CHAPTER I THE AIMS OF NATURE STUDY
Nature Study means primarily the study of natural things and preferably of living things. Like all other subjects, it must justify its position on the school curriculum by proving its power to equip the pupil for the responsibilities of citizenship. That citizen is best prepared for life who lives in most sympathetic and intelligent relation to his environment, and it is the primary aim of Nature Study to maintain the bond of interest which unites the child's life to the objects and phenomena which surround him. To this end it is necessary to adapt the teaching, in matter and method, to the conditions of the child's life, that he may learn to understand the secrets of nature and be the better able to control and utilize the forces of his natural environment.
At all times, the teacher must keep in mind the fact that it is not the quantity of matter taught but the interest aroused and the spirit of investigation fostered, together with carefulness and thoroughness, which are the important ends to be sought. With a mind trained to experiment and stimulated by a glimpse into nature's secrets, the worker finds in his labour a scientific interest that lifts it above drudgery, while, from a fuller understanding of the forces which he must combat or with which he must co-operate, he reaps better rewards for his labours.
The claims of Nature Study to an educative value are based not upon a desire to displace conventional education, but to supplement it, and to lay a foundation for subsequent reading. Constant exercise of the senses strengthens these sources of information and develops alertness, and at the same time the child is kept on familiar ground—the world of realities. It is for these reasons that Nature Study is frequently defined as "The Natural Method of Study". Independent observation and inference should be encouraged to the fullest degree, for one of the most important, though one of the rarer accomplishments of the modern intellect, is to think independently and to avoid the easier mode of accepting the opinions of others. Reading from nature books, the study of pictures, and other such matter, is not Nature Study. These may supplement Nature Study, but must not displace the actual vitalizing contact between the child and natural objects and forces.
It is this contact which is at the basis of clear, definite knowledge; and clearness of thought and a feeling of at-homeness with the subject is conducive to clearness and freedom of expression. The Nature Study lesson should therefore be used as a basis for language lessons.
Undoubtedly one of the most important educative values that can be claimed for Nature Study is its influence in training the pupil to appreciate natural objects and phenomena. This implies the widening and enriching of human interests through nurturing the innate tendency of the child to love the fields and woods and birds; the checking of the selfish and destructive impulses by leading him to see the usefulness of each creature, the harmony of its relation to its environment, and the significance of its every part....