Nature Study as Science


Nature-study is not elementary science as so taught, because its point of attack is not the same; error in this respect has caused many a teacher to abandon nature-study and many a pupil to hate it. In elementary science the work begins with the simplest animals and plants and progresses logically through to the highest forms; at least this is the method pursued in most universities and schools. The object of the study is to give the pupils an outlook over all the forms of life and their relation one to another. In nature-study the work begins with any plant or creature which chances to interest the pupil. It begins with the robin when it comes back to us in March, promising spring; or it begins with the maple leaf which flutters to the ground in all the beauty of its autumnal tints. A course in biological science leads to the comprehension of all kinds of life upon our globe. Nature study is for the comprehension of the individual life of the bird, insect, or plant that is nearest at hand.

Nature-study is perfectly good science within its limits, but it is not meant to be more profound or comprehensive than the capabilities of the child’s mind. More than all, nature-study is not science belittled as if it were to be looked at through the reversed opera glass in order to bring it down small enough for the child to play with. Nature-study, as far as it goes, is just as large as is science for ” grown-ups. It may deal with the same subject matter and should be characterized by the same accuracy. It simply does not go so far.

To illustrate: If we are teaching the science of ornithology, we take first the Archaeopteryx, then the swimming and scratching birds, and finally reach the song birds, studying each as a part of the whole. Nature-study begins with the robin because the child sees it and is interested in it, and notes the things about the habits and appearance of the robin that may be perceived by intimate observation. In fact, he discovers for himself all that the most advanced book of ornithology would give concerning the ordinary habits of this one bird; the next bird studied may be the turkey in the barn-yard, or the duck on the pond, or the screech owl in the spruces, if any of these happen to impinge upon his notice and interest. However, such nature-study makes for the best of scientific ornithology , because by studying the individual birds thus thoroughly, the pupil finally studies a sufficient number of forms so that his knowledge, thus assembled, gives him a better comprehension of birds as a whole than could be obtained by the routine study of them. Nature-study does not start out with the classification given in books, but in the end it builds up in the child’s mind a classification which is based on fundamental knowledge; it is a classification like that evolved by the first naturalists, because it is built on careful personal observations of both form and life.

If nature-study is made a drill, its pedagogic value is lost. When it is properly taught, the child is unconscious of mental effort or that he is suffering the act of teaching. As soon as nature-study becomes a task, it should be dropped; but how could it ever be a task to see that the sky is blue, or the dandelion golden, or to listen to the oriole in the elm!

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Writing notes by hand, an important life skill

Don’t take notes by laptop
Research shows you only remember 5% of what you hear in a lecture, about 10% of what you read, but about 75% of what you learn when you practice what you’ve learned and 90% of what you learned about when you immediately go over it and tell somebody else about it. Writing is a kind of telling. Research also shows that when you know you are going to write down what you learned about, your brain starts working ahead of time sorting the information and picking out the most important details. Other research shows that students who write out their notes by hand and then have a chance to go over those notes at least once, remembered more and had a deeper understanding of the material than students who took notes with a laptop.

(the study with the 10% of what you read, etc, was a lifehack article, and probably a little shakier in terms of firm research than the one linked above).

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The Entire Legal Team Resigned

The Southern Poverty Law Center incorrectly labels Dr. Murray a “white nationalist…”

“Angry protesters shouted down an eminent scholar and sent a female professor to the hospital.
A crazed gunman entered a D.C. public policy shop and shot an employee before being disarmed.
Someone mailed a suspicious white powder to a Scottsdale advocacy group, partially closing the office while a Hazmat team tested employees who had been exposed.
The victims in each case were targeted by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

Founded in the early 70s, well after the Klan’s heyday and long after it took any species of courage or moral prescience, the SPLC rode to fame, popularity (and prosperity) by suing the remnants and a few other rag tag white supremacist organizations into hiding or bankruptcy.

In the mid eighties, they had essentially accomplished what they claimed they had set out to do. But institutions always exist to perpetuate themselves most of all.

The SPLC could have declared “mission accomplished.” But since funds were still coming in, they declared a new mission statement. No longer would they fight Grand Wizards and Jim Crow, but turned instead to an endlessly expanding target of “extremism.” The change in goals was so stark, the entire legal staff resigned.

They’ve received an F for the fund-raising, and essentially, anybody they disagree with becomes a far-right, white nationalist.
The put the Family Research Counsel on their anti-gay hate groups list, prompting a murderous attack on the organization that was thankfully foiled by a guard. But the main reason was the FRC is opposed to gay marriage. So was President Obama at that time.

A former ally referred to them as the Jim and Tammy Faye Baker operation.

Landing in their targets is dangerous, physically and financially. But it doesn’t mean a thing about your virtue and morals.
But we have known that for a long time now. When everything becomes racist, nothing much is anymore, and when everything the left dislikes is un-American, nothing is. These people have rendered these terms absolutely meaningless. They have untethered these charges from any kind of meaningful information.

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Nudibranchs, Coral, Crochet and Math

Nudibranchs may not be able to do math, but perhaps they are performing math: For your somewhat advanced students with a healthy curiosity about and interest in topics like marine biology, especially nudibranchs and coral), geometry, holograms.. and crochet!
“Living in tropical coral reefs are species of sea slugs known as nudibranchs, adorned with flanges embodying hyperbolic geometry, an alternative to the Euclidean geometry that we learn about in school, and a form that, over hundreds of years, many great mathematical minds tried to prove impossible…..”

“Corals and sea slugs construct hyperbolic surfaces and it turns out that humans can also make these forms using iterative handicrafts such as knitting and crochet – you can do non-Euclidean geometry with your hands. To crochet a hyperbolic structure, one just increases stitches at a regular rate by following a simple algorithm: ‘Crochet n stitches, increase one, repeat ad infinitum.’ By increasing stitches, you increase the amount of surface area in a regular way, visually moving from a flat or Euclidean plane into a ruffled formation that models the ‘hyperbolic plane’. Mathematically speaking, the hyperbolic plane is the geometric opposite of the sphere: where the surface of a sphere curves towards itself at every point, a hyperbolic surface curves away from itself. We can define these different surfaces in terms of their curvature: a Euclidean plane has zero curvature (it’s flat everywhere), a sphere has positive curvature, and a hyperbolic plane has negative curvature. In this sense, it is a geometric analogue of a negative number.”
Well, let’s just make it easier on ourselves and say healthy curiosity and sense of wonder.

Want more? Hundreds of strangely compelling an hypnotic hyperbolic images on pinterest, including crocheted versions, which also include crocheting, pinch me this cannot be real, a coral reef! They are not all crocheted, so if handicrafts give you an itchy feeling, scroll on down and look at the others.

Background stuff:

The Math Forum’s brief definition of hyperbolic geometry:
“The geometry with which most people first learned to visual basic shapes such as lines, triangles, and squares is the traditional geometry that most of us are used to, formally called Euclidean geometry. In two-dimensions, Euclidean geometry is viewed in a flat, infinite plane. However, there also exists non-Euclidean geometry, examples of which include the elliptic and hyperbolic geometries. ”

Meriam Webster: Definition of hyperbolic paraboloid
:a saddle-shaped quadric surface whose sections by planes parallel to one coordinate plane are hyperbolas while those sections by planes parallel to the other two are parabolas if proper orientation of the coordinate axes is assumed.


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Bread and Famine, History Rhyming

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes, saids somebody (it’s often attributed to Mark Twain, but hasn’t been solidly traced to him)

In a hungry Venezuela, buying too much food can get you arrested – The Washington Post

And here:

[…]Venezuela does not produce its own wheat and instead relies on imports, which it sends to mills where it is ground into flour and then distributed to bakeries. The new regulations, which come on top of existing price controls and foreign exchange controls, require that 90 percent of flour must be used to bake bread and only 10 percent can be used for pastries and cakes.
The government also demanded that bakers must have a constant supply of bread throughout the day and hold over bread from the previous day for sale the next day. […]
“Speculators who hide the bread from the people will face the weight of the law,” Maduro said, according to the BBC. “They’re going to pay, I swear. Those responsible for the bread war are going to pay and they better not complain that it was a political persecution.”
The national baker’s federation, Fevipan, argues it cannot produce more bread unless its members are given more flour and added that 80 percent of bakeries had “zero inventory,” while the remaining bakeries had only received 10 percent of the monthly supplies.
“When there’s flour, we sell bread, but they only send it every 15 or 20 days,” a worker in a Caracas bakery told the Agence France-Presse. “We are given 20 sacks and normally we’d need eight a day.”

From The Betrothed:

“Well said! bravo! bravo!” exclaimed with one voice the guests; but the word scarcity, which the doctor had accidentally uttered, suggested a new and painful subject. All spoke at once:—“There is no famine,” said one, “it is the speculators who——”
“And the bakers, who conceal the grain. Hang them!”
“That is right; hang them, without mercy.”
“Upon fair trial,” cried the magistrate.
“What trial?” cried Attilio, more loudly; “summary justice, I say. Take a few of them who are known to be the richest and most avaricious, and hang them.”
“Yes, hang them! hang them! and there will be grain scattered in abundance.”

This was the second year of the scarcity; in the preceding one, the provisions, remaining from past years, had supplied in some measure the deficiency, and we find the population neither altogether satisfied, nor yet starved; but certainly unprovided for in the year 1628, the period of our story. Now this harvest, so anxiously desired, was still more deficient than that of the past year, partly from the character of the season itself (and that not only in the Milanese but also in the surrounding country), and partly from the instrumentality of men. The havoc of the war, of which we have before made mention, had so devastated the state, that a greater number of farms than ordinary remained uncultivated and deserted by the peasants, who, instead of providing, by their labour, bread for their families, were obliged to beg it from door to door. We say a greater number of farms than ordinary, because the insupportable taxes, levied with a cupidity and folly unequalled; the habitual conduct, even in time of peace, of the standing troops (conduct which the mournful documents of the age compare to that of an invading army), and other causes which we cannot enumerate, had for some time slowly operated to produce these sad effects in all the Milanese,—the particular circumstances of which we now speak were, therefore, like the unexpected exasperation of a chronic disease. Hardly had this harvest been gathered, when the supplies for the army, and the waste which always accompanies them, caused an excessive scarcity, and with it its painful but profitable concomitant, a high price upon provisions; but this, attaining a certain point, always creates in the mind of the multitude a suspicion that scarcity is not in reality the cause of it. They forget that they had both feared and predicted it: they imagine all at once that there must be grain sufficient, and that the evil lies in an unwillingness to sell it for consumption. Preposterous as these suppositions were, they were governed by them, so that the speculators in grain, real or imaginary, the farmers, the bakers, became the object of their universal dislike. They could tell certainly where there were magazines overflowing with grain, and could even enumerate the number of sacks: they spoke with assurance of the immense quantity of corn which had been despatched to other places, where probably the people were deluded with a similar story, and made to believe that the grain raised among them had been sent to Milan! They implored from the magistrate those precautions, which always appear equitable and simple to the populace. The magistrates complied, and fixed the price on each commodity, threatening punishment to such as should refuse to sell; notwithstanding this, the evil continued to increase. This the people attributed to the feebleness of the remedies, and loudly called for some of a more decided character; unhappily they found a man that was willing to grant them all they should ask.
In the absence of the Governor Don Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordova, who was encamped beyond Casale, in Montferrat, the High Chancellor Antonio Ferrer, also a Spaniard, supplied his place in Milan. He considered the low price of bread to be in itself desirable, and vainly imagined that an order from him would be sufficient to accomplish it. He fixed the limit, therefore, at the price the bread would have had when corn was thirty-three livres the bushel; whereas it was now as high as eighty.
Over the execution of these laws the people themselves watched, and were determined to receive the benefit of them quickly. They assembled in crowds before the bakers’ houses to demand bread at the price fixed; there was no remedy; the bakers were employed night and day in supplying their wants, inasmuch as the people, having a confused idea that the privilege would be transient, ceased not to besiege their houses, in order to enjoy to the utmost their temporary good fortune. The magistrates threatened punishment—the multitude murmured at every delay of the bakers in furnishing them. These remonstrated incessantly against the iniquitous and insupportable weight of the burden imposed on them; but Antonio Ferrer replied, that they had possessed great advantages in times past, and now owed the public some reparation. Finally, the council of ten (a municipal magistracy composed of nobles, which lasted until the ninety-seventh year of the century just elapsed,) informed the governor of the state in which things were, hoping that he would find some remedy. Don Gonzalo, immersed in the business of war, named a council, upon whom he conferred authority to fix a reasonable price upon bread, so that both parties should be satisfied. The deputies assembled, and after much deliberation felt themselves compelled to augment the price of it: the bakers breathed, but the people became furious.
Chapter XII, The Betrothed, by Alessandro ManzoniThe Betrothed,

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