Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/69

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57
THE MOTOR ACTIVITIES IN TEACHING.

and natural desire for knowledge, teachers are just becoming able to heed through the newer knowledge of child life and development.

Heusinger, a name little known, showed his great insight into this matter when he urged teachers to change and adapt their work so as to take advantage of the extreme impulse in children to be busy; for Heusinger maintained that, considering the great power given to this impulse by Nature, a prominent place in the development of man should be granted to it, and that it is the duty of teachers to give heed to this impulse in which an effective means of instruction is afforded. He set up this impulse to activity as the regulating principle in gaining knowledge, for he asserted that not only does it lead to a deeper knowledge of the thing itself, but also to a greater appreciation of all that is in connection with the thing, and also that it excludes those things which have no relation to the particular object of thought.

Froebel's apprehension of this truth is shown by his plays and games.

All these educators apprehended the fact that the most marked characteristic of the child and the youth is physical activity. This activity is due to an energy that must be expended through motor channels. It will perhaps make my contention the clearer if we consider briefly the young infant and examine the first manifestations of this energy and what results therefrom in mental development. The activity of a young infant must, I think, be conceded. Its arms and legs move vigorously. These movements are not determined by itself, are not controlled by itself. In various ways it often hurts itself by these uncontrolled motions, and in these movements there is at this period no will. These movements which all have recognized are impulsive in their nature—that is, they are set on not by any external stimulation, but by the accumulation of energy in the cells of the nervous system, and when the cells are filled with nerve force or energy the discharge of this energy is necessary for the growth and development of the system; and so the kickings and twistings and strikings and clutchings result. One suggestive point which may be noted here is the fact that when the cells become filled with energy they discharge. No demands are made on them before they are ready to act, for Mother Nature is the babe's wise teacher.

Closely following the impulsive movements, and indeed accompanying them, are what are termed reflex movements, which differ from impulsive movements in the fact that they are initiated or started by some external stimulation through some of the avenues of sense.

All impulsive and reflex movements occur without any pre-