To my mind, the best of all subjects for nature-study is a brook. It affords studies of many kinds. It is near and dear to every child. It is an epitome of the nature in which we live. In miniature, it illustrates the forces which have shaped much of the earth’s surface. It reflects the sky.
It is kissed by the sun. It is rippled by the wind. The minnows play in the pools. The soft weeds grow in the shallows. The grass and the dandelions lie on its sunny banks. The moss and the fern are sheltered in the nooks. It comes from one knows not whence; it flows to one knows not whither. It awakens the desire to explore. It is fraught with mysteries. It typifies the flood of life. It goes on forever.
In other words, the reason why the brook is such a perfect nature-study subject is the fact that it is the central theme in a scene of life. Living things appeal to children.
Nature-study not only educates, but it educates nature-ward; and nature is ever our companion, whether we will or no. Even though we are determined to shut ourselves in an office, nature sends her messengers. The light, the dark, the moon, the cloud, the rain, the wind, the falling leaf, the fly, the bouquet, the bird, the cockroach they are all ours.
If one is to be happy, he must be in sympathy with common things. He must
live in harmony with his environment. One cannot be happy yonder nor to-
morrow: he is happy here and now, or never. Our stock of knowledge of common things should be great. Few of us can travel. We must know the things at home.
Nature-love tends toward naturalness, and toward simplicity of living. It tends country-ward. One word from the fields is worth two from the city. ” God made the country.
I expect, therefore, that much good will come from nature-study. It ought to revolutionize the school life, for it is capable of putting new force and enthusiasm into the school and the child. It is new, and therefore, is called a fad. A movement is a fad until it succeeds. We shall learn much, and shall outgrow some of our present notions, but nature-study has come to
stay. It is in much the same stage of development that manual-training and kindergarten work were twenty-five years ago.
We must take care that it does not crystallize into science-teaching on the one hand, nor fall into mere sentimentalism on the other.
I would again emphasize the importance of obtaining our fact before we let
loose the imagination, for on this point will largely turn the results the failure
or the success of the experiment. We must not allow our fancy to run away with us.
If we hitch our wagon to a star, we must ride with mind and soul and body all alert. When we ride in such a wagon, we must not forget to put in the tail-board.
” THE NATURE-STUDY IDEA,”
L. H. BAILEY from Comstock’s Guide