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Insects. Lessons on the most conspicuous or common insects of each order are easily prepared, with the aid of an elementary work on Entomology * and a pocket magnifying-glass. A large beetle of the locality, the honey bee, or the ant, the house-fly, a butterfly, a dragon-fly, a grasshopper, a squash bug, ora cicada (so-called locust), will each give material enough for several lessons. With the live insect where it can be seen, lead the pupils to observe the kind of wings and their number, legs, eyes, antennæ, their relative positions and attachment to the body; the three regions of body. Get what information is possible relating to the creature's habits, habitat, etc., from each member of the class, for the benefit of the whole class. Ask for other facts to be gathered before the next lesson by observing the insects in their homes. Before any writing is done on this exercise put upon the board enlarged drawings of the insect, and its legs and wings. These may be sketched from the creature, or, if done by the teacher, they may be copied from engravings. When possible, get incomplete forms, showing the life of the insect in its various stages. If it is useful to man, in what way? Harmful, how ? Does it make anything which man uses? Is anything
* Packard's “ Elements of Entomology” is a good book for the purpose.
made of it or its products ? (Cochineal, gum shellac, nut-galls.) When studying the honey bee, show honeycomb, filled comb, queen cells, and the three kinds of individuals in bee-colonies, the bees themselves, if possible.
After all has been learned by seeing, that can be learned with profit for the time being, and has been made use of as composition material, direct the class to read, or read to them, articles on the subject, but allow nothing to be copied; the second paper may be the reproduction of what they have so gained. Criticise carefully the arrangement of matter in both.
A third paper may relate stories or facts given orally by the teacher from her own reading and observation. If the interest has been well kept up, make a fourth exercise the oral recital of other or the same matter; and a fifth, an invented story in which the insect is of importance. (See Chapter VI., Exercise 2.)
Read the latest scientific works, only, on these subjects; avoid authorities long out of date.
Other living forms of lower intelligence (though of varying structure) may be had in almost any region, as fish, crayfish, mussels, snails, slugs, starfish, jelly-fish or spiders, and make good subjects of this kind. Seaboard schools have abundant material among those just mentioned. City fish-markets give opportunities for observation of the various fresh and salt water animals used as food; but the seashore and the stream are the best places to see and to learn about these things.
Treat whatever may be chosen for study in a manner similar to that of the preceding examples; each new animal studied gives additional material to be used in the lessons on Comparison. Call attention to the adaptation to their mode of life of corresponding parts in the animals compared. (Grass-feeding cud-chewers, animals that become the prey of carnivorous beasts, timid, etc.)
PLANTS OF THE STREETS.
IN the streets of most country towns, even of I many large towns, and always along country roads, plants are so abundant both in kind and in number, that they afford excellent material for study and observation. Even with little or no knowledge of botany, other than that derived from ordinary observation, the teacher may make these interesting to children and young people.
Begin with a conversation about some common and conspicuous plant (with a whole plant before each pupil, if practicable). Find out, first, all that is known by the class about the plant; second, all that can be learned by looking, tasting, smelling, feeling (as in hairy, silky, or velvety species), counting the parts, observing their arrangement (as of the leaves on the stem and with relation to each other, the relation of the branches to the main stalk), and the colors of various parts. Examine the stem, leaves (upper and under side), roots, buds, flowers, seeds, etc. Consider the qualities, as bitter, disagreeable, useful, troublesome, medicinal, ornamental, pretty, mucilaginous (as common mallow), etc., etc.; the shapes of parts, stem, root (cross sections, also), leaf, etc.; insects that feed on the plant; the seeds, their peculiarities, and manner of spreading (that is, how nature contrives to plant them without crowding), their number, and why so many, probably ? curious seeds of some weeds, called burrs.
All these furnish new matter for thought and writing. Each plant thus used will suggest to the teacher more than is given here.
Use the magnifying glass, and make drawings when practicable.
Dog-fennel (tradition that it was sown throughout the West by “Johnny Appleseed,” for whose story see Harper's Magazine, vol. xliii., 830); Jamestown weed (“ Jimson weed," see extended history of the Jamestown colony); rag-weed (a plant related to the hollyhock); mallows (cultivated plant of the same family); Indian mallow; purslane; creeping grasses ; chickweed; thistles (“thistle-down, the only ghost of flowers," T. B. Read in “ The Closing Scene"); vervains (verbena); smart-weed ; ironweed; bind-weed (wild morning-glorys); dandelion (see Lowell's poem, “The Dandelion "); tar-weed (California); mustard ; black mustard ; burdock; sour-dock; sorrel ; “pin-grass," etc., etc. Speak of duty to destroy troublesome plants