The nature study movement was deeply rooted in the American enthusiasm for the natural sciences and was spurred by a deepening commitment to education for all children. The nature study outlook attracted a wide range of supporters critical of contemporary methods and curricula in the public schools who wanted change to start with the elementary and grammar grades. This chapter provides an account of the circumstances that brought the idea of nature study into prominence, some of the key advocates who framed its fundamental principles, the complicated threads of preparation by teachers and supervisors who implemented it, and the multiple ways in which the concept continued to resound long after the term had receded from school usage. Nature study evoked multiple possibilities in part because it attracted such a wide range of participants. Reforming educational philosophers, several of them trained in German psychology, saw in its use of familiar materials a potential for the child-centered curriculum that took the developmental stage of the child into consideration. Nature study illustrates the complex relationship between local control and national movements within American education. Nature study education, though provided to children, reflected and directed concerns in the larger community.
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