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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
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Our Work

by Author Name
Volume 7, no. 3, 1896, pg. 233


OUR WORK.

House of Education Natural History Club.--Notes by M. L. Hodgson.--With the beautiful spring around us, and the prospect of a long summer before us, we shall do well to consider what definite work we mean to do this year. A few suggestions on making collections of various kinds will perhaps be of use to you, and especially now, when most of you are arranging your work for next term. The following list of collections contains so many things that children, of all ages, take an interest in, that I hope you will, all of you, find something useful in it. I will begin byy saying a few words about collections of insects and birds' eggs. I very strongly advise you to discourage them, unless there is evidently a very great love for natural science in the person who wishes to collect them. Boys need much supervision in these matters.

The Outdoor World is a very good handbook for beginners; it contains many useful hints on all sorts of collections. During the nesting season I have always found many deserted nests, some of these are generally in good condition, and very beautiful; if they are fitted into neat boxes, and by degree filled with their right number of eggs, they make a delightful possession. I say filled by degrees because no more than one egg should be taken, as a rule, from a nest.

But with regard to birds much more may be done than in merely collecting nests and eggs. Years ago I made a collection of skulls, both of birds and other small animals, they were not difficult to do, and when mounted on small cards they looked very well and were most interesting--to the cards containing the birds' skulls I added the merry-thoughts*, which gave additional interest to the collection. The skins and feathers are also easily preserved; every dead bird or small animal we found was carefully skinned, and the skin preserved and mounted spread eagle fashion after it had been cured with arsenical soap. For very small children the feathers only may be mounted in books or on cards with great effect. Skulls of bats, mice, moles, etc., may be prepared various ways, and many boys find great interest and occupation in the work. I am speaking from experience gained during years of work with boys. We did not kill the animals-we used those we found or had given to us by the keepers and farmers who knew what we were doing.

Illustrating the flora and fauna of our village. On the subject of botanical collections much may be said, as they afford scope for all kinds of work for all ages. For the older children, a general collection of plants is not too much to attempt, but with the younger ones much less ought to be done. With the very tiny ones you might begin a collection of fir cones, of which there are many kinds; these are very pretty, and if neatly arranged in boxes they will give the children much pleasure. The leaves of trees, mounted and named, can be easily done and are not difficult to dry well. The flowers of any special order say compositae or umbelliferae, a collection of grasses-sedges, or rushes only, will give plenty of work for one season. The fruits of any one order might also be done by the younger children. A very pretty collection can be made by procuring all the seeds used in either gardens or on farms. These should be put into small pill boxes with some of the seeds gummed on to the lid.

Collections of land shells are most beautiful if they are neatly mounted and named. Some of our land Molluscs possess exquisite shells, and may be found empty along our waysides and hedgerows. I do not think I need say much about sea shells and seaweeds; they appear to be universally collected by children, especially shells. A nice way is to make a neat cabinet for them, and one which can be easily used for exhibition purposes; this may be made out of a few dozen match boxes fitted neatly into a wooden box, stood on end; if paper fasteners are used for handles, and a nice suitable paper used for covering them, a very ornamental cabinet will repay you well for your trouble. Match boxes of all sizes may be had, 36 small ones fitted into a cigar box will hold on [sic] immense number of small shells. I think the most interesting collection that can be made by a family of boys and girls living in the country is one which illustrates as far as possible the Natural History of the village or neighbourhood in which they live. It is surprising how many things can be found if only the eyes are opened to see them. This is not to be done without practice, as the eye sees exactly that which it is trained to see, and it is a great help, if we have a definite object in seeing.

Fossils abound in many neighbourhoods, nice clean ones that come clear out of the stones and soil; beautiful shells and sea urchins of all kinds may be found without difficulty, and many happy hours may devoted to the search. Page's Geology (new edition) is a great help to beginners in the study of Geology.

A painted collection of flowers could be done by any child with a talent for drawing. This, if persevered in, may prove a lasting benefit to the person concerned, and be of much use in the cause of science, as it is rare to find artists who can draw flowers scientifically so as to be of value as illustrations and to aid definition.

The November Exhibition in connection with the P.N.E.U. maybe a help to some of you, as affording an object for definite work with the children.

LIST OF COLLECTIONS.

Insects, if it can be done under supervision, and then only in special cases; birds' eggs and nests, under supervision; merry-thoughts and skulls of birds; skulls of other small animals; birds' skins and feathers, dead birds are often found especially in winter; shells and seaweeds; corallines; land shells.

BOTANY.--Flowers, general herbarium; flowers, special orders selected - leaves of trees for the younger children; fir cones; fruits and seeds; grasses, sedges or rushes only; galls, oak specially, but include any others you may find; general collection, illustrating the Natural History of your neighborhood; flowers painted from life.

*transcribor's notes: Could "Merry-thoughts" be what Americans call a wishbone?