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EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTE., Issue 8030, 5 October 1889
The Dunedin branch of the Otago Educational Institute held a meeting at the Normal School this mortting, \?hen there were G. Hi Smith, president (in the Chair). J, Rennie,' D, White, 0. Chlltoh) W; .Milne, t Wl A:, W. Gray, Stewart, Gill, M'Lean, Ji McDonald, J, Reid, Kyle, Eudey, Simmers, Jeffery, M‘Leod, and'M'Nicoll. children’s natural history societies. Mr C. Chilton read a paper on ‘ Natural History Societies for Children,’ and before doing so apologised for the incomplete nature of the paper, as he had been unable to devote such time to its compilation as he desired. After referring to the importance of the practice of systematically cultivating the powers of observation in children, Mr Chilton said he was of opinion that they should test all new innovations and decide whether they are good or bad. Spencer had said that “ exhaustive observation is an element of all great success.” In thus speaking of “observation” he (Mr Chilton) was not using the term in a harrow sense, to mean the power of observing correctly, accurately, and fully simply the various natural objects around us, but ho used the word in its widest sense, to embrace the faculty of quickly perceiving the similarities and dissimilarities between persons, ideas, and things. The child who by Nature was naturally endowed with the faculty of observation should bo encouraged, and the method of education should bo so planned as to develop those faculties to their fullest possibilities. As education based on such a principle was founded on Nature, it must necessarily be correct in its aim, at all events, and as the child begins to learn as soon as it is born the education given in school should be simply a continuation of that imparted already by Nature—should be complementary, and not antagonistic to it. It was evident that if we were to have a national system of education we should know exactly the method Nature adopts during the child’s early years, Miss Yeamans, in her essay on ‘ The Culture of the Observing Powers of Children,’ put it clearly and forcibly regarding the commencement of tuition with the young child. Its commencement with the young was the process by which all real knowledge was gained. “ Whatever the object of thought, to know in what respects it differs from all other things, and in what respects it resembles them, is to know all about it—is to exhaust the action of the intellect upon it.” We all knewsomethingof Nature’s style of teaching, for we wore all her pupils, and would be until we had ceased to bo part of Nature ; but we required more than a general acquaintance with her methods, if we were to make much use of it in our own. Hence it was that various writers—Darwin, Preyer, Percy, and others—gave so much time and labor in carefully and minutely watching the growth of the various faculties in young children—when they first recognised light, sound, etc., when they first used their hands to seize any object, the order in which they distinguished colors, etc. Investigations such as these taught us much that was useful about the development of children’s natural faculties, besides largely assisting the teacher. Of course, it was manifestly impossible for the child to learn all that he would require by the use of his own unaided observation. He would have to take the greater part at second hand, from the observations of others. Hence had arisen the mistake that Spencer complained of in ordinary education: because much had to be given os the authority of others, the child’s own powers of observing and testing for himself had been neglected and consequently repressed. An ideal education would, therefore, be one which would impart the storedup knowledge of the ages in the most economical 1 and efficient way, and at the same time allow every opportunity for the full development of the child’s own natural faculties. The ideal was clearly before us ; and that being so, we could always be sure that we were moving in the right direction. It was the striving after this ideal that had given us our kindergartens, and had caused tho principle on which they are based to be so largely recognised in all school work. To it they owed their object lessons ; excellent in intention, whatever they may be in actual reality. The attempt to teach some amount of elementary science also tended in the same direction, though, perhaps, it must be confessed that, like the object lessons, it did not get very far in that direction. Drawing also was useful for the same purpose, and would bo still more so if they could only free themselves from the trammels of old methods and published drawing books, and start the children with actual objects instead of uninteresting straight lines and meaningless patterns. As it is, if a child did try to represent on hia slate some object ho had scon, he got little encouragement. All these subjects, however, though they were useful to correct the inevitable tendency of school training, were only antidotes, as it were, and real food that the child’s ravenous powers of observation demanded must be found elsewhere—out of school. Sully had said that the best training of the observing powers lay outside the range of school exercises, A daily walk with a good observer would do more to develop the fsculty than tho most elaborate school exercises. He (Mr Chilton) did not wish to advocate the introduction of another subject into the school syllabus, which already pressed heavily on them, but he simply brought before them the advantages to be gained from natural history societies for children, whether in connection with schools or not. Such societies would help to keep the children out of mischief, and perhaps from the streets; they might be the means of giving a child a bobby that would perhaps last him for life and assist in saving him from the various temptations that would beset him; and they would also provide him with a healthy recreation for body as well as mind. Mr Chilton then referred to what had been done in the direction indicated by some teachers in America. The Agassiz Association a society started in America for encouraging the study of natural history, chiefly among children, which was founded by the late Louis Agassiz—consisted of a number of “chapters,” which were in every way successful; and the growth of the society had been rapid, more than 7,000 members studying nnder the central organisation. Mr Chilton concluded as follows: “In New Zealand we are ’ favored with a country that is peculiarly suitable for the naturalist. There is plenty of varietyhill, valley, plain, forest, river bed, and sea coast—and an additional interest is added by the fact that its natural history is, comparatively speaking, little known ; so that it possesses the charm of novelty. To say nothing of the direct advantages that the children themselves would gain, think what benefits the schools would derive from an association similar to the Agassiz Association, with branches all over New Zealand. What school museums wo could have filled with specimens obtained by exchanges to illustrate the geography of the country ! What interest it would give to lessons in geography if the teacher could exhibit shells from Auckland, ironsand from Taranaki, stalactites from caves at Oamaru, quartz from Reefton, tin stono from Stewart Island, beach-worn stones from Timaru, and river boulders from the Waimakiriri! If the children were encouraged to get specimens such as these from their fellow-scholars at other schools it could not fail to have a most beneficial influence on their intellectual condition, besides supplying them at the same time with much valuable information on the products and resources of the different parts of their own country. And if societies in New Zealand were affiliated to similar societies in America and elsewhere the facilities for promoting these ends would be indefinitely increased. Another advantage to be derived from children’s natural history societies may be just mentioned namely, the help that could be given to original workers in natural history. You may perhaps, some of you, be of opinion that the man who spends any of his time in bunting butterflies or beetles or crabs, and examining them when caught, is a lunatic—harmless no doubt, except perhaps to the beetles and butterflies, but still a lunatic. But even if you do, I shall not stay now to argue tho point, but shall take it for granted that the money spent on museums and chairs of natural history in our universities is money wed spent; and if this is so, then it is easily seen that the members of our nature!
history societies could be of considerable use to our museums and professors of natural history. For children are in many ways the very best collectors, and they can collect in times and places when it would be impossible for a professor himself to collect. He could, however, direct them where to go and what to look for, and, With a little guidance, the children would sofln supply him vWh plenty of material. But I need not continue in this strain. Those of you who have any love for natural history will at once understand both the pleasures and the advantages to be gained by the children and by science itself from associations like the Agassiz Association, and with those of you who have not it would be useless to say more.”—(Applause.) Mr GiUi said that the feeling of those present was evidently in thorough sympathy with Mr Chilton’s remarks, and he himself confessed to being at one with Mr Chilton in the matter. Undoubtedly the proposals referred to by Mr Chilton would, if adopted and carried out, prove of great advantage. He moved a hearty vote of thanks to Mr Chilton.
Mr thought there was little need to discuss the paper; as shos6 present realised the advantages which wohld b6 gained if Mr Chilton’s suggestions were carried out. He had much pleasure in seconding the vote of thanks.
THE INSTITUTE. , , Mr J. Rennie (acting-secretary) read the following letter from the Committee of Management of the Institute : September 21, ÜB9. A. Pirie, secretary Dunedin Branch 0.8.1. I am instructed by the Committee of Management to forward the following resolution, which was carried unanimously at its meeting of August 10, for the consideration of your branch:—“ That this Committee expresses its disapproval of the action of certain members of the Institute in signing counter resolutions to those laid before the Education P>oaid at its last meeting by a deputation of the Institute without first communicating with the Committee of Management, especially seeing that at the annual meeting of the Institute, so far from objecting to the resolutions, several of those who signed the counter-resolutions cordially supported the action of the Institute. James Rennie, secretary. Mr D. White said that as there were several persons present who signed tho pro* test, perhaps it would be advisable for them to explain why they did so. This action would prevent any further discussion, and would, perhaps, be the best course to pursue.
Mr W. J. Moore fell in with the suggestion of Mr White, and wished to know if he could speak to the resolution after it had been passed by those present. As one of those who signed the protest, ho desired to make an explanation, and would speak to the resolution afterwards.
Mr White thought the action of those members who signed the protest certainly deserved some explanation, as it was, in his opinion, an extraordinary thing, Mr Moore replied that as one of those who signed the protest—he was one of the leaders, in fact—he was fully prepared and certainly intended to make an explanation. —(Applause.)
Mr Milne moved that the letter be received. The question before them was simply whether it should be received or not. Mr M'Nicoll seconded. Mr Jeffery moved that the letter be not received, but the Chairman intimated that he could vote against Mr Milne’s motion,
Mr Jeffery then moved—“ That the meeting go into committee to discuss the matter.”
This was seconded, and agreed to.
EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTE., Issue 8030, 5 October 1889
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