The Teaching of Nature Study Series, Part 2

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




No science professor in any university, if he be a man of high attainment, hesitates to say to his pupils "I do not know", if they ask for information beyond his knowledge. The greater his scientific reputation and erudition, the more readily, simply and without apology he says this. He, better than others, comprehends how vast is the region that lies beyond man's present knowledge. It is only the teacher in the elementary schools who has never received enough scientific training to reveal to her how little she does know, who feels that she must appear to know everything or her pupils will lose confidence in her. But how useless is this pretense, in nature-study! The pupils, whose younger eyes are much keener for details than hers, will soon discover her limitations and then their distrust of her will be real. 

In nature-study any teacher can with honor say, "I do not know," for perhaps, the question asked is as yet unanswered by the great scientists. But she should not let her lack of knowledge be a wet blanket thrown over her pupils' interest. She should say frankly, "I do not know; let us see if we cannot together find out this mysterious thing. Maybe no one knows it as yet, and I wonder if you will discover it before I do." She thus conveys the right impression, that only a little about the intricate life of plants and animals is yet known; and at the same time she makes her pupils feel the thrill and zest of investigation. Nor will she lose their respect by doing this, if she does it in the right spirit. For three years, I had for comrades in my walks afield, two little children and they kept me busy saying, "I do not know". But they never lost confidence in me or in my knowledge; they simply gained respect for the vastness of the unknown. 

The chief charm of nature-study would be taken away if it did not lead us through the border-land of knowledge into the realm of the undiscovered. Moreover, the teacher, in confession her ignorance and at the same time her interest in a subject, establishes between herself and her pupils a sense of companionship which relieves the strain of discipline, and gives her a potent element in her success. The best teacher is always one who is the good comrade of her pupils. 


The old teacher is too likely to become didactic, dogmatic and "bossy" if she does not constantly strive with herself. Why? She has to be thus five days in the week and, therefore, she is likely to be so seven. She knows arithmetic, grammar and geography to their uttermost and she is never allowed to forget that she knows them, and finally her interests become limited to what she knows. 

After all, what is the chief sign of growing old? Is it not the feeling that we know all there is to be known? It is not years which make people old; it is ruts, and a limitation of interests. When we no longer care about anything except our own interests, we are then old, it matters not whether our years be twenty or eighty. It is rejuvenation for the teacher, thus growing old, to stand ignorant like a child in the presence of one of the simplest of nature's miracles -- the formation of a crystal, the evolution of a butterfly from the caterpillar, the exquisite adjustment of the silken lines in the spider's orb-web. Let her go out with her youngest pupil and fall on her knees before the miracle of the blossoming violet and say: "Dear Nature, I know naught of the wondrous life of these, your smallest creatures. Teach me!" and she will suddenly find herself young. 


Much of the naughtiness in school is a result of the child's lack of interest in his work, augmented by the physical inaction that results from an attempt to sit quietly. The best teachers try to obviate both of these rather than to punish because of them. Nature-study is an aid in both respects, since it keeps the child interested and also gives him something to do. 

In the nearest approach to an ideal school that I have ever seen, for children of second grade, the pupils were allowed, as a reward of merit, to visit the aquaria or the terrarium for periods of five minutes, which time was given to the blissful observation of the fascinating prisoners. The teacher also allowed the reading of stories about the plants and animals under observation to be regarded as a reward of merit. As I entered the schoolroom, there were eight or ten of the children at the windows watching eagerly what was happening to the creatures confined there in the various cages. There was a mud aquarium for frogs and salamanders, an aquarium for fish, many small aquaria for insects and each had one or two absorbingly interested spectators who were quiet, well behaved and were getting their nature-study lessons in an ideal manner. The teacher told me that the problem of discipline was solved by this method, and watching the living creatures in the aquaria, or terrarium has been used as a reward for other work well done. 

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
coming soon...

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