Monday, January 15, 2018

Nature Study: Seeing the World in a Grain of Sand

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 

And Eternity in an hour

William Blake's Auguries of Innocence
"Let us consider for a moment what unequalled training the child naturalist is getting for any study or calling-the powers of attention and concentration, of discrimination and patient pursuit, and growing parallel with his growth, what will they not fit him for? Besides life is so full of interest for him, that he has no time for the faults of temper which generally have their source in lack of occupation for body or mind.
The sense of Beauty comes from early contact with Nature. "The aesthetic sense of the beautiful," say Dr. Carpenter, "of the sublime, of the harmonious, seems in its more elementary form to connect itself immediately with the perceptions which arise out of the contact of our minds with external Nature"; while he quotes Dr. Morell, who says still more forcibly that "All those who have shewn a remarkable appreciation of form and beauty, date their first impressions from a period lying far behind the existence of definite ideas or verbal instruction." There is no end to the store of common information, got in such a way that it will never be forgotten, with which an intelligent child may furnish himself before he begins his second career.
A child should be made familiar with natural objects, that is the observant child should be put in the way of things worth observation, and the unobservant child encouraged to notice and be on the look out for things. Generally speaking, this is not difficult, because every natural object is a member of a series. Take up any natural object-it does not matter what-and you are studying one of a group, a member of a series; and whatever knowledge you get about it is so much towards the science which includes all of its kind. Break off an elder twig in spring; you notice a ring of wood round a centre of pith, and there at a glance you have a distinguishing character of a great division of the vegetable world. You pick up a pebble. Its edges are round and smooth. It is water-worn and weather-worn and that little pebble brings you face to face with disintegration, the force to which, more than any other, we owe the aspects of the world we call picturesque-glen, ravine, valley and hill. It is not necessary to tell the child anything about dicotyledonous plants or disintegration, only that he should observe the pith within the twig and the rounded edges of the pebble. By and by he will learn the bearing of the facts with which he is already familiar-a very different matter from learning the reason why of facts which hitherto have never come under his notice. The power to classify, discriminate, and distinguish between things that differ is amongst the highest faculties of human intellect, and no opportunity to cultivate it should be allowed to pass. For this reason children should be encouraged to make such rough classifications as they can with their slight knowledge of both plant and animal forms of life. A classification taken from books, that the child does not make out for himself, cultivates no power but that of verbal memory."

Read the rest here.

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