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Friday, September 13, 2013

Scientific Training


What do you think of these quotes about teaching the scientific method?

"I have been told, on good authority, that the essence of scientific method is never formulated in lectures addressed to, or text-books intended for, young teachers.

...what is most necessary for the children to learn is not what is the last new theory about where herrings are hatched, but how to extract the truth from a series of impressions and statements, each of which is only partially true." ~ Elementary Science Teaching

I think what she, Mary Everest Boole, is saying is that what's most necessary isn't for a child to know all the latest scientific stuff, but that he learn how to use his mind scientifically. One - the latest discoveries, the information - is ever changing. Another - the mind's ability to act upon knowledge - is versatile and always valuable.

What is our focus in Nature Study? To cover information and make sure it is known? Or are we developing a child's mind?

Charlotte says this about focusing on information: "The child who has got only information will write and speak in the stereotyped phrases of his text-book, or will mangle in his notes the words of his teacher."

They sound smart, know it all, test well... but have we inspired them to think for themselves? How much do they care? Will they seek truth in and enjoy nature without us? 

In speaking of her programme, Charlotte wrote "...for it depends, not upon how much is learned, but upon how things are learned."

and this...

"Scientific training is not the same thing as information about certain scientific subjects. No one in these days can escape random information about radium, wireless telegraphy, heredity, and much else; but windfalls of this sort do not train the mind in exact observation, impartial record, great and humble expectation, patience, reverence, and humility, the sense that any minute natural object enfolds immense secrets––laws after which we are still only feeling our way. (Vol.4, Book II, p.101)


So how do we flesh this out?

I think if we follow her principles as we see them elsewhere, we might find it is simpler than we imagined.
*Put the child in touch with nature, do not dispense it all to him. Mind to mind, child to nature, child to the work of the Creator.
*The child is born with an interest in the world around him - begin with this assumption.
*Do not hinder the child with talky talky, lectures, dead dry facts, dispensing of all knowledge, dumbing down nature, prefabricated contrived atmosphere, unit study type robbing the child of the chance to make their own connections. These methods rest on the teacher's full effort.
*Let them dig for their own knowledge, give them the living books and resources they need to seek out the knowledge they ask for. Let them find it if they can. Nothing induces living pulsing thought like discovering something yourself. These methods masterly make use of the child's natural desire to learn.
*Require narration in a notebook and at exam time - they are expected to know and tell.
*Keep it in context of a wide and varied curriculum - nature is relevant in poetry, literature, history, art, music, even handicrafts. The child's interest in nature is only multiplied as he finds it is not an isolated study, but one that spreads far and wide through time and thought in so many remarkable places.

Am I missing anything? What do you think?

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