The Teacher’s Role in Nature Study

The second part of the December Mini-Challenge at the Handbook of Nature Study Blog is to read through pages 23 and 24 of  Anna Botsford Comstock’s book – “Handbook of Nature Study”.

These are the last two pages of instruction before sending you out with your children into the great wide outdoors. Over 850 pages follow these encouraging words. She puts the breaks on the teacher’s zeal to load the child’s head full of information. Always cautioning us  – that these were her actual class notes – from years of outdoor lessons – never intending them to be a text book – a scope and sequence – an order of events –  or requirements to be checked off.

“First and indispensably, the teacher should have at hand the subject of the lesson.” Pg 23

The text she gives is to equip the teacher not to fill the student.

I remember my first months and years of homeschooling. I would gather at the home of my sweet mentor. She had such great questions and leading thoughts for her 13 year old daughter. I marveled. I even hid behind that marveling with the self doubt that she only knew those questions because she was a trained teacher. I, lil ol me, could never come up with those great questions. I have found, over time, with a ton of research and desire and practice, that now I , with an almost 13 year old son – have a head full of those questions. It wasn’t about how much training I had – it had to do with my own desire to learn new things and share the joy of discovery with my boys.

Homeschooling  -is  -about the whole home – learning together – seeking out their passions in pursuit of knowledge – growing – equipping and encouraging each other to learn about the Lord – His Creation – His People – Every day. The  spark of joy and delight that I feel when I have discovered something new – is what I love seeing on the faces of my boys when they make discoveries. These Outdoor Hour Challenges – and the FIRST Lego League Core Values– have helped me move into the type of teacher that can sit on her heals, waiting, for that spark to flood their eyes. Of Knowing. Understanding. Enjoying Learning.

Anna’s questions and text come from that passion and desire to learn about the great outdoors –

“To grind out answers to questions about any natural object is not nature study, it is simply “grind,” a form of mental activity which is much greater use when applied to spelling or the multiplication tables than to the study of nature.  The best teacher will cover the points suggested for observations with a few direct questions.” Pg 23

“While an earnest attempt has been made to make the information in this book accurate, it is to be expected and to be hoped that many discrepancies will be found by those who follow the lessons. No two animals or plants are just alike, and no two people see things exactly the same way. The chief aim of this volume is to encourage investigation rather than to give information. Pg 24

Outdoor Hour ChallengeI think the greatest frustrating  part of this book that a driven “teacher of curriculum” will come against – is that it is full of observations ideas and questions – the answers can only be found out in the great outdoors – while looking – observing – seeing – the object close, with ones own eyes. Smile 

Go out – and Have At Er.

Barb put a McLinky at the bottom of the Mini-Challenges – click on over and be encouraged by the entries!

About +Angie Wright

The Transparent Thoughts of an Unschooling Family of Boys - Answering the question - What DO you DO all day?
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3 Responses to The Teacher’s Role in Nature Study

  1. Okay, so how many times have I read the HNS? How many posts and challenges have I written about this book? You would think that a simple point like you made at the end of your post would have occurred to me before.

    This book has no answers.

    It is all about the questions…both those from the suggested activities and the ones from our children.


    Thanks so much Angie…I do so enjoy sharing this experiences with you. 🙂

  2. Sherry says:

    “It wasn’t about how much training I had – it had to do with my own desire to learn new things and share the joy of discovery with my boys.” BINGO! This is such a hurdle for so many people I know–getting past “being the teacher” and moving into being a co-learner. 🙂 I’m sharing this link on our facebook page.

    Glad you’re going to participate in Nature Connections! Looking forward to seeing pics.

I love to hear from my readers, I appreciate comments!

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