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Geographic Aids

( Originally Published 1915 )

HOME geography is a matter of direct observation, but when a distant region is to be studied, realistic word pictures, globes, maps, models, pictures, sample products, and descriptive reading must be used to enable the pupil to form a clear conception of its geographic features.


Beginning with Form II, globes should be used to give a view of the earth as a whole—its form, its divisions into land and water, the relative positions of the continents and the oceans; its hot, temperate, and cold regions, etc.

If each pupil in Forms III and IV has a small globe, four inches in diameter, the positions of equator, tropics, polar circles, meridians, etc., may be readily indicated by means of lines drawn upon its surface or rubber bands held in place by small tacks.

A globe sixteen inches in diameter is one of convenient size for the class-room, as four inches in length on it represents a thousand miles on the earth's surface. In addition to the ordinary globe, every school should have another covered with a slate surface.


A map is a shorthand representation of a number of geographical facts. The pupil must be taught to interpret its symbols, that is, he must be taught to read a map and to get thoughts from it as from a book. To a certain extent, the study of the map is a substitute for personal observation. It is a window through which the pupil looks out upon the country he is studying.

When the pupil has learned to read maps, he must be led to apply the information obtained to practical problems, such, for example, as the kinds of products in different regions, the probable exchange of these products, and the routes and means by which such exchanges are accomplished.

The teacher should, both by example and precept, encourage the habit of locating on maps all places mentioned in history, literature, and general reading; and when books of travel are being read, the map should be freely used in tracing the progress of the traveller.

Freehand map-sketching is a device for training pupils to read maps ; to locate mountain ranges, important rivers, and large cities; to indicate, by shading, regions of ample rainfall and the prevailing industries of certain districts, such as agriculture, lumbering, and mining; to show trade routes, etc.

Because of their influence upon climate, etc., pupils should know the general shapes of the continents, the general direction of the coast-lines, the great peninsulas and arms of the sea. Only a general accuracy of outline is required; much time should not be devoted to securing great accuracy of detail in map-sketching. This may be secured by means of outline maps, which enable-the pupil to concentrate his attention upon a particular point with-out wasting time upon unnecessary details.

For class teaching, an outline map on the black-board, on which the features are marked as they are taught from day to day, is a most effective method of teaching map geography, as attention is centred upon one thing at a time. The outline on the black-board should be fairly accurate and should hot have names marked on it; other-wise its use in review will be very slight. Such maps may be used with great advantage in the history lesson.

One or more maps should be hanging on the walls of the school-room all the day. They should not be rolled up and kept in a corner of the room. Many an important geographical fact may be learned incidentally by the pupils from maps that are constantly before their eyes.


In teaching geography, much use should be made of the black-board. Outlines of continents and countries, cross sections of these illustrating their physical features, and diagrams marking places, when drawn on the black-board as the lesson is proceeding, help the pupil to understand it much more clearly. In describing the position of Montreal, for example, how much clearer it becomes when a sketch of the island is made and the city outlined in its proper position. Since nothing appears on the black-board outline but that which is being taught, the mind of the pupil is not confused by the many details of the ordinary map. The subject thus develops more clearly in the mind of the learner as it is being taught by the teacher. The use of coloured crayons, to distinguish one part from another, answers the purpose of the tints and shades employed in the ordinary school maps.

Every school should, if possible, have a set of slated maps. Such maps can be used like the black-board and have the advantage of being more accurate in outline than those drawn by the teacher on the black-board.

As the lesson proceeds, it should be summarized on the black-board. This summary emphasizes the main features of the lesson, prevents the teacher from becoming discursive, and is conducive to systematic work.


The systematic use of newspapers and magazines in school is of great help in teaching geography. The study of current events enables pupils to extend their knowledge of geography by reading, as distinguished from actual study. They learn geographical ideas by simply reading with an attention born of interest. Reading thus becomes an habitual review and is constantly sending the investigator to the text-book for more information. Items and advertisements relating to the establishment of new industries, to the construction of railways or canals, and to changes affecting transportation and navigation, furnish much information and also lead to a forecasting of the probable changes resulting from the new conditions. The pupil soon sees that almost every day brings about some geographical change—daily some new industry is begun, some new town is founded, or some product is discovered in a new region. His horizon widens. He feels a new stimulus. No better preparation for acquiring knowledge of a business life can be made than the cultivation of the ability to recognize the ever-changing conditions of business dependent upon ever-changing geographical conditions.

There are several ways in which newspapers may be used in school. The teacher may mark selections with a coloured pencil in a paper accessible to the pupils, or he may clip these and put them up on the bulletin board, afterward putting away the more important of them in a large manilla envelope or in a scrap-book. He should bear in mind that the mere preservation of these selections is in itself not of so much value as the discussions as to which are of sufficient importance to preserve. Pupils are to be encouraged to clip for themselves and for the class. They should, however, be cautioned against accepting every geographical item they may see in print as absolutely reliable. The discussion on these items should, of course, take place when the news is quite fresh.


No text-book on geography can be sufficiently full to present all that a pupil may desire to know regarding a region that is being studied. Sets of Geography Readers suitable for all the grades, books of travel, and accounts of voyages of discovery should be placed in the school library, and the pupils should be encouraged to use them. Magazines frequently contain well-written articles on geographical topics which the teacher may read to his class; and when the teacher in his general reading meets with fine descriptive passages, he should make a note of them and use them in their proper geographical connection. Government Reports are sometimes of great value in calling attention to geographical changes. As these are compiled with care, their statements may be depended upon to be accurate. They may be obtained by application to the Deputy Minister of the Department whose Report is desired.

The following method of using supplementary reading is suggested : After the teacher has given an outline of the geography of a country, the pupils become responsible for the interesting details. This means reading and research on their part. They should be required to report, orally or in writing, the results of their researches. Each pupil may be held responsible for some phase of the subject in hand. Experience shows that, in general, pupils are pleased at reporting the new information to the class. Facts gleaned from such researches are usually retained.


A picture of a building, a derrick, a landscape, a lock of a canal, or a volcano in eruption, teaches oftentimes more clearly than the printed page; it tells a plain story which appeals to the mind, excites interest, and leaves a distinct and vivid mental image.

Let us, for example, look at the picture in the first column of page 122 of the Ontario School Geography. We can easily read the title of the picture, but what in-formation can we obtain from looking at the objects shown in it? Name the objects in the foreground of the picture. What name would you give to the sheet of water in the distance? Were these rocks always this shape? Are they changing from day to day? What is the principal agent in erosion? Find Hopewell Cape on the map on page 125. Why are the rocks worn away more rapidly near the base? Give reasons why no trees grow upon the smaller rock. Why do not the trees extend further down on the large rock? What has become of the rock which at one time joined these rocks to the mainland? Why have these rocks withstood the action of waves and tides longer than some other rocks? Does the size of the trees give you any information regarding the time the erosion has been acting about the base of this rock? What has become of the material that has been worn away ? How high are these rocks? Why is the man shown in the picture? If the man were five feet ten inches in height, calculate the height of each rock. What will probably be the fate of these rocks? What will be the first great movement in the large rock? Will the wearing away of the mass be faster or slower then? Why? Find other pictures in this book that show the wearing away of a coast. Find pictures that show the building up of a coastal plain.

Many of the pictures in this book are worthy of careful study, and the teacher should direct the pupil's attention to each picture by questions similar to the above.

After a few pictures have been studied by the pupils and teacher together, the pupils should be asked to describe one or more of these in writing. This, as well as what follows, provides excellent seat work in written composition.

Examine the pictures in the geography referring to transportation and notice the various methods shown. State the country in which each method is in use. Look at the pictures that show bridges. In what country is each bridge found? What is the nature of the traffic? How can you tell? Compare pictures that show the dress of the people of the various countries. Try to account for the material used and the style of the garments. Study pictures that show typical rural industries in Ontario. Name the industries shown in each picture. Describe the various industries. What industries carried on in other parts of Canada are pictured?

There is hardly a limit to the vast amount of information that may be gained from a study of the pictures shown in the text-book. The pupils of Form IV may, for example, make a study of the pictures that show various historic styles of architecture. They will then be in a better position to appreciate the architecture of places, government buildings, churches, etc.

in addition to the study of the pictures in the text-book, teachers should make a collection of cuts and photo-graphs for use in school. These should be mounted on cardboard and indexed, so that they may be easily found when needed.

When there is a school lantern, full use should be made of it. In this way the teacher is furnished with an opportunity to draw out his pupils and to supplement the text-book with such information as is relevant to the subject and adapted to the class.


The stereoscopic view has an advantage over the ordinary picture in that it represents objects as having three dimensions, instead of showing merely a flat surface, as in a picture or diagram. As a result, objects are made to appear before the eye as they are, with all their wealth of detail, and the observer is given the impression that he is looking at a real scene. The advantages of the use of the stereoscope in the school-room are evident. The pictures are inexpensive and are easily obtained.


In addition to the field study of home geography, there should be school excursions to places of interest beyond the immediate neighbourhood of the school, such as quarries, mills, dairy farms, mines, factories, and lumber camps. These put fresh life and new meaning into the subjects treated of in 'the text-book. Like all out-of-door geography, they give to the pupil the necessary first-hand knowledge which results from the learner's being brought face to face with the thing to be studied.

Open-air instruction is, however, attended with many difficulties, arising partly from the fact that children, when out-of-doors, are accustomed to entire freedom and not to orderly study, and partly from the large number in the class, which compels the teacher to give his attention to only a few individuals at a time.

The population and area of countries or cities, the amount of commerce carried on, the value of the productions of a country, are not to be committed to memory; but at times it is of great service to know the proportion one thing bears to another, This can be shown to best advantage by graphic illustrations, using lines, squares, or circles. Thus if a line a foot long is taken to represent the average height of the interior plateau of British Columbia, it will require one three and a half feet long to represent the average height of Bolivia, one four feet long to represent the elevation of Tibet, and one seven inches long to represent the average height of Switzerland. By means of a graphic illustration, it is easy to show that South America is just a little less than twice as large as Canada, and that Africa is a little more than three times as large.


"The most frequent form of map work employed in the lower grades is some form of map modelling, either in sand, clay, or paper pulp. A few years ago such work was more common than it is now, and the sand-table was an essential part of the equipment of any well-ordered school-room. Map modelling is capable of producing excellent results in the hands of a qualified teacher, but in the hands of one less experienced is likely to be very bad, both in character and in the results that pupils secure. In order to be effective, one very constant and serious danger must be guarded against—and that is the danger that pupils will visualize the models of large areas, of which the vertical scale must be seriously exaggerated, and that they will think that the region depicted actually looks like their model.

Practically no models can be made without vertical exaggeration of scale, which means over-steepened slopes, over-rugged profiles, and impossible landscapes. Even the skilfully made relief models and maps furnished by publishers have to be used with great caution in this regard. How much more carefully must the models made by inexpert pupils be used, to prevent erroneous ideas that only long and hard study will correct as the years go on. Better a blank mind than one full of wrong impressions, is the verdict of any teacher in the upper grades. Unlearning is harder for both pupil and teacher than learning. . .

"The best way to introduce this work is to model the area to be seen in the local landscape. By comparing the slopes of the model with the slopes in nature, pupils may be led to see how far from the truth their product is, and therefore how much more erroneous must be the model of any larger areas.

" The first modelling should be to show general relations and not to attempt to show a given region. Let children represent flat land, gentle slopes, strong slopes, and very rugged regions, and judge their products with care. Then let them model the region within their visible landscape and compare the slopes of this model with the slopes they have previously made. Let them see whether they have shown what they know to be gentle slopes as gentle slopes, or, as will more probably be the result, in a very much exaggerated way. Thus, by successive steps, one can lead up to the models of larger areas which show general relations only and do not pre-tend to show exact conditions. A model, or a relief map, of North America, for instance, that shows general relations, may be made the basis or even the climax of some effective work, but similar products which seem to indicate that the section considered is really pictured are dangerous monstrosities that should be avoided with diligence and forethought.

" Map modelling has its place as an effective means of teaching, but its place is more secure with older than with younger pupils. This form of expression must always be used with caution and should not be employed by the follower of a book or a method who himself has no natural ability for doing this work."

Dodge and Kirchwey: The Teaching of Geography in Elementary Schools. Rand, McNally & Company.


The sand-table is merely a shallow tray, or box, of any convenient dimensions set on a table. The desired geographical form is moulded in sand. The sand-table is of use in furnishing the pupils with a means of expressing their ideas of the ordinary physical features of the neighbourhood. Instead of having the pupils tell about these or write about them, they may be modelled in sand. It may also be used sparingly to illustrate those geographical features of which there are no examples in the vicinity. These cannot be studied as home geography, but models of them may be made in the sand-table.


Collections of minerals, of productions of foreign lands, and of the implements and dress of different peoples, are of great interest to pupils and are of value in giving concrete expression to what otherwise could be expressed only in words. Pupils should be encouraged to visit museums, and geographical, botanical, and zoological gardens whenever possible.

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