This section is from the "The New Student's Reference Work Volume 5: How And Why Stories" by Elinor Atkinson.
Editors' Note to Mother and Teacher.—When the writer was a child, Physical Geography was a high school study. A hard name often makes a simple thing difficult. Physical Geography is only land, water and air, and their effects upon each other. It is Home Geography to every child, no matter where he lives, and within his every day experience. Before he goes to school at all, he has made sand houses and mud pies. He has paddled in ponds, picked up pebbles and shells, slid on the ice, thrown snow balls, and sent up toy balloons and sailed boats and kites. Just by using his little hands and feet and eyes, in play, he has learned, more about Physical Geography than most grown people realize, and he has put his knowledge to good use. The wisest teaching of today builds upon the knowledge and interests already possessed. It follows nature's plan, too, of continuing to use the objects nearest at hand.
Home Geography, then, is the very first and most fundamental of all nature studies. Loam, sand, gravel, clay, boulders, quarry stone, coal and mineral rocks, can be brought into the house and school room. Out of these, with intelligent direction, little children can build up a miniature world that they can understand. With every natural child knowledge is power. He wants to use what he knows, to "make things.'' On a common kitchen table, with an upright strip nailed about the edges, he can make a landscape. A child who piles up a tiny hill, levels a field, scoops out a bowl and a trough, and fills them with water himself, can make his own definitions. From these clear mental images, he can be led to imagine the big round world of mountains, plains, rivers, lakes and oceans.
It is very wonderful how quickly a child catches an idea. In his play, he reproduces big things on a small scale. He can make a satisfactory rain with a watering pot, so he will understand the vapor cloud made by a boiling tea-kettle. Most, if not all, of the properties of earth, air and water, can be made plain to a child by just such simple means always near at hand. Air is really no more difficult than the other two. The child already knows temperature, and wind, or air in motion. The little hot-air balloon and the flying bird are among his earliest objects of wonder. The fact that air cannot be seen or felt, only adds to its interest to a child who believes in fairies.
As you read these nature studies in Home Geography, and try the experiments suggested, in doors and out, with the children, watch their minds expand, with new and interesting ideas, and open like flowers. The most important part of education is to get a child to see things accurately, and with such keen interest that he bubbles over to express himself in word, form or line.