Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/75

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THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD WITH CHILDREN.

helped children to draw the natural objects which they study to any great extent, but often have hindered them by taking all their drawing time for dogmatic instruction in mechanical drawing, historic ornament, geometric solids, and regular, symmetrical objects generally. No instruction in natural history work can be called scientific that fails to develop the pupil's power to draw what he examines. Darwin said that a great amount of his otherwise valuable manuscripts became useless on account of his lack of ability to draw.

The part that language takes in the plan should now receive brief consideration. The pupil, being accustomed, from the time he begins to write sentences, to describe in writing what he himself sees, recognizes the connection between his ideas and their signs on paper; his facility in expressing his ideas more and more correctly increases; and when his work is criticised, he is in the proper mental attitude to receive and assimilate the criticism. By examining the pupil's work after his first essay on a new subject the teacher gets at the defects in the pupil's vocabulary at once, and sees just where to help him. In no other way can the teacher reach that point so soon. Since the pupil is left to himself, he must describe his object in his own words, and he will not use any that he does not understand; if those are wrong in form, he can remember the corrected form easily; but if new words, which he does not understand, are given to him, he remembers their correct form with difficulty.

The teacher helps at the right time when the pupils need help. He examines their papers to discover excellences and errors in regard to matters of fact and forms of expression, gives class instruction at the blackboard on the prevailing errors, makes illustrative sketches, rubs out all illustrative work at last, and directs the pupils to redraw and redescribe the objects previously studied, confining their work closely to what they see in their specimens.

Up to this point all information not obvious in the specimens is rigorously excluded. Information must be divorced from observation. No other course can be followed safely by the rank and file of teachers. The pupils, having had the opportunities required for observing, thinking, and recording for themselves, and a substantial basis for information having been thus laid, individual experiences, readings from books, and reasons, causes, and results are considered, and the whole, observation and information, is incorporated into a composition most carefully written during the time devoted to language work. The power thus developed in the lower grades enables pupils of the higher grades to stop with first drafts.

Again, Darwin confesses that he was much hampered by his