I N this fourth and last volume of these outdoor books I have taken you into the summer fields and, shall I hope? left you there. After all, what better thing could I do? And as I leave you there, let me say one last serious word concerning the purpose of such books as these and the large subject of nature-study in general.
I believe that a child's interest in outdoor life is a kind of hunger, as natural as his interest in bread and butter. He cannot live on bread and butter alone, but he ought not to try to live without them. He cannot be educated on nature-study alone, but he ought not to be educated without it. To learn to obey and reason and feel—these are the triple ends of education, and the greatest of these is to learn to feel. The teacher's word for obedience; the arithmetic for reasoning; and for feeling, for the cultivation of the imagination, for the power to respond quickly and deeply, give the child the out-of-doors.
"If I could teach my Rugby boys but one thing," said Dr. Arnold, "that one thing should be poetry." Why? Because poetry draws out the imagination, quickens and refines and deepens the emotions. The first great source of poetry is Nature. Give the child poetry; and give him the inspiration of the poem, the teacher of the poet—give him Nature. Make a poet of the child, who is already a poet born.
How can so essential, so fundamental a need become a mere fad of education? A child wants first to eat, then to play, then he wants to know—particularly he wants to know the animals. And he does know an elephant from a kangaroo long before he knows a Lincoln from a Napoleon; just so he wants to go to the woods long before he asks to visit a library.
The study of the ant in the school-yard walk, the leaves on the school-yard trees, the clouds over the school-house roof, the sights, sounds, odors coming in at the school-room windows, these are essential studies for art and letters, to say nothing of life.
And this is the way serious men and women think about it. Captain Scott, dying in the Antarctic snows, wrote in his last letter to his wife: "Make our boy interested in natural history if you can. It is better than games. Keep him in the open air."
I hope that these four volumes may help to interest you in natural history, that they may be the means of taking you into the open air of the fields many times the seasons through.
Mullein Hill, February, 1914.