Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/98

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

geography by the natural method, Professor Geikie has written a little manual, which broadly sketches the plan to be adopted. The following paragraphs embody the principal features of this plan:

To begin the teaching of geography with formal lessons on the shape of the earth, parallels, meridians, equator, poles, and the rest, is to start at the wrong end. To the average boy or girl of six or seven years these details have no meaning and no interest. Their introduction on the very threshold of geographical instruction is a characteristic feature of our system, or rather want of system, in this department of education. They are very generally placed at the beginning of our class-books, and being there, they form, as a matter of course, the subjects of the first lessons usually given in geography. An altogether inordinate value is set by us upon class-books. Instead of serving, as they ought, merely to furnish the text for the fuller and more interesting exposition of the teacher, these books are for the most part slavishly followed.

The lesson of the day too often consists in the repetition by rote of so many sentences or paragraphs from the class-book, which are seldom expanded or made more attractive and intelligible by elucidation on the part of the teacher. Such instruction, if it may be so called, is bad for the teacher and worse for the taught. It is especially pernicious to the children in the earlier stages of their geographical studies, for it tortures their memories and brings no compensating advantage. It fosters idleness and listlessness on the part of the teacher, who, instead of exerting his faculties to invest the subject with a living interest, becomes for the time a mere machine, mechanically acting within the limits prescribed in the class-book.

In dealing with the young we should try to feel ourselves young again, to see things as they are seen by young eyes, to realize the difficulties that lie in the way of children's appreciation of the world around them, to be filled with an abounding sympathy which subdues all impatience on our side, and calls out on the side of the children their confidence and affection. Mutual sympathy and esteem are a pledge of enduring success. To cement this bond of union between teacher and taught there should be no set tasks for some considerable time. The lessons ought rather to be pleasant conversations about familiar things. The pupils should be asked questions such as they can readily answer, and the answering of which causes them to reflect, and gives them confidence in themselves and freedom with the teacher. The objects in the school-room, in the play-ground, on the road to school, should be made use of as subjects for such questionings, with the aim of drawing out the knowledge acquired by the pupils from their own observation. Every question should be one which requires for its answer that the children have actually seen something with their own eyes and have taken mental note of it. The putting of such questions stimulates the observing faculty, and not unfrequently