Dawes object lessons in elementary schools

Richard Dawes moved to his parish, near Winchester, in 1836, and built a model school (Layton 1973). Although the well-to-do paid more, once inside the school instruction took no account of social standing or fees paid. But the comprehensive ideal was not complete: girls had to do needlework, while the boys studied science. Science lessons were object lessons: pupils could observe for themselves the objects of common daily life to inspire them with an intelligent curiosity (see Figure 24.1).

Dawes' Suggestive Hints towards Improved Secular Instruction, published in 1847, provided teachers countrywide with a common-sense explanation of things used in everyday life. The newly formed government education department agreed to pay the cost of the apparatus list published in Hints for any school qualified to use it, so that by 1857 about 8 per cent of elementary schools (3500 total) had the apparatus sets and the newly formed teacher training colleges were including his ideas in their curriculum.

By 1861 it all came to an end when the grant stopped, science was taken out of the teacher training curriculum and the revised code - payment by results - meant that

The kettle: an object lesson

An old kettle, blackened at the bottom to absorb the radiation from the fire, and shiny on top to prevent radiation loss, has a metal body for good conduction of heat to the water and a handle made of poorly conducting wood to prevent you burning your hand.

FIGURE 24.1 An idea taken from Victorians at School (Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, undated)

schools and teachers were judged by their results in the three Rs. Schools resorted to rote learning and cramming pupils for the tests. Not unlike the effect of the league tables of today!

Continue reading here: Science as process Henslows systematic botany

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