The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The Teaching of Geography Part 1
by J. H. Raundrup, M.Sc.
In this paper I shall attempt to give an outline of a system of teaching geography which can at least claim to have been put into actual practice, both with large classes of older boys, and small classes of very young boys, and which has seemed to me in both cases to bear satisfactory fruit. I cannot speak upon the system of teaching geography—that has yet to be discovered—but simply upon one system of teaching the subject, very different indeed from the system upon which probably most of the last generation were taught.
I find still in existence a very general tendency to pooh-pooh geography as a subject certainly not ornamental, and of very doubtful utility. The tendency to regard the subject thus is, I am convinced, due in no way to any inherent defects in the subject-matter, but entirely to the old methods of teaching geography—methods which, one is glad to believe, are dying fast.
Probably everyone of the last generation has similarly unpleasant recollections of geography as a school-subject—of long lists of counties or states, with the chief towns in each—all names, and nothing more, utterly devoid of meaning, life, or interest—of maps drawn with elaborate neatness, in which were marked the names of scores of towns and villages; and the more names, neatly printed, the better the map, even though the rivers crossed the mountain ranges like any Hannibal or Napoleon—of geography books, also full of names and figures—lengths of rivers, heights of mountains, populations of towns (given with the greatest exactness, as if they ever had been, and ever would be, precisely at some one figure), and especially complete lists of the principal capes of every country. I always feel that the manner in which the former teacher of geography, and the former school geography book, insisted upon an accurate knowledge of capes was peculiarly typical of the whole system. It had one merit—and one only—it exercised the memory, as it would also exercise the memory to learn many pages of a dictionary off by heart; but I do not think that even the most bigoted advocate of the good old days in matters scholastic would claim that geography, as it was then taught, raised any feeling of interest; rather a feeling quite the reverse. I once knew the exact position, relatively to one another, of the 86 Departments of France, with their chief towns; and I have no doubt that a similar misfortune, perhaps on a smaller scale, may have occurred to most of us. I am relieved to say that I do not know them now—they went far more quickly than they came—but think of the weary disgust of the boy of poor memory as he ground and ground away at the seemingly interminable list of names. Names—names—names and very little else; at best, certain "lists of imports and exports," but nothing to enable one to form any picture in one's mind of what a country was really like. If one had a fondness for drawing maps, one learnt a little from the atlas—but that little of doubtful value. The one fact firmly fixed in my mind as regards Italy was in no way connected with sunny skies, blue seas, luxuriant foliage, or glorious old cities—the one fact was that Italy was like a boot.
Above all, in geography as I was taught it, there was one great error—fundamental, overtopping all others, and rendering of very little value any desultory attempts to make the thing interesting—there was literally no answer to the question which should be ever on the lips of boy or girl—"Why?" Why was this product or that product on the list of imports and exports of some particular country? why were the towns so scattered here, so crowded there? and all the endless "whys" which should be, and can be, answered by a more rational method of teaching. Even in the case of their favourite capes, they vouchsafed no reason why an apparently partial Nature had scattered them so profusely upon the west coast, while almost entirely denying such an important gift to an unfortunate east coast.
If all the foregoing seem exaggerated to any who look back upon their own school days, I can only say that their experience was more fortunate than my own, and than that of most others with whom I have compared notes—than that, also, of the present Bishop of Wakefield, who, at the Missionary Exhibition held in Leeds last October, spoke as follows:—"I think you will agree that geography, properly understood, may be a subject of the greatest importance. In point of fact, if I go back to my own boyhood's days, I should be disposed to quarrel with those who were my teachers, because geography was then considered and also made a very uninteresting subject indeed. And when I regard it from a more experienced point of view, I am inclined to think that it might be made a most interesting study—perhaps the most interesting that could be put before a child."
So with the Bishop of Wakefield think we teachers who believe in our subject—and believe in it none the less for the unfortunate experiences of former days. At least, these may teach us what to avoid.
Well might it be said of the geography class of the old days, "Theirs is not to reason why," and, as a result, geography, in the estimation of both teacher and pupil, usually stood very far indeed down the list of subjects, whereas I have known it to be, when taught upon different lines, the favourite lesson of the week, both with masters and boys.
But enough of the old methods. I will turn now to methods based upon quite different ideas and objects; not upon the accumulation of solid facts arranged in ready-made lists, but upon deduction from one or two necessary facts, from which small beginning the whole description of the country or district in question must be built up, as a proposition in geometry is built up, with "why" and "because" and "therefore," and built up by the pupils themselves, the teacher acting the part of questioner and prompter, but as little as possible that of informant. Needless to say, that lies at the bottom of all rational teaching—to make the boys or girls extract, by proper reasoning, as many facts as possible from as few as possible; to tell them nothing which they can discover for themselves (a far more difficult thing than it may seem to be), and in no way to deprive the child of what Froebel (I think it was) called "its sacred right of discovery."
Taken in this way, the geography of any country becomes a problem—a problem of the first book of Eucid. Very few data are given. Merely the position of the country upon the globe, the arrangement of mountain and plain (obtained by examination of a coloured, contoured map), and the prevalent wind. Given these data, to deduce the climate, scenery, products, industries, even the social condition and national characteristics, perhaps even something of the history, of the inhabitants, and to deduce it rationally and logically, building up fact upon fact—not to guess it.
But, it may be asked, is the young pupil in a position to make such deductions, unless helped by the teacher to an extent which would destroy the educational value of the subject? The answer to this is "No—not until after some preliminary work upon the influence of climate upon geography"—the natural point from which to begin a child's first work in the subject.
It is very important, in beginning any such work, to have some one familiar, concrete object upon which to build as foundation, and my invariable foundation is the rain. First come the questions, which the boys will ask without any prompting. Rain falls: "Why does it fall?" Don't answer the question, ask another in return: "Have you ever seen any other water falling?" Then will come many examples of water falling—out of a tap, from a house-gutter, down a waterfall—and from these it is easy to arrive at our first rule, not perhaps strictly scientific, but simple and useful for the present. "Water always tries to get as low down as possible."
Someone will promptly suggest a fountain in contradiction to this, and possibly someone else will explain that in that instance some water is compelled to act against its will by a larger quantity of water, trying to follow the law; and that therefore the fountain does not contradict our law but proves it.
So law No. 1 answers the first question, "Why does the rain fall?" Next, "Whence does it come?" From the clouds. "How did it get there?" In answer to this, using many homely illustrations, a second unscientific but useful and simple law may be obtained. "Water-vapour tries to rise up into the air." Very soon the class will have got at a fair idea of the pumping work done by the sun in raising water from sea to clouds; and, as the course of the water's movement is sketched on the blackboard—which cannot be too constantly and freely used—an almost matter-of-course inquiry is, "How will the water move from above the sea, whither it has been drawn up, to above the land, upon which it is to fall?" Answer by another question, "What moves the clouds?" And now the work of the wind comes to the front.
By this time the class will probably be beginning to feel that the path of learning is remarkably smooth, a fact which is apt to tell upon boys in two undesirable ways—by producing either lack of interest or lordly self-complacency. It is always a useful tonic, under such circumstances, to shake their faith in their own arguments by some sudden shock, only in the end to prove that the arguments are after all correct, but the shock may do something to induce caution, and to prevent what Mr. Gladstone considered the chief failing of a quarter century ago, "cocksuredness." (He expressed the tendency by words far more classical and elegant). So, in the case with which we are dealing, suggest suddenly that, if the reasoning has been correct, the seas must infallibly in time dry up. The result would be expressed by a newspaper reporter by the word "sensation," in brackets—then will follow a more or less short interval of puzzling, and then a burst of protest—and there is nothing that a class enjoys more than recovering its threatened mental complacency by pitilessly demolishing a remark such as that about the sea drying up—and in this demolition, there will be built up a fairly clear idea of the course of the water from the mountain-tops to the sea, and so of the whole water circulation of the world—"the great water-wheel," as my boys generally call it. And here is an excellent chance, without going beyond the capacity even of a slow and very young boy, of pointing out the wonderful beauty and perfection of Nature's workings; the continuity, the absence of waste, the work to be done by everything—winds, sun, rain, rivers—and the absolute necessity of that work being done. Boys are often much impressed by the picture of what would result if any one agent in "the great water-wheel" were to neglect its particular work—by the picture of the drying up of the streams, the withering away of all green things, the end of all animal and human life, and the dreary, stony, lifeless desert that would remain—and all because, somewhere, some work had been neglected. Some slight glimmering may really be brought into a boy's mind of an idea that the work of everything, of every man, of every boy, is not merely something that must be done because it is best for himself to have it done, but because it is a minute part of a general scheme of work in which all must join for the benefit of all; and I think no teacher can ever over-emphasize the idea of the reason of the existence of everything being some work which it has to do—admitting, of course, that it by no means follows that either the boys, or himself, or any human being can always point out what that work is. But I am wandering from my subject.
Having got at the idea of the great water-circulation, the boys can now be led to the consideration of the work done by one set of agents in it—the streams and rivers—and especially of the way in which, aided by frost and the weather generally, they cut out valleys, create mountain peaks and ranges, impoverish the mountain sides, enrich the low, flat plains, build up new land in the river deltas, and generally play a principal part in producing and altering the geography of a district.
Of course, this is not a matter of an hour or two—it is by no means a matter to be hurried over—but its careful treatment will repay all the time spent upon it. Here, as everywhere, use every possible practical illustration. A mountain of sand upon a tray, with a copious shower descending upon its summit from a pepper-pot, will give a rather unsatisfactory, but not altogether useless, illustration; the gradual deposit of silt, and formation of land thereby, as water decreases in velocity, may be well shown merely by vigorously stirring up some sand and small stones in a tumbler, and noticing the gradual deposit, first of the heavier stones, and next of the finer sand. The aid of modelling clay, in which valley formation can be very clearly illustrated, may also be called in; but the best illustrations are provided by Nature. Illustrations of river-systems and valley-carving in miniature are always easy to find; any sloping gravel path, after a heavy shower of rain, will provide a beautiful little example of streams and rivers, valleys cut out or deepened, currents turned out of their courses by masses of rock, waterfalls, plains with their sandy alluvial deposits, and all the phenomena of land-destruction and land-building. From this, in the neighbouring of Leeds, one would naturally lead on to such a very inviting example of river-action as is to be seen in the Meanwood Valley, and so to river-action in the county generally, and especially in the Pennines. And, to give the boys an idea of the grand scale upon which such works may be carried out, and of how much may be done by the combined work of many tiny forces, especially by never-resting, patient work—show them pictures of some of the great valleys—of one of the tremendously deep and precipitous canyons of the Colorado, for instance, with the comparatively tiny stream which has cut it out flowing in apparent powerlessness down at the bottom of the mighty gorge—and the contrast can hardly fail to impress them with thoughts which again may possibly have their moral value.
I may perhaps hint here at the great utility of pictures in improving the teaching of geography, though the point is too self-evident to need emphasis. It is by the eye, not the ear, that children, and not children only, can be taught most easily, most pleasantly, and most effectively; and therefore more can be done by one picture or rough sketch-map than by much elaborate explanation in words.
We have now arrived at the point at which the study of some special district may be taken up; and here, in my opinion, there is no choice of districts—it must first be the district in which the boys are at the time. The importance of this cannot be overestimated, for it at once removes all risk of geography becoming a matter of names, and brings it immediately into the sphere of realities—streams, hills, towns known to the boys as familiar objects; and at the same time it invests these familiar objects with life, interest, and meaning.
In this respect—perhaps, recollecting where I am, I ought to say in all respects—Yorkshire boys are fortunate in their county; and I find that a careful study of this county, with its fine mountain system, its moors and wolds, its fertile plain, its coast, and its very complete river system—that the careful study of this will prepare boys to attack the larger and more complicated problems of geography with confidence and success.
In this work I make constant use of a small model of Yorkshire, which I have made in modelling clay, and which I find of the greatest value in giving the boys a general idea of the arrangement of mountain and plain in Yorkshire.
In attacking the geography of Yorkshire, the natural starting point is the Pennines. Almost all the boys know them, and associate them with free, breezy, happy holidays; and it needs no prompting to obtain a very full description of them—in fact, rather than prompt, one finds it necessary to restrain an eager flow of anecdote, more or less to the point. Having discussed the climate, scenery, soil, vegetation, and animal life of the Pennines, always, of course, going into the question of why they are what they are, and letting the boys derive them from known facts, step by step, as they easily can, the next question I put to them is, "What use can men make of the Pennines?" This leads at once to the necessity for some rough classification of the chief human industries—say into manufacturing, mining, hunting, fishing, and farming, dividing the latter into agriculture and the rearing of stock. Taking the different classes of industries, get the boys to test the fitness of the Pennines for each. Hunting and fishing are dismissed as of small importance; mining is admitted where there is anything to be mined, though difficulties of transport are noticed; against manufacturing many reasons are brought forward, largely connected again with difficulties of transport, since in the Pennines roads and railways are difficult to make and to maintain, and rivers are useless for traffic; a reference again to the scanty vegetation, and to the poor soil and climate which are its causes, will bring out the unfitness of mountains like the Pennines for agriculture, and also for the breeding of the more delicate domestic animals, cattle and horses. Comparing their habits and wants with those of the hardier sheep, the issue is at last narrowed down to the use of the Pennines as a sheep-rearing district.
A new question follows:—"Why rear sheep?" The ordinary boy will assign greater importance to mutton than to wool; but, while by no means sneering at mutton and its uses, the consideration of the class is directed to the question of wool and its uses. Without going into details, I am sure that it will be evident that a rich and most interesting field of investigation is at once opened up—the origin and growth of the English wool trade, and all that it has meant to English life in the past; and with this, of course, the origin and growth of those great towns which West Riding boys know so well, and which they may so easily have assumed to be things which came into existence accidentally, as it were, and ready-made, much in their present condition. The history of the English woolen industry, from the days when we sent our wool abroad for the Flemings to manufacture, through the gradual inversion of things which has ended in our huge imports of colonial wool, to be manufactured in the West Riding, is a most interesting one, touching on many side questions in which all boys delight—from the old days with the perilous journeys across the sea, to and from the old port of Beverley, placed far inland up the River Hull, to be well out of the way of the pirates—to these modern days, with their huge mills full of fascinating machinery. And a feeling of patriotism, utterly unconnected with khaki, may be aroused by the consideration of the changes in this important woolen trade and manufacture which have been brought about by English industry and enterprise, and of all in our national life that has resulted from those changes.
Having chosen—a most important matter, this—the best sites for our mills and for the towns which will grow up round them, with regard to water supply, coal and iron supply, food supply, wool supply (before the days of importation), and means of communication with the coast, the boys will soon appreciate the natural advantages which led Leeds and the other West Riding towns to become such great woolen centres—the Pennines near at hand to supply them with wool, the Cleveland district with iron, and their own district with coal, while two great ports, Hull and Liverpool, are within easy reach by rail and canal.
The importance of coal and iron in these days of steam and machinery is dwelt upon, and leads up to the consideration of mining in Yorkshire, with engineering work and the great cutlery manufacture of Sheffield—famous in the old days when the forges got their fuel from the great Hallamshire forests around, and famous now in the remotest corners of the world—and after this, one is sure to see the boys examining the blades of their knives; and the name of Sheffield, probably found there, produces a touch of complacent satisfaction which is not only amusing but valuable, for the complacent satisfaction has its origin in a feeling that their work is real, about real things, and true. This may seem to some to be nothing; but anything is valuable which lifts the work out of the region of words into the region of things.
But in the midst of all this industrial enthusiasm, one suggests another great want in the life of large towns—plenty to eat—a near and rich source of food supply; and, here again, Yorkshire has its excellent example in the fertile plain of York. The natural comparison with the Pennines, and the description which the boys will be able to give of its cornfields, gardens, and orchards, will soon show its superior qualifications as a centre of agriculture, horse and cattle breeding, dairy-farming, &c. An equally interesting comparison will be made between the great, busy, ugly manufacturing towns of the West Riding, and the pretty villages and quaint, quiet, little market towns of the flat country, awaking from their sleep once a week to the comparative bustle of market day. Here one may dwell upon the functions of such towns, as middle-men, so to speak, between the farmer and the manufacturer, not, of course, in the dry and learned words of political economy, but merely by considering what the farmer and his wife bring to market, and where what they bring goes to; what they buy, and where what they buy comes from. And, by the way, this can scarcely be done without some passing hint as to the value of our Colonies to us, for the boys will certainly not let the farmer's wife go home without sugar, coffee, cocoa, tea, and even oranges and bananas. And, in return for all the articles of food which the North or East Riding farmer send to Leeds and Sheffield, it will satisfy a child's sense of fairness to see that Leeds and Sheffield send the farmer his clothes, his tools, and much else of manufactured goods; while, if Leeds and the plain of York combine to feed and clothe Hull, Hull must repay them by working hard as their carrier of raw wool and colonial food stuffs inwards, and of manufactured goods outwards.
And Hull must supply them, as must many a familiar holiday town along the Yorkshire coast, with fish. And now the boys are on their beloved coast, at Whitby and Scarborough and Filey, and facts and description are plentiful, and enthusiastic anecdote harder to restrain than ever. And a new life, the life of the deep-sea fisherman out on the Dogger Bank, also comes within our subject; and so on, one industry leading to another, until every part of our county is considered—every part has to face the question "What use are you?" "What do you do for the general good?" And each part is found to have its answer, whether it be Swaledale or Sheffield, Middlesborough or Malton; and I certainly think that every boy ends his work upon the geography of Yorkshire with that pride in his county which it is perhaps, after all, scarcely necessary to use such elaborate means to instil into a Yorkshireman.
(To be continued.)
Pt 2 (Continued from page 693.)
I have said little, so far, about the necessity for the contrast use of maps—it is such an axiom in any geographical teaching worthy of the name, that, for a time, the point escaped my memory as being one necessary to emphasize; but the constant use of maps—wall-maps, sketch-maps drawn on the black-board, and maps drawn by the boys—is, of course, essential. As a foundation for all one's work, one must have a good wall-map of the district, on a fairly large scale, not necessarily pretending to any great accuracy of detail, but—and here frequently comes the difficulty—it must be contoured, and coloured accordingly; that is to say, the shades should become darker as the height above sea-level becomes greater. I have found it wiser not to use maps with too fine gradations of colour; a map with all land below 300 feet coloured green, all land between 300 feet and 600 feet above sea-level light brown, and all land above 600 feet dark brown, is generally quite enough to give a fairly clear idea of the surface of any part of the British Isles. Arnolds, of Leeds, publish a most excellent contoured map of Yorkshire; but once he leaves Yorkshire, the unfortunate teacher of geography begins to meet with difficulties; and I think that very often, after inspecting the stock-in-trade of various educational establishments, he will find it best to make his own contoured wall-map; such, at any rate, has been my experience in dealing with most parts of the British Isles. If he require a map of any Continent, and can afford to pay about double the price of the ordinary English wall-map, he can rejoice himself by obtaining, needless to say from the all-providing Germany, one of the almost perfect Sydow-Habenicht maps, which Philips generally keep in stock.
In all contoured maps, it is of the greatest importance that uniformity in colouring should be preserved; given this, in a very short time the first glance at a map will tell the class the main facts about the physical structure of a country—the boys will have acquired that most useful and strangely rare accomplishment, the art of "reading a map." Of course, certain maps defy all power of "reading"—maps with each county a level mass of bright colour, and with some hundred names to the square foot—but such maps, though useful as reference maps, are quite out of place as the ground-work of any teaching of geography.
Arnolds, of Leeds, are also bringing out a set of beautifully modelled and fairly cheap relief maps of various counties and countries in the British Isles, whose value as a supplement to the large wall-maps can hardly be over-estimated. A constant comparison of the contoured map with the model will lead to a very clear understanding of the former; and, one contoured map once really understood, all others follow as a matter of course.
But model and wall-map are not enough; there must be those on the one hand, but on the other, the teacher must have his ever-helpful and long-suffering companion, the black-board; and of that, he must make constant use for illustration, not by plan only, but by elevation and section. It is a most useful exercise for the boys to attempt a section across any piece of country, along a line shown across a contoured map; and the teacher's rough sections upon the black-board are quite essential for any clear explanation of river-basins, rain-fall, influence of winds, and many other points. In all black-board work, the use of coloured chalks will prove of great advantage.
Lastly, to fix the detailed geography of a country by means of the ever-helpful eye, and at the same time, to cultivate exactness and neatness of work, the boys should draw together, in class, at least two very careful maps of the district—one physical, showing merely contours, rivers, and lakes; the other industrial, showing coal fields, distribution of minerals, and main industries (each represented by some one colour). Thus Leeds, in our maps, would be underlined in green and red, representing the woolen and engineering industries. The introduction of many names into the maps should be avoided. Only those should be inserted which are really familiar, and for small boys the initial of the name is at first enough. But one point I consider very important; the map must not be copied from a ready-made and complete map, but must be built up by the teacher on the blackboard, and by the pupils in their map books, simultaneously. This will impress the structure of a country, and any other details of a map, far more strongly on the memory; and as the work goes on, there is naturally an informal intermittent discussion upon the features of the country from which I believe a great deal is often learnt, and I think that there is no part of our school work which is more generally enjoyed by the boys than our map-drawing.
Possibly the idea of drawing a good map with considerable detail upon a black-board may strike some teacher as a matter of great difficulty. I can only say that I believe that I produce very respectable maps upon the board, and I can most confidently assert that there can be few people with less natural aptitude for drawing than I have. All that is necessary, for both teacher and pupil, is a framework, drawn to scale on the board and in the books, of what we call "guiding-lines," which are rubbed out again as soon as they have served their purpose. Each map will mean some six hours' work in half-hour periods.
There is another branch of our work—useful not only as making a boy's idea of a map a more vivid and serviceable thing, but also as illustrating the practical uses of geometry and arithmetic—which consists of what is called "needle surveying," i.e., the mapping of a small part of the immediate neighbourhood from one carefully measure base-line, by triangulation, the angles being read by the aid merely of a compass. Fair work can be done with an ordinary pocket compass, but a specially sighted compass improves the work very much. Boys generally enjoy such work immediately, and its usefulness can be still further increased by insisting upon the very careful production of a map of the neighbourhood surveyed, from the figures contained in the boys' rough notebooks, using protractors to plot out the angles. I have obtained very successful work of this character from boys of ten or eleven.
Such is the method in which one may attack Yorkshire, and after that, perhaps, Lancashire, the four northern counties, the Midlands, England south of the Thames, and Wales in succession—of course, with constant comparison and connection, and never treating any one district as if it were some isolated unit.
At the end of this first stage in our geographical work, the boys should have a fair idea, not only of the geography of England and Wales, but of the meaning of a map, and of the various causes and influences that affect the formation, fertility, industries, and prosperity of a country. The action of climate and rivers being understood with some clearness, it is now possible to proceed to the more full and systematic study of Scotland, a country whose varied and well-defined features make it a most excellent subject. I will make an effort to avoid wearisome detail here, and will shortly indicate the further expansion of our method in dealing with Scotland, or with any other part of the earth.
Starting from given data, the contoured map and the prevalent wind, the facts are gradually deduced by the boys—of course under guidance—by regular reasoning, almost as regular as that of Euclid, and far more interesting to the average boy. It is upon this, in my opinion, that geography may base its claim to be considered a scientific school subject, that it is not a mere collection of accidental facts, but a genuine piece of reasoning on scientific principles. The facts deduced are recorded in notes—best copied word by word from the black-board in the case of small boys, to whom the taking of useful notes, unaided, is almost an impossibility—and by the liberal use of sketch-maps, in addition, of course, to the careful drawing of two maps in the way I have already described. For these sketch-maps, to save time, it is well to use printed outline maps, upon which are filled in (simultaneously with the same work upon the black-board) any details that may be required, coloured chalks being used, and the meaning of the various colours shown by a marginal table. In the case of Scotland, in addition to the carefully-drawn physical and industrial maps, sketch maps—quick and bold, with no pretence at fine detail, but showing the required facts at a glance—may be made giving the rainfall, the distribution of arable land, the chief crops, the density of population, the distribution of minerals, and the fisheries. In the case of Ireland, a map of the bogs may be added; in the case of larger areas, such as Australia, other maps will suggest themselves, showing range of temperature, influence of ocean currents, isothermal lines, distribution of animal life, lines of exploration, trade-routes, etc. One of the charms of geography as a school subject is its endless expansion and variety, as different parts of the world are dealt with.
Returning to Scotland, and to the distribution therein of mountain and plain, the contoured map shows most vividly the huge mountain masses which cover all the northern part of Scotland, and are especially massed towards the West Coast. Next, the fact of the prevalent wind being S.W. is given, adding the question, "What kind of wind will this be?" This leads to another question, "Where does it come from?" And, referring to their maps of the world, the boys will notice the great tracts of tropical sea, the equatorial Atlantic, from which the south-west wind has come, and will at once come to the conclusion that it must be a warm and moist wind. If, as they should be, the main ocean currents are marked on the map, someone will probably notice that the Gulf Stream keeps the S.W. wind company on its journey towards Scotland, keeping up the temperature and preventing rain; and hence the class will arrive at the idea of copious stores of moisture, brought by the winds from the great evaporating cauldron of the tropical Atlantic to the great mountain masses lying close to the western shores of Scotland.
Having already become familiar with the effect of mountains in producing rainfall, the boys will deduce the facts as to Scotland's heavy rainfall—heavy especially on the west, and decreasing gradually towards the east. The opportunity should not be missed, here as in other matters, of comparison with the facts already known about England and Wales. Here a sketch-map would naturally come in, showing in colours the rainfall in the different parts of Scotland. One great advantage these sketch-maps possess-appealing strongly as they do to the boy's eye, as he fills in the various patches of bright colour, they cannot fail to stimulate his powers of inquiry and comparison.
This rainfall map of Scotland is certain to produce useful inquiries as to the reason of the small rainfall along the East Coast, which will bring in the consideration of the east winds which are its one cause, and the comparison of their lack of moisture and drying powers, after their long land journey, with the precisely opposite properties of the south-west winds after their long sea journey.
Having got at some rough idea of the Scotch climate, we now proceed to deduce further facts about it by the further consideration of Scotland's position in the world. Using the map of Europe and of the Atlantic, let the boys note any facts which may be useful, and, having obtained several, deduce everything that the boys can be led to deduce from them, and this will be no brief matter.
For instance, "Scotland is an island," volunteers some slightly inaccurate observer. At once there comes the consideration of the difference, and the causes of that difference, between and island climate and a continental climate, with vivid contrasting, say of Glasgow and Moscow, with their similar latitude but very different ranges of temperature.
Noticing the latitude, and comparing Scotland's distance from the North Pole with its distance from the equator, the general coldness of the Scotch climate will follow, with its resulting mist and snow, and their effects upon scenery, farming, and life generally. Boys will always be interested in graphic accounts of a Highland winter, with all the possible joys of being hopelessly snowed up, with unlimited snow-balling. There must be some providential twist in bad weather. So, to the boy, the Highland winter will certainly be fascinating; and then comes the thaw; and here again, in the accounts of the terrible floods of such rivers as the Spey or the Dee, there is ample material of interest; and the picture of all the damage wrought to roads and bridges by these floods, and of all the work necessary each spring to repair this damage, will give the boys some idea of the difficulties of life in the mountain districts, and of the hardy Highlanders produced by such difficulties.
Again we turn to the map, and someone will probably notice that Scotland lies out to the west of Europe, exposed to the full force of the Atlantic breakers, as the western gales hurl them upon its shores; the results of this, the broken coastline and countless islands of the west, will contrast very sharply with the almost unbroken lines of the more sheltered east coast; and, at this point, it is not difficult to find pictures which will show all the beauty of the western lochs and sounds.
At the same time, the fact may be mentioned that no point in Scotland is fifty miles from the sea; the importance of this fact will be seen by the class later in the work, but its mere assertion will certainly lead to much testing of its accuracy by scale measurement.
Collecting the facts that they have so far discovered, the boys can now make further deductions, especially as to the nature of the Scotch rivers, the joint product of mighty mountains and heavy falls of rain and snow—with their short rocky courses and their constant eating away of the land, especially during their destructive floods. Noticing carefully that in this, it is not a few large rivers that work alone, but that they are aided by countless streams, rivulets, and rills, an idea of the barren Highlands, stripped of their soil by all these agencies, soon follows. From this again the boys may deduce the unfitness of the Highlands for agriculture, with a glance at the life of the "crofter," and his difficulties and perseverance, and a comparison of the crop he so hardly earns from his patch of rocky soil, with the rich crops of, for instance, the East Anglian farmer, with his level and fertile fields. Some mention, too, will naturally be made of the chief northern crops, and of the northern limits of such plants as the oak, wheat, etc., all shown upon a sketch map, upon which the arable and useless land appear in different colours, while lines mark the different limits.
From the climate and general condition of the Highlands follows also a description of their animal life—of their huge sheep farms and desolate deer-forests; and from this, again, we arrive at the main occupations of the Highlanders. Lead the boys to consider the area of a sheep-farm or deer-forest, and the number of men employed upon either, with the life they must lead; and soon they will find out much about the hardihood, resource, and bravery of the Highlanders—with a comparison of the robber of former days with the soldier of to-day—and also about their scanty numbers. Here a sketch-map, showing the density of population of each county, will enforce the difference in this respect between the Highlands and the crowded manufacturing districts.
Many other facts may be derived from the same starting point—the character of the rivers; for instance, the impossibility of much inland river-traffic, the abundance of river-fish, and the absence of much river and flat country. A similar course of treatment will yield a fairly clear idea of the Lowlands, with their bleak hills and fertile dales, and their thriving farms, the product rather of human industry and determination than of any natural advantages. And now, in Galloway and Annandale and Teviotdale, the contrast between past and present will be enforced by pictures of many a ruined abbey or border stronghold—and border raids and cattle-liftings are a subject upon which boys are generally well informed.
Much may now be added to the map showing agricultural and other farming industries—the cattle of Ayrshire, the horses of Clydesdale, the ponies of Galloway, the apples of Strathmore—until almost all of Scotland has answered our former question:—"What do you do for the general good?"
One important part remains—the central plain, with its great manufactures and closely-crowded towns, whose existence has already been noticed when the sketch-map showing density of population was drawn. Turn therefore to minerals—discuss once more the essential importance, commercially, of coal and iron—and, by drawing a map showing the distribution of the chief Scotch minerals, prove how coal, iron, and the human race generally are found together. It will now, probably, be found best to follow the more stereotyped treatment of our subject, and to deal under separate headings with the different manufactures—with some special account of flax, hemp, and jute, and of their history and uses—the commerce, the fisheries, and the people themselves.
And, lastly, some time may well be specially devoted to the ever-interesting isles off the northern and western coasts. This done, with all possible comparison and illustration, and Scotland will begin to seem quite an intimate acquaintance, even to those boys who have never been lucky enough to set foot upon its heather.
I have mentioned some adjuncts to the efficient teaching of geography, but have scarcely dwelt enough upon one of the most important—the use of illustrations, which can now-a-days almost always be procured in plenty, and whose utility is evident—while the school museum will often supplement these by animal, vegetable, or mineral specimens, by implements or manufactured products. The more of concrete things that can be introduced, the more hope there is of clearing away the enveloping mist of words and names, and of making the boys' knowledge of some part of the world a real knowledge of facts and things, not a mere acquaintance with names.
And, as the little, firmly-sticking pegs by which much broader knowledge may be fixed, the teacher can afford to despise no little interesting or curious facts which he may be able to glean from personal experience, narrative of exploration or travel, or even from his daily newspaper; while books such as Whitaker's Almanac are of course of the greatest value, in addition to the regular text-books and atlases.
A geographical scrap-book, for cuttings from newspapers, is very useful, though, needless to remark, it must not be treated as a collection of absolute, accurate facts in these days of editorial enterprise.
And now I am at last drawing to the end of this imperfect description of an imperfect method—but a method which, for that reason, is always interesting to the teacher, in that there is every scope for improvement and expansion in it. So many are the possible adjuncts to the full and proper teaching of geography, that I have been unable to even touch upon all and have, for instance, omitted all mention of the great help which may be obtained from the lantern, with carefully prepared slides, showing not only pictures, but maps, sections, etc. Needless to say, the most should be made of the actual personal experience of both teacher and pupil, but that is a point which the boys will take care is not neglected.
Taken upon some such lines as I have tried to describe, I have no hesitation in saying that geography will equal, if not excel, any subject taught in any school in usefulness, variety, fascination for both pupil and teacher, and—the really important point—in power of stimulating thought and interest and love of reasoning, and thereby truly developing the mental powers of the child. At the same time—no unimportant matter—it provides an excellent connecting link between the study of history, of natural science, and of geometry, so that it plays one important part in binding the whole school work into an harmonious whole, always, of course, provided that the teaching of the other subjects is carried on upon somewhat similar lines. And I believe that the teacher of geography is generally justified in believing that there is roused in almost all his pupils, by their work, at least some small amount of wondering, admiring gratitude at the thought of how marvellously this earth is adapted to the manifold wants of the human beings who dwell upon it.
Proofread by Leslie Noelani Laurio, Mar 2009
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