Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/317

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303
ASTRONOMY IN HIGH-SCHOOLS.

ances. They are very apt to take the place of the observation of nature, a very pernicious result. Besides, to understand the motions, one must study each separately. The observation of nature must precede the illustration of nature. A light and a ball revolving on its axis sometimes help. The very simplest apparatus is the best. Young folks have a superstition about complicated apparatus. It begets a vague wonderment which is very far removed from a scientific temper. God's own great machinery is undoubtedly the thing to study. But a small telescope would enlarge greatly the field of observation. The pupils could, with its aid, study Jupiter's miniature system, the rings of Saturn, the phases of Venus and Mercury; and, by the sunspots, they could detect the revolution of the sun on his axis. Mr. Whitall, of Phillipsburg, New Jersey, gets up a small telescope for fifty dollars which would be of great use. I find the astronomers who wish to do original work have great contempt for a telescope costing less than eight hundred dollars. Mr. Whitall's telescope is probably better than that which discovered Jupiter's moons and Saturn's rings, and, for the sort of teaching I have described, would do a great deal of good.

I have a good deal of trouble with people who are attracted by the interest of my girls, and who always want to tell them the things they ought to find out for themselves. Bright young fellows from college, who want to show off before the girls, are particularly given to this. But my pupils themselves aid me, for they do not wish to be told.

It is important to have a good deal of drawing. Fortunately, in the best schools, the importance of this art is now appreciated. The constellations should be drawn from nature and from memory, with a statement on each map of the boundaries. When any planet is under study, I always have diagrams drawn showing its various positions in relation to the sun and the earth.

I do not pretend that this is other than the most elementary work, and I do not myself pretend to be much of an astronomer.

There is nothing wonderful in teaching as I have described, but it is certainly a great mistake to teach otherwise. It is probable that, in the active centers of thought, others have adopted this plan. It is certainly far from general. I am sure nearly all teachers of girls would find their own knowledge made more accurate by the observation and study it requires. Teachers in boarding-schools, who are with their pupils at night, could accomplish admirable results; and I should think intelligent parents would be delighted to train their own children.