Teaching nature study on the blackboard in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century England

Author:Wylie, Caitlin, EN-Engineering and SocietyUniversity of Virginia ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0002-0214-7837

England’s Education Acts in the late nineteenth century made school free and mandatory for all children, filling schools with more and younger students. Visual teaching methods such as blackboard drawing were used to catch young students’ eyes and engage their interest. At the same time, there was high public engagement with natural history and popular science lectures, which built the perception of science as accessible, interesting and useful for people of all social classes. This “science for all” trend along with the new universal education paved the way for nature study, a new school subject based on experiential learning through observation of plants and animals, similar to the popular nineteenth-century pedagogy of object lessons. The many manuals about nature study that were published for teachers in England in the early twentieth century reveal the content, pedagogy and portrayal of science communicated to young students. In-depth analysis of one manual, Nature teaching on the blackboard (1910), sheds light on typical nature study lessons, including suggested images for teachers to draw on the blackboard. Visual methods of teaching science were not limited to schoolchildren: university lecturers as well as popularizers of science used object lessons and blackboard drawing to educate and entertain their adult audiences. Comparing blackboard teaching of nature study with other educational images and audiences for science explores how multisensory learning and the blackboard brought information about the natural world and engagement with science to the public.

nature study, blackboard, history of education
Source Citation:

Wylie, C.D. (2012). Teaching nature study on the blackboard in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century England. Archives of Natural History, 39(1), 59-76. https://doi.org/10.3366/anh.2012.0062

University of Virginia
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