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Nature Study

birds, books, life and elementary

NATURE STUDY, a course in the elementary schools designed to give the child some acquaintance with the world of nature, centering attention chiefly on trees, birds, and flowers. A study of na ture has been for a considerable time part of the curriculum of elementary schools, but recently the influence of Horace Mann and his emphasis on "ob ject study" has largely changed the methods of instruction. Instead of being taught in the formal class-room method, it is now conducted in such a way that the children come in direct contact with natural animals and objects. For this reason the course is most successfully conducted by schools situated in the country or in suburban districts. Walks are taken by the class in company with the teacher to find the birds and flowers appropriate to the season, and the stu dents are taught first to recognize the varied types of animal and floral life. Frequently the children have in their possession picture books of the various birds with their haunts and characteris tics given. A very successful method is to encourage rivalry among the stu dents in being the first to discover cer tain birds when they appear in the spring of the year. As the main ob jective of the course is to encourage de light and arouse interest in the natural world, any intensive study of a particu lar species is out of place. The course is

not designed to be an introduction to bio logy. One very useful product of nature study properly taught has been the dis appearance of vandalism among the children. The robbing of birds' nests, the destruction of wild flowers and the pestering of wild animal life, considered formerly to be one of the essential ear marks of a boy, have ceased to exist and have given place to an intelligent enjoy ment of outdoor life on the part of chil dren. Civic pride and the cultivation of private flower gardens are also among the valuable by-products obtained from the study. The subject of elementary geography has been largely influenced by the methods offered in nature study. The student now begins his work by a study by first-hand observation of the trees, rocks, and bodies of water surrounding his home. Maps are drawn of the lo cality and are tested for accuracy by fre quent observation trips. Text books cov ering this new type of study are but re cent appearances, the older type of book being quite valueless. The most widely used books are those by Thornton W. Burgess and the Bird and Flower Guides, written by Chester A. Reed. Another useful book and guide is Neil M. Ladd's "How to Make Friends with Birds."