The Teaching of Nature Study Series, Part 1

While reading this aloud for my upcoming podcast I was so inspired by this and decided I would share it with all of you as apart of the Nature Study resources. It has explained so much about what Nature Study should look like for me and I know it will help implementation wonderfully. Enjoy!

The whole book is available on as it is in the public domain, >> click here << to find it. 

In Nature's infinite book of secrecy
A little can I read. 
-- Shakespeare




Nature-Study is, despite all discussions and perversions, a study of nature; it consists of simple, truthful observations that may, like beads on a string, finally be threaded upon the understanding and thus held together as a logical and harmonious whole. Therefore, the object of the nature-study teacher should be to cultivate in the children powers of accurate observation and to build up within them, understanding. 


First, but not most important, nature-study gives the child practical and helpful knowledge. It makes him familiar with nature's ways and forces, so that he is not so helpless in the presence of natural misfortune and disasters. 

Nature-study cultivates the child's imagination since there are so many wonderful and true stories that he may read with his own eyes, which affect his imagination as much as does fairy lore; at the same time nature-study cultivates in him a perception and a regard for what is true, and the power to express it. All things seem possible in nature; yet this seeming is always guarded by the eager quest of what is true. Perhaps, half the falsehood in the world is due to lack of power to detect the truth and to express it. Nature-study aids both in discernment and expression of things as they are. 

Nature-study cultivates in the child a love of the beautiful; it brings to him early a perception of color, form and music. He sees whatever there is in his environment, whether it be the thunder-head piled up in the western sky, or the golden flash of the oriole in the elm; whether it be the purple of the shadows on the snow, or the azure glint on the wing of the little butterfly. Also, what there is of sound, he hears; he reads the music score of the bird orchestra, separating each part and knowing which bird sings it. And the patter of the rain, the gurgle of the brook, the sighing of the wind in the pine, he notes and loves and becomes enriched thereby. 

But, more than all, nature-study gives the child a sense of companionship with life out of doors and an abiding love of nature. Let this latter be the teacher's criterion for judging his or her work. If nature-study as taught does not make the child love nature and the out-of-doors, then it should cease. Let us not inflict permanent injury on the child by turning him away from nature instead of toward it. However, if the love of nature is in the teacher's heart, there is no danger; such a teacher, no matter by what method, takes the child gently by the hand and walks with him in paths that lead to the seeing and comprehending of what he may find beneath his feet or above his head. And these paths whether they lead among the lowliest plants, or whether to the stars, finally converge and bring the wanderer to that serene peace and hopeful faith that working units of this wonderful universe. 


Perhaps the most valuable practical lesson the child gets from nature-study is a personal knowledge that nature's laws are not to be evaded. Wherever he looks, he discovers that attempts at such evasion result in suffering and death. A knowledge thus naturally attained of the immutability of nature's "must" and "shall not" is in itself a moral education. That the fool as well as the transgressor fares ill in breaking natural laws, makes for wisdom in morals as well as in hygiene. 

Out-of-door life takes the child afield and keeps him in the open air, which not only helps him physically and occupies his mind with sane subjects, but keeps him out of mischief. It is not only during childhood that this is true, for love of nature counts much for sanity in later life. This is an age of nerve tension, and the relaxation which comes from the comforting companionship found in woods and fields is, without doubt, the best remedy for this condition. Too many men who see the out-of-doors for rest at the present time, can only find it with a gun in hand. To rest and heal their nerves they must go out and try to kill some unfortunate creature, --the old, old story of sacrificial blood. Far better will it be when, through properly training the child, the man shall be enabled to enjoy nature through seeing how creatures live rather than watching them die. It is the sacred privilege of nature-study to do this for future generations and for him thus trained, shall the words of Longfellow's poem to Agassiz apply: 

"And he wandered away and away, with Nature the dear old nurse,
Who sang to him night and day, the rhymes of the universe. 
And when the way seemed long, and his heart began to fail,
She sang a more wonderful song, or told a more wonderful tale."


During many years, I have been watching teachers in our public schools in their conscientious and ceaseless work; and so far as I can foretell, the fate that awaits them finally is either nerve exhaustion or nerve atrophy. The teacher must become either a neurasthenic or a "clam."

I have had conversations with hundreds of teachers in the public schools of New York State concerning the introduction of nature-study into the curriculum, and most of them declared, "Oh, we have not time for it. Every moment is full now!" Their nerves were at such a tension that with one more thing to do they must fall apart. The question in my own mind during these conversations was always, how long can she stand it! I asked some of them "Did you ever try a vigorous walk in the open air in the open country every Saturday or Sunday of your teaching year?" "Oh no!" they exclaimed in despair of making me understand. "On Sunday we must go to church or see our friends and on Saturday we must do our shopping or our sewing. We must go to the dressmaker's lest we go unclad, we must mend, and darn stockings; we need Saturday to catch up."

Yes, catch up with more cares, more worries, more fatigue, but not with more growth, more strength, more vigor and more courage for work. In my belief, there are two and only two occupations for Saturday afternoon or forenoon for a teacher. One is to be out of doors and the other is to lie in bed, and the first is best. Out in this, God's beautiful world, there is everything waiting to heal lacerated nerves, to strengthen tired muscles, to please and content the soul that is torn to shreds with duty and care. To the teacher who turns to nature's healing, nature-study in the schoolroom is not a trouble; it is a sweet, fresh breath of air blown across the heat of radiators and the noisome odor of over-crowded small humanity. She, who opens her eyes and her heart nature-ward even once a week, finds nature-study in the schoolroom a delight and an abiding joy. What does such a one find in her schoolroom instead of the terrors of discipline, the eternal watching and eternal nagging to keep the pupils quiet and at work? She finds, first of all, companionship with her children; and second, she finds that without planning or going on a far voyage, she has found health and strength. 

To be continued...

You can find this excerpt in a downloadable PDF file >> HERE << 

You can also listen to this on an Episode of The Everyday Charlotte Podcast

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