the naming and classifying of a dozen fossils selected by the professor, and the answering of a set of difficult questions.
On account of the amount of time required for this course, and because the lessons were such as were not directly applicable to work in the public schools, the attendance decreased. The number who continued, however, were those who felt that a broad scientific education is necessary to the best teaching of even elementary science.
The fourth year was devoted to Mollusca, Cephalopoda in particular, and the class was fortunate in having for its teacher one whose investigations in this latter group have given him world-wide fame.
The evolution of the group from its straight radical form, now named and called Diphragnoceros, was traced through the bent, curved, and coiled forms of the Nautiloids, Ammonoids, and Belamites. The phylogeny of the Ammonoids presented a complete cycle, late forms entirely uncoiling and presenting the straight characters of their ancestors.
The study of Cephalopods amply illustrated the neo-Lamarckian theory of evolution, including the inheritance of acquired characters which is now believed by most paleontologists.
The fifth and last year of this course included the study of Arthropoda and Vertebrata. The insects presented many illustrations for the theory of natural selection, which the neo-Lamarckians consider an aid, but a subordinate factor, in the origin of species.
About this time Poulton gave a series of twelve lectures on animal coloration at the Lowell Institute, drawing his illustrations mainly from insects. Many of the students of The Teachers' School of Science in zoölogy and paleontology attended these lectures.
After working on fishes, batrachians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, in which the structural development of some animals—man, for example—was found to be retrogressive and the physiological development progressive, the lessons closed with the study of man's structure as compared with the anthropoid apes and the few remains of prehistoric man, and finally with a discussion of the works of paleolithic man.
The teachers who had attended this course throughout the five years and had passed satisfactory examinations have been presented with diplomas testifying to their proficiency.
[To be continued.]