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[teacherartexchange] sketchbooks and observations


From: Sears, Ellen (ELLEN.SEARS_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Fri Aug 10 2007 - 07:53:02 PDT

'Connect' is a publication that comes out 5 times a year - math, science
and tech. The September/October issue in 2006 covered the basic skill
of observation. I know art teachers are constantly trying to tie into
other subject areas for admin.

Here is the site:

I couldn't open the archives link but included in one of the articles is
this story of the story of Louis Agassiz - could make a great bulletin
"a pencil is the best of eyes"

Louis Agassiz, Naturalist and Teacher

Some of the mystery of good teaching is illuminated in the following
story told by a former student of the great nineteenth century
naturalist, Louis Agassiz:

The tale runs that a new student presented himself to Agassiz one day,
asking to be set to work. The naturalist took a fish from a jar in which
it had been preserved, and laying it before the young student, bade him
observe it carefully, and be ready to report on what he had noticed
about the fish. There was nothing especially interesting about that fish
- it was like many other fish he had seen before. He noticed that it had
fins and scales and a mouth and eyes, yes, and a tail. In a half-hour he
felt certain that he had observed all about the fish that there was to
be perceived. But the naturalist remained away.
Time passed and the young man having nothing else to do began to grow
restless and weary. He started out to hunt up the teacher, but he failed
to find him, and so he had to return and gaze again at that wearisome
fish. Another hour passed and he knew little more about the fish than he
did in the first place. He went out to lunch, and when he returned it
was still a case of watching the fish. He felt disgusted and wished he
had never come to Agassiz, who, it seemed, was a stupid old man after
all. Then, in order to kill time, he began to count the scales. This
completed, he counted the spines of the fins. Then he began to draw a
picture of the fish. In drawing the picture he noticed that the fish had
no eyelids. He thus made the discovery as his teacher had expressed it
often in lectures, "a pencil is the best of eyes."

Shortly after Agassiz returned, and after ascertaining what the young
man had observed, he left rather disappointed, telling him to keep on
looking and maybe he would see something. This put the boy on his
mettle, and he began to work with his pencil, putting down little
details that had escaped him before, but which now seemed very plain to
him. He began to catch the secret of observation. Little by little he
brought to light objects of interest about the fish. But this did not
satisfy Agassiz, who kept him at work on the same fish for three whole
days. At the end of that time the student really knew something about
the fish, and better than all, had acquired the "knack" and habit of
careful observation . . .

Years later, the student then attained to eminence, wrote, "That was the
best zoological lesson I ever had - a lesson whose influence has
extended to the details of every subsequent study; a legacy that the
teacher left to me, as he left to many others, of inestimable value,
which we could not buy, and with which we cannot part."
Roberto Assagioli, The Act of Will, New York: Viking, 1973, pp. 25-26


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