« PreviousContinue »
instruction which are specially educative, lose sight of the value of even empirical instruction about these things. To impart facts is not a teacher's highest business, but it is a substantial part of his business. It is so, not merely because it is disgraceful for a person to be ill-informed about common things. It is pitiable to measure the worth of any knowledge merely by the degree in which it is a credit to gain it, or a discredit to be without it. The best reasons for seeking to give to your pupils a good basis of facts are that the possession of them is very useful; that all future scientific generalization pre-supposes them; that they furnish pabulum for the thought and the imagination; and generally that life is rich and interesting in proportion to the number of things we know and care about.
So at every part of a school course provision should be made for instruction in matters of fact which lie outside the domain of the regular book-subjects. What is known in the German schools as Natur-kunde and Erdkunde fulfils this description most nearly. But both terms are restricted as to the class of topics they include. The information or useful knowledge, now in view, can perhaps be best described by the hybrid term Fact-lore. It has, no doubt, a definite educational purpose, and may help to develop faculty in a useful way. But its main object is to supply facts, to excite an intelligent interest in the common objects and phenomena which surround the scholars, to teach them how to see and to handle, and to draw simple inferences from what the senses tell them, and to prepare the way for the later and more regular study of science.
In Infant Schools this aim is accomplished by means of what are called Object lessons. A teacher takes a piece of Coal in his hand and asks the children what it
363 is. He asks them to look at it, and tell him what they can see, that it is black and shiny; to handle it, and to find out that it is hard, that parts of it are easily rubbed off, and that it is of a certain weight. He asks what would happen if he put it into the fire, and he finds that they can tell him not only that it burns, but that there is a gaseous flame at first, afterwards a duller burning, and finally nothing left but cinders. He makes them tell its familiar uses. Then he asks if they would like to know something more about it, and he proceeds to shew a picture of a coal mine, to describe the gloom, the heat of the pit, the mode of getting down to it and out of it, and the dangers to which miners are exposed. He tells them how many ages ago all this coal was vegetable matter ; he produces a piece of coal, which he has chosen because its fossil character is well marked; he lets the children look at and handle it, and then he shews pictures of the various trees and plants which formed the material of which coal is formed. And at the end his black board presents a summary of the lesson, shewing in succession the qualities, the uses, and the history of coal, and the mode of procuring it. All this is well, and in the hands of a good teacher Their
shortfulfils valuable purposes. It has in it some of the cha
comings. racteristics we have insisted on for all good teaching. For it kindles the interest of children by dealing at first with what is fairly within the range of their own experience, and yet before it is finished it carries them into a new region distinctly beyond that range. It is well calculated to awaken curiosity and to stimulate the observing and enquiring faculty. But, then, like so many other good things, it is apt to degenerate. Pestalozzi, David Stow, and the Mayos have laid down rules; model lessons have been published, and accordingly it is
my lot to hear a number of so-called object lessons, which are very barren of any useful result whatever. Because Dr Mayo's book on object-lessons gives a list of the qualities of glass-Brittle, Transparent, Hard, Fusible, Useful, Inelastic, &c., one is doomed to hear one object after another treated in exactly the same way, and to see it solemnly recorded on a board that a cow is graminivorous, or that an orange is opaque. The blackboard exercise is a great stumbling-block to unskilful teachers. They are told beforehand at the Training Colleges that it should present at the end of the lesson a complete summary, arranged under heads, of all that the lesson contains, and so they exhibit throughout the lesson a much greater anxiety to get the matter on to the board than to get it into the understanding of the scholars. Moreover, lessons of this kind are apt to be desultory and unconnected, and to be given at irregular intervals. And although they occur in the Infant Schools with marked advantage under the name of objectlessons,' they are often discontinued altogether for the whole of the interval between the Infant School and the
time when the regular teaching of Science begins. Subjects for But through all that interval some conversational lesobject and
sons on familiar objects should be regularly given. They other collective are needed, as we have said, partly to keep up that habit of lessons.
observant interest in what is going on in the world, which
(a) Common substances-glass, iron, coal, silk, money.
(e) Natural phenomena—wind, storms, change of seasons.
u Forms of human employment-farms, vineyards, life in a factory, a mine, a military station, a studio.
(8) Construction of simple machines—a hinge, a knise, a lock, a watch, a pump, a gas meter, a pulley.
(k) Incilents of travel—a voyage, a mountain ascent, a polar expedition, a shipwreck.
(2) Local events—a famine, harvest, an exhibition, a festival, the construction of a new railway.
(k) Events in National and Municipal life—the opening of Parliament, a general Election, the Assizes.
(1) Buildings and public monuments—their architecture and their history.
I am far from wishing to assign a prominent place in a school-course to miscellaneous topics like these. But some room should be reserved for them in your programme. One half-hour's lesson in the week will suffice, and if your assistants are encouraged to take their turns in preparing lessons on subjects with which they are specially conversant, and will carefully preserve their notes, with a record of the day on which the lesson was given, you will find many incidental advantages accrue both to them and to the school.
In forming a plan for such a course for a term you will They do well, without making it so inelastic as to exclude any have a interesting topic which may unexpectedly arise, to have definite in view that most of the lessons of this kind ought to
a visible serve as helps and preliminaries to the ultimate teaching scientific of science, and should therefore be given in a pre-deter-Purpose. mined order, and with distinct reference to the regular instruction in science which is intended to be taken up hereafter. The scientific spirit and the scientific method should be present, but should not be obtruded. Scientific nomenclature should be sparingly used, and then
only when the need for it has become apparent. It is well that children should be made, even in the lowest classes, to think about the formation of a glacier, the boiling of water, or the making of iron into steel. But each separate fact of this sort should be correlated with some other which is like it, so that an elementary perception at least may be gained of the nature of physical
Be careful to consider beforehand how much can be should have unity.
reasonably taught in the thirty or forty minutes you mean to devote to the lesson. The great fault of most of these lessons is that they attempt too inuch. Consider well that you have need at the end of each division of the subject to recapitulate very carefully, and to make sure that you have been followed; and that certain facts must be accentuated by repetition and by writing. Do not let any one lesson contain a greater number of new truths or thoughts than can be fairly grasped and remembered in one short effort; or than can be so fitted together as
to leave on the mind a sense of unity and completeness. Use of a Let your black-board summary grow up
your black board.
hand as the lesson proceeds, and use it rather for recording your principal conclusions, at the end of each division of your subject, than as a promise, -or menace, beforehand of what you are going to do. I have often heard little collective lessons, in which the teacher says now we are going to speak of the "qualities;" ' and then the word “qualities” is gravely written down on the board; and one by one various adjectives are evolved and written underneath it. All this chills and repels the child and destroys his interest in the lesson. He does not care about “qualities.” He is not prepared to enter with you into an investigation of the qualities of a thing which at present he knows and cares little or nothing about.