Page images
[blocks in formation]

each child to put into the map in its proper place his own home. Thus they will learn the meaning and right use of a map, and will feel a good deal of interest when they see it grow before them under your hand as you draw it on the board and fill in one detail after another. Without some such previous explanation and actual manufacture of a plan before the eyes of the children, an ordinary printed map of Europe or of the world is nothing but a coloured enigma.

So a lesson on Home geography (Heimathkunde) Home Gcoought to be the first in a geographical course. Perhaps

graphy. you will expect that I should be logical, and proceed in the same way, next to the general geography of the parish, afterwards to that of the county you live in, its physical features, its chief towns and industries, then to a description of England, afterwards to that of Europe, and finally to a general description of the world on which we live. But I am not prepared to push a theory--even one which is founded, as this is, on a true principleto an impracticable and absurd extent. We must learn to think of the various parts of knowledge, not only in what seems their natural sequence, but also in the light of their relative importance. You cannot measure the value of geographical facts by a formula, or say that their importance diminishes as the square of the distance. The earliest geographical ideas may well be those derived from home and its surroundings; but these ideas require next to be properly localized, and shewn in relation to the size and form of the world itself. A good way of doing this is first to help the children to refer the map of the school and its surroundings to an ordnance map of the parish or division of the county; then to mark this larger division on a map of England, afterwards to shew England on a map of Europe, and then


Lessons on earth and waler.

identify it on a globe. Thus by degrees you establish a sense of proportion, and help the child to see his bearings, so to speak, and the place he occupies in the uni

And this done, it is well to proceed at once, by the help of a globe, to give some very general notion of the shape and size of the earth, the distribution of land and water, the four cardinal points, and the meaning of the simpler geographical terms.

To make these lessons intelligible, you will need pictures or diagrams, or better still, you will mould before the class, in sand or soft clay, a rough representation of a range of mountains, or a group of mountains and valleys, and will then shew how water comes out from the glaciers or springs, and sometimes tumbles over steep rocks, and finds its way down the sides, and so forms a river or a lake. You will draw out from them that a river will be more rapid in a steep valley, more sluggish when it flows through a flat country; that it will increase in size as it goes on and receives affluents, and that the wide openings by which it enters the sea are often convenient places for the formation of harbours and for commercial st but that sometimes it cannot find free course, and is pent up between hills and rocks. Then you will explain the points of the compass, not of course in the way which some teachers adopt, of referring everything to a wall map, so that when you ask children to point to the North, they point up to the ceiling ; but by leading them to know the actual bearings of their own school-room and the surrounding streets and buildings. This may be done most easily by inviting them to step out with you at 12 o'clock on a sunny day, and mark in the playground the line which the shadow of an upright stick projects. It is not a bad plan to have this line painted on a part of the floor of

[blocks in formation]

the school-room, so that the points of the compass shall be distinctly known, and every time N. S. E. or W. is mentioned the scholars shall be required to point to it. You will do well to have in the school a mariner's compass, and to draw attention (1) to the immense importance, especially to sailors, of knowing their bearings at times when neither sun nor stars are visible to indicate them; and (2) to the wonderful fact of the tendency of the magnetic needle always to point one way—a fact as you know wholly unique in the whole range of physical science, in itself inexplicable, and at the same time most curiously adapted to solve one practical problem in navigation, which as far as we know is absolutely insoluble all the manifold resources of science in other directions.

These elementary lessons on the size and general Order of . conformation of the earth may at first include an explana- cal facts.

geographition of the equator and the poles, and of the fact that the sun, though seen by us always to the south at noon, is seen by people on the equator over their heads, and by people living south of the equator to the north of them at that hour. But it is not at this stage expedient to include any details about meridians, or the measurement of latitude and longitude by degrees. Afterwards it seems best to proceed at once to the general geography of England, with especial reference to the county in which the scholar lives, to its boundaries, its hills and rivers and principal towns. Next in order should come a general description of the chief countries of Europe and of the chief British Colonies; afterwards the geography of Scotland and Ireland in detail, and then latitude and longitude and as much else in the way of descriptive geography as you have time to give. In French schools, little manuals of what we should call County

Geography are in extensive use. There is one for each Department; but a little prefatory chapter about the size and shape of the world, the points of the compass, and the position of France upon the globe, forms a common introduction to all the manuals alike. There is a map of the Department; an account of its name, size, limits, area, its chief industries and geological formation, its natural productions, the famous men it has produced, its historic associations, and a great number of details, administrative, statistical, commercial ; besides engravings of the cathedral of the chef-lieu, and of any buildings, monuments, or scenes for which the Department is famed. The French child is generally expected to master this little manual of the part of the country in which he lives before he is asked to learn topographical details

about more distant places. No neces

So much for the order which seems, on the whole, sary se

most reasonable for the teaching of geographical facts. quence of difficulty You will not expect this order to be preserved in textor impor- books, and there is no subject in which it is more necesthis subject. sary for you to emancipate yourselves from the domina

tion of text-books, and to arrange your facts for yourselves. For in Reading and Writing there is at least a sequence of difficulty; in Grammar and Arithmetic a philosophical sequence; and in History the sequence of chronology. But in Geography there is no sequence at all. Except by accident or association, there is no one topographical fact which is more important than any other, or which can claim to be learned earlier. To every man his own home and his own work make the centre of the world; and the value for him of all information about the rest of the world is entirely relative. It is not absolute. Yet text-books, after all, cannot recognise this, and are bound to give in equal detail

tance in

[blocks in formation]

his own


facts, some of which, from this point of view, are important and some unimportant. The compilers of such books must arrange their facts in a certain order so as to be easy of reference. So they are fain to begin with Europe, then to take Asia, then Africa, then America, and finally Australia ; and in the hands of a mere routine teacher, the patient school-boy,—for sufferance is the badge of all his tribe,'—is forced to learn a good deal about Denmark and the Caucasus, about the Burrampooter and the Lake Nyanza, before he knows anything of New York or of our colonies. It is therefore essential that the teacher should exer- T'he teacher

to fashion cise his own choice and judgment in respect to the order of importance and of usefulness in which geographical order. facts are related, and therefore to the order in which they should be taught. That order will not be always the

At this moment the geography of the S. E. of Europe and the N. W. border of India is more useful to us than the geography of the Spanish peninsula. At the beginning of the present century it was otherwise. You have to ask yourselves not only what are the facts to which the books and the examiners assign prominence; but what are the facts which it behoves a well-instructed and intelligent person to know. A great many names and statistics are learned by school-boys which no educated

person is expected to know, or would care to remember if he did. To some extent this is inevitable; but there would not be so large a discrepancy between the sort of knowledge a school-boy has from his lesson-book, and the sort of knowledge of which you yourself feel most the need when you mingle in society, or read a piece of contemporary history, if teachers thought oftener of the occasions on which geographical knowledge is wanted and the uses to which it has to be put.

« PreviousContinue »