James Pyle Wickersham.

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more evident than that his instruction must start
at this point.

If the proper place of beghming has now been
found, it remains our task to arrange the object-
matter of Geography, and exhibit the proper
methods of making pupils acquainted with it. I
know no better way of doing this than by present-
mcr a classified series of lessons. These lessons are
intended to follow a natural order of progression,
and to include all the essential parts of the science
of Geography. Each class of lessons may embrace
matter sufficient for manj^ individual lessons.

First Class of Lessons. — On Objects relating to
Geography/, which Pujnls can observe for themselves. —
The lessons to be given here are designed to extend
the knowledge already in possession of the pupils
by a method but little different from that by which
it was acquired. I^ature is the only text-book
needed. Lessons may be given about the general
aspects of a neighborhood — its hills, valleys, water-
courses, forests ; and, if, perchance, the school-house
is located near a mountain, lake, river, or the ocean's
shore, these objects will be an unfailing source of
interest. The attention of pupils may be directed
to the different kinds of land — farm-land, wood-


land, meadow-land, level, hilly, and rolling land;
to the different objects composed of water — springs,
brooks, creeks, ponds, dams ; to the different kinds
of soils — clay, sand, gravel, vegetable mould; to the
different kinds of stone — quartz, sandstone, granite,
slate, limestone, iron-ore ; to the different kinds of
trees — pine, oak, hickory, chestnut, poplar, ash ; to
the different kinds of productions of the neighbor-
hood — corn, potatoes, rice, cotton, wheat, grass;
to garden flowers and wild flowers; to domestic
animals and wild animals ; to reptiles and insects ;
to rain, snow, dew ; to the changes of the seasons ;
to villages and towns ; to the employments of the
people; to shops, mills, manufactories, stores, school-
houses, and churches.

It is the design of this enumeration of particulars
to indicate to the teacher the sources from which
he may obtain the materials for his first class of
lessons in Geography. His own ingenuity must
suggest which subject of those mentioned, or of
other like subjects not mentioned, is most appro-
priate for any particular lesson. In giving this
kind of instruction to young pupils, no strictly
scientific discussion is expected or desirable. They
should be taught those things in which ihej can be
made to feel an interest ; and this interest can be
greatly increased by placing, the object of the lesson
before them in the school-house, or them before the
object out of the school-house. Minerals, flowers,
shells, fossils, &c., may be brought into the school-
house ; and the teacher and pupils may visit
woods, meadows, mines, quarries, gardens, ruins,
&c. . These lessons, indeed, are Geographical Object


Lessons, and thej should be given in the same mode
and with the same spirit as other Object Lessons.

Second Class or Lessons. — On similar Objects
which can be found only in Localities distant from the
School. — Lessons on objects which they can see
would prepare children to receive lessons on similar
objects which they cannot see. In imparting such
lessons, the teacher must rely upon comparisons
made wih things known, descriptions, and pictorial
illustrations. The names of the countries in which
the objects are found may be given; but the time
has not come for formal instruction in regard to the
relative positions of countries as exhibited upon

Suppose the school-house in which these lessons
are given is in Pennsylvania ; then, the teacher may
describe the natural features of countries unlike
Pennsylvania — deserts, prairies, countries very cold
or very warm, mountains covered with snow, hot
springs, volcanos, &c. ; such animals as the lion,
ostrich, elephant, reindeer, camel, whale, &c. ; such
vegetable productions as the coffee-plant, the tea-
plant, rice, bread-fruit, cotton-plant, banian-tree,
palm, &c. ; such people as the Esquimaux with their
dogs and their houses of snow ; the Chinese with
their strange peculiarities of food, dress, and mode
of life ; the Arabs with their tents and horses ; the
Turks with their long beards and their clumsy
clothing; the Hottentot in his hut, the Indian in
his wigwam, the European lord in his stately castle.
If given in simple language children will eagerly
read accounts of travels and voyages, descri2:)tions


of countries and their inhabitants, and biographical
sketches of distinguished men. Let a teacher tell
his pupils of the Israelites crossing the Eed Sea,
Columbus' on his way to America, Bonaparte at St.
Helena ; and if he does not interest them he will
accomplish less than others have done.

Admit that in all these lessons much of the know-
ledge imparted cannot assume a definite shape in
the mind of the child, admit that some of his im-
pressions will be erroneous, and it is no valid objec-
tion against this mode of teaching; because children
learn nothing in any other way. On the contrary,
such teaching will impart many valuable ideas to
children which they could obtain in no other manner
so agreeable to them, and, what is of more conse-
quence, it awakens a desire for knowledge and a
taste for study which will render comparatively easy
the task of learning formal Geography.

Pictures of the objects upon which the lessons
are given are a valuable aid ; and a Magic Lantern
or a Stereoscope could be used to great advantage.

Third Class of Lessons. — On the Topography of
the neighborhood about the School — The two preceding
classes of lessons, while they are intended to relate
to Geographical subjects, are introductory in their
character. It is proposed now to place the objects
more definitely before the mind of the pupil by
localizing the most important Geographical facts
and introducing more system into the study of
them. For this purpose the pupil must have com-
municated to him correct ideas of a map, and this
cannot be very well done unless he is acquainted



with the points of the compass. In this latitude,
the direction of the sun at rising and setting marks
with sufficient accuracy the points East and West;
the direction of the sun at noon and of 4he north
polar-star, or of a magnetic needle, indicates correctly
the points South and E"orth. A teacher can readily
draw on the floor with a piece of chalk a line run-
ning east and west ; another crossing it at right
angles will run north and south. The respective
ends of these lines can be marked with the letters
E, W, N, S ; and pupils will soon learn to name
any point of the compass thus represented, or when
drawn upon a blackboard. The class can stand up
and point toward where the sun rises, toward where
it sets, in what direction the sun is at noon, and in
what direction the north polar-star is, if the teacher
has previously taken the trouble to show them.
Some questions should then be asked in reference to
the direction from the school-house of certain promi-
nent objects in the neighborhood. This done, the
design and construction of maps must be explained.
Maps are intended to represent the earth's sur-
face ; but the various means made use of for this
purpose, require considerable power of imagination
to make them significant. The teacher must make
his pupils, realize the meaning of the marks, dots,
and lines that are used in map-drawing. To begin,
let the teacher draw, in the presence of his class,
upon a slate or a blackboard laid horizontally^ a plan
of the school-house. He may make a line of a given
length, and let it represent one end of the school-
house, and then he may inquire of the pupils as to
the length and direction of the other lines and the


location of objects in tlie room. After this, the slate
or blackboard may be raised to a perpendicular posi-
tion, and the pupils required to imitate the plan

This lesson may be succeeded by a similar one
upon the school-grounds. Different scales may be
adopted in representing them, in order to guard
pupils against the error sometimes fallen into by
them of supposing that the size of a map must be
proportioned to the size of the portion of surface it
represents. Questions may be asked in reference to
boundaries, and the relative position of the objects
indicated upon the map.

Then may be drawn other maps representing the
neighboring fields; the adjoining wood; the roads to
the mill, store, smith-shop, factory ; the town or the
village ; brooks, creeks, ponds.

Imaginary school-grounds may be drawn, orna-
mented with walks, shade trees, shrubbery, and
beds of flowers ; imaginary roads crossed by streams
of water, bordered by fields and woodlands, and
along which are located farm-houses, shops, stores,
hotels, school-houses, and churches ; imaginary
streams spanned by bridges, and whereon are situ-
ated saw-mills, flouring-mills, factories, forges, and
towns ; imaginary farms divided into fields with
wheat, cotton, corn, potatoes, &c., growing in them,
with streams of water passing through them, and
cattle grazing on the hills or in the meadows ; im-
aginary plans of towns and cities with streets, gar-
dens, public squares, and levees.

Such lessons as tliese, if accompanied with proper
instruction, will prove very much more useful and


interesting to children than committing to memory
the little rivers of Turkey or the insignificant towns
of Japan.

Fourth Class of Lessons. — On the Explanation of
Common Geographical Terms. — The preceding classes
of lessons will prepare learners for entering upon
the more formal study of Geography. But as clear-
ness of thought very much depends upon clearness
of language, some more definite ideas must be im-
parted concerning certain Geographical terms. A
few examples will suffice to indicate the method of
doing this.

Let the term be River. All pupils have seen
rivulets, and they can easily undej-stand that where
several rivulets are conjoined a larger stream of
water is produced. A number of these larger
streams meet and form a creek, and a number of
creeks joining their waters make a river. A river
is, therefore, " a large stream of water." The repre-
sentation of a river with, its various branches can
be drawn upon blackboard or exhibited upon Charts.

Let the term be Isthmus. A pupil can scarcely
be found who has not seen at least a small piece
of ground surrounded by water. He has noticed
this in a creek, a mill-dam, or, if no where else,
in a pond by the road-side. Two islands may be
connected by a narrow strip of land, and this is
called an isthmus. An isthmus can be represented
as in the case of a river.

In like manner, passing from the known to the
unknown, a pond can be expanded into a lake ; a
hill into a mountain ; a piece of low land filled with


water from a creek when flooded, into a gulf or bay;
a township into a continent ; a village into a city.
Indeed, all that pupils really learn must be acquired
in this way. A mere abstract definition cannot
possibly be of any benefit to them. In order to
ascertain whether pupils have formed a correct idea
of such objects, they may be required to point out
the pictures of them on Charts, and to draw either
real or imaginary ones on the blackboard. Sets of
Geographical models designed for imitation, and
representing rivers, islands, straits, bays, lakes,
mountains, &c., might be advantageously used. For
this purpose, a distinguished English Educator re-
commends an article of apparatus w^hich he calls a
^'Geographical box." It is made of wood, carved
to represent a continent wdth its seas, bays, islands,
lakes, &c. Mountains, table lands, banks of rivers,
&c., are made with putty, and the whole painted in
the natural colors of the objects represented. This
model is made to fit in a box somewhat larger in
size, and which when used is partly filled wdth water.
Inside, the box is painted a bluish green, to imitate
the color of the sea. The model must be so adjusted
in weight that when placed in the water contained
in the box, it will allow the water to pass about it
in such a manner as to represent peninsulas, isth-
muses, straits, bays, harbors, rivers, lakes, &c.

Pupils may be told that the earth about which
they are going to study is round, and that it re-
volves upon its axis once in a day and passes around
the sun once in a year. These facts must be illus-
trated by means of a globe or a Tellurian, may be
made to seem probable from the ready explanation



tliey furnish of certain phenomena with which even
children are acquainted ; but at the stage of pro-
gress indicated by the class of lessons now under-
going discussion, it would be folly to attempt to
demonstrate them. Such facts may be received
upon testimony, until children are able to under-
stand the grounds upon which they are based.

It might be proper also at this stage of their pro-
gress to make children acquainted with the various
lines which are employed to determine the relative
positions of places upon the earth's surface. The
most important of these are the equator, the paral-
lels, and meridians. Some knowledge of the tro-
pics, the polar circles, the poles, &c., may be im-
parted at the same time. Such instruction can be
best given by means of a globe, although in the
absence of one, some round object or the blackboard
can be substituted. The teacher can point to the
line which is drawn around the globe, show that
this line divides it into two parts, and give these
parts their proper names — hemispheres. Pupils will
readily understand that it is easier to find a place
in one of the hemispheres than it is to find one upon
the whole globe. Other lines parallel to the equator
may be pointed out or drawn, their names stated,
and their purpose shown. Meridians can be exhi-
bited and their use explained in the same way.
Pupils should then draw maps of the hemispheres
upon the blackboard representing the parallels and
meridians, and numbering them; after which the
teacher may engage them in determining the lati-
tude and longitude of such places as he may think
it proper to name. This done, a few minutes will


suffice to make pupils understand what is meant by
tropics, polar circles, and poles. Whatever con-
cerning these things children cannot comprehend
by such instruction must be left until* their minds
are more mature.

Fifth Class of Lessoxs. — On Detailed Creography.
— Having been instructed in the lessons previously
described, pupils are prepared to commence the
study of the details of Geography. For this pur-
pose each country in turn must be brought under
consideration ; and the best order to be followed is
to consider the school-house the central starting-
point, and gradually advance further and further
away from it, until the whole world is compre-
hended in the survey.

From the summit of a hill or the top of a house,
the neighborhood of the school can be seen, its
aspects and objects can be marked, and maps of it
can be drawn. Pupils thus introduced to the sub-
ject could not fail to notice that the roads, rivulets,
and hills gradually disappear from sight; and to
realize that there was "more beyond." Then the
teacher can gratify their curiosity by presenting be-
fore them a map of the town or township. If such
a map cannot be purchased, the teacher can draw
one for himself. In addition to the most important
physical features, a map of this kind ought to have
represented upon it, the public roads, the towns
and villages, mills, manufactories, churches, post-
offices, school-houses, and even some of the farm-
houses. Exercises upon maps like this and in draw-
ing similar ones can scarcely fail to interest pupils.


E"ext to the Geography of the town or township,
the Geography of the county or district in which
the school is located should be considered; then,
that of the state, the country, and in succession the
other countries of the world. Foreign countries
need not be described so minutely as countries
nearer home, nor those with which we have little
intercourse as those with which we have much.
Great teaching skill will be required to know what
to include in these lessons and what to omit. In
doing it, the teacher must be guided by the circum-
stances of his class, and no theorizing can supply
that nice sense by which the true teacher adapts the
mental food of his pupils to their mental appetites.

In leavins: the neio-hborhood of the school where


the pupil can use his own senses, reliance for com-
municating Geographical knowledge must be had
upon maps and descriptions. The inquiry is im-
portant as to the form in which these are most

With all the art of the most skilful Engraving,
to crowd upon a flat surface of a few inches
square, anything that will bear a close resemblance
to the objects which are spread out upon a portion
of the earth's surface hundreds or thousands of
miles in extent is impossible. Maps with parts of
their surfaces raised to represent the elevations of
land, and profile maps may be better calculated to
make correct impressions upon a learner's mind ;
but after all much must be left to the imagination
to supply, and the teacher w^ill do well to have his
pupils frequently compare what they have not seen
with what they have seen. Maps, however, must


be carefully studied. Outline maps are very useful
iu teaching Geography. They train the pupil to
remember by location and form. Having prepared
lessons by means of common Atlases, pupils can
have their knowledge tested upon Outline maps.
The teacher can point out localities and the pupils
name them, the teacher can name them and the
pupils point them out, or some pupils can name
them while others point them out. In reciting
with Outline maps, chants are sometimes used ; but
while many names of towns, rivers, mountains, &c.,
can be quickly and pleasantly communicated in
that manner, they are apt to be soon forgotten
unless fixed in the mind by some interesting asso-

Map-drawing may immediately follow the lessons
on the maps, and it will be a test by which the
teacher can always know how faithfully the work
of preparation has been performed. Pupils will look
much more closely at their Atlases, and perform with
much more care their exercises upon the Outline
maps, if they know that they will be immediately
called upon to reproduce in the form of a map, what
they have learned. The teacher should require his
pupils to draw maps of every country the Geography
of which they study. Beginners may copy their
maps, but more advanced pupils should always draw
from memory ; or classes may be allowed to copy
out of class, and be required to draw from memory
in class. Maps thus drawn may present merely the
outlines of countries, the outlines with a few of the
principal localities, or they may give the full details
that the best engraved maps contain. They may


be rough, extemporized sketches on the blackboard,
or they may be carefully prepared, and finely finished
specimens of map-drawing. A teacher who gives
instruction in map-drawing ought to be able to show
how coasts, rivers, mountains, &c., should be drawn,
and also to present rules for marking parallels,
meridians, &c. Such instruction may be facilitated
by the use of map-drawing cards, or blank, black
globes suitable for drawing upon.

But all this map-drawing and this study of Atlases,
and Outline maps, and globes, will be comparatively
dull and profitless unless the teacher know how to
enliven the lessons with interesting descriptions,
narratives, incidents, and stories. Pleasant associa-
tions must be made to cluster about all the dry
details of Geography. The earth must not be con-
sidered merely as a skeleton. It must be vivified
with life. Its plants and animals must make revela-
tions, and voices must come forth from mountains
and valleys, from oceans and seas, from lakes and
rivers, from great caves and mighty cataracts, mak-
ing known their uses and revealing their beauty. It
must be considered as the theatre upon whose stage
the great drama of human life is being played. Scene
has followed Scene for the past six thousand years,
now a Tragedy, and now a Comedy, and still the play
goes on. Mark yon uprolled curtain, teacher, and
let your eager children view the wondrous spectacle.
When thus taught, Geography is a very attractive
study for the young. Here the teacher can pour
out in rich profusion the stores of his knowledge
gleaned from History, Biography, Voyages and
Travels, and the explorations of scientific men, and


he will be listened to with intense interest. Start-
ing with the pupil's own village or township, the
teacher can find an old church, a mound, a battle-
field, the birth-place of some noted individual, a
romantic pile of rocks, a beautiful glen, a bed of
strange fossils, some mysterious legend, remarkable
event, or curious incident, that will throw a charm
about the formal dottings and tracings of the Atlas
and the cold statistics of the text-book, that wins
them a place in the pupil's mind and heart forever.
The teacher of Geography has a wide field from
which to gather his materials. He is at liberty to
cull the choicest fiicts, the noblest truths, the richest
beauties from all arts and all sciences, to furnish the
intellectual banquets he provides for his pupils.
No country is so poor that it cannot present some-
thing worthy of interest. Every state in this Union
has much that if skilfully woven into the recitation
would make its Geography one of the most attrac-
tive of studies. We have our ^N'atural Bridges, our
Mammoth Caves, our Magara Cataracts ; our noble
rivers, our beautiful lakes, our picturesque moun-
tains, our broad fiower-decked prairies ; we have
Jamestown's ruins, Plymouth Rock, Independence
Hall, Bunker Hill, Stony Point, Brandywine, Mount
Vernon, Ashland, Marshfield, Shiloh, Gettysburg,
and Missionary Ridge, and these, and such as these,
have about them clustering rich beauties or hallowed
memories. The teacher travels with his pupils in
imagination. He should make their travelling seem
real to them, by forming skilful combinations of the
physical and political characteristics of countries
and painting them in words or exhibiting them in


pictures. Let a teacher take his class across the
ocean, describing ocean life by the way; let him
visit with them, Scotland, England, France, Switzer-
land, Germany, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Pales-
tine, India, China, and other countries of the East ;
and he will find that every step of the journey may
be made full of the most absorbing interest. If the
teacher speak only of those things which would
attract the attention of the class if actually travel-
ling, and others necessary to make them understood,
he will have a delightful journey, and his pupils will
return from it wiser and better. The teacher might
be aided in this work by the use of a Stereoscope, a
Magic Lantern, or a series of pictures which would
exemplify the Geography of distant countries. "With
such aids the teacher might almost make his pupils
think they were gazing upon the beautiful scenery,
the rich cities, the gorgeous palaces, the ruined
castles, the ivy-covered abbeys of the old world ; or
standing upon spots associated with the names of
great men or noble deeds. He might almost make
them conceive themselves as travelling in the snows
of Lapland, riding in the gondolas at Venice, or
marching upon the back of a rough camel across the
desert with the slow-moving caravan — as rambling
among the ruins of Rome, rebuilding in imagination
from scattered fragments, great temples in Athens,
climbing the Pyramids, or tracing the footsteps of the
Man of Sorrows about the Holy City — as introduced
among the wild Arabs in their tents, the grave
Turks on their cushions or at their mosques, the
superstitious Hindoos when performing their feats
of jugglery, undergoing their penances, or carrying


on their learned disputations, the self-conceited

Online LibraryJames Pyle WickershamMethods of instruction .. → online text (page 24 of 31)