The pursuit of information in history and geography is not limited to books and maps. A motion picture may tell the story of an event more effectively. A film may bring out a geography idea more effectively than words can present it. Incidents in local history become real when related by an older resident.
Learning in the social studies, if it is to have an effect on one’s ways o£ thinking, his attitudes toward peoples, and his understanding of what is going on, must be built on what he can sense at his stage of maturity. Parents must not talk in too mature terms. Their explanations must show their appreciation o£ the hearers’ limited experience. To a child in the lower and middle grades, much of history can hardly be comprehended. But understanding will grow under guidance and cumulative experience, both direct and indirect.
A few parents look on physical education in school with some doubt. They send their children to school to learn, to get an education. To learn what? Quite reasonably they reply, “To learn to read, figure, spell, write, to get some information about geography, history, and science, and to learn to sing and draw. But physical education — that is just play, and children can play at recess and after school.”
Physical education in school uses play for purposes just as important as the school arts, but for quite different purposes. The aims are physical and social and mental. In the better schools a daily period of a half hour or more is devoted in all the grades to plays and games. If the weather is not too bad the children are out-of-doors. Otherwise they are in a playroom that takes the place of the old gymnasium. The teacher does not conduct drills. The children’s natural inclinations are usually in accord with the kinds of games that fit their stages of development. The teacher knows many such games, and she introduces them for variety. She knows also the objectives to be kept in mind and uses plays and games that contribute toward them.
Much of our body welfare depends upon the active functioning of muscles. The larger muscles of trunk and legs and arms develop earlier than the smaller muscles of feet and hands and eyes. All develop best when they are used actively and consistently. Muscular strength is important for good posture in standing and sitting and walking. The ability to write and handle small things and focus vision accurately depends on the development and co-ordination in the use of small muscles. Free play fosters the effectiveness of action of both large and small muscles. The vigorous use of the large muscles develops flexibility and agility o£ the body. Stamina and endurance depend on a well-developed heart and good lungs. Physical play should therefore be intense enough to develop them. But at stages of rapid and unbalanced growth, exercise should not be so intense as to cause undue strain and fatigue.
To be sure, play is more than action of muscles. It may be chiefly mental. But much of it is both physical and mental, especially in such games as the ball games or even the childhood play which requires mental alertness.
Whatever the nature of the play, an important benefit grows out of success. Without the satisfaction that comes from success, the desire to play wanes. Here the parents in the home and the teachers in the school have a responsibility. Even in a class the welfare of each individual is the teacher’s goal. She knows that children differ in physical skills as they vary in intellectual abilities. But she can encourage the less active child to participate, can help him to improve, and can smile her approval of his mild success. She can vary the games to give everybody a chance to get some satisfaction from playing. (Continue below to page 13)