Inspired by the Winter Olympics and the dusting of snow at home this morning (now replaced by lots of rain), I had a look through the photograph scrapbooks and found these two photographs of the Junior House outing to go sledging at Terrington in 1981.
The physics laboratory at Bootham is 100 years old this week, if you go by the official opening date. It was opened on 27th January 1914 by Professor Silvanus Thompson, a well-known physicist who went to Bootham between 1858 and 1867, and was science master between 1870 and 1875 – look for the blue plaque on Bootham. According to the account in ‘Bootham’ magazine (Vol VI, March 1914), when the building was declared open, it was “received with loud and prolonged cheering by the pupils.”
Silvanus Thompson went on to make a speech on ‘The Place of Science Teaching in Schools’ which was reported in ‘Bootham’. With all the debate about curriculums now, it’s interesting to see a perspective on what should be taught, and why, from a hundred years ago.
Here are some of his points about what should be included in the curriculum:
- “Chemistry, because a little knowledge of it would save them from many absurdities of thought.
- An intelligent understanding of the principles on which machinery was constructed and on which it operated. He had no doubt that a considerable percentage of the boys in Bootham School would in the future, as they had done in the past, enter into industrial life where machinery was used.
- A fair grounding in physics, which dealt in detail with the properties of matter. There was a vast difference between the lives of the people in the age before steam engines and steam boats were introduced.
- Astronomy…would give them a sense of the proportion of things.
- Geology was a thing they might study with great advantage, without going outside their own country.
- A study of human physiology might not solve the problems of life, but it was useful so far as the great laws of health were concerned.
- By a careful study of the sciences they got training in measurement and accuracy which could not be got in any other way.
- Classification and verification were necessary in everything, and science would teach them that.
- As well as science, they should learn history – he did not mean the learning of dates, and the accounts of battles of great generals and admirals. There had been too much of the beating of the big drum in the past. What he meant by history was a true account of the progress of the human race.
- In addition they could not separate history from economics, for economics was the experience of the past classification.
- It was also necessary to learn geography.
- Mathematics must not be overlooked.
- With regard to languages, they should above all learn some language which was not too closely akin to their own, and he believed educationally the best language to learn would be Greek.
- In conclusion, the speaker said they should in addition to all those things he had enumerated cultivate their hobbies, for they were well worth cultivating.”
It’s lovely to work with the Rowntree Society on an event they are organising for York Residents’ Festival this weekend (25th to 26th January 2014). There will be lots of Rowntree activities for all ages including finding out how quickly you can pack a box of chocolates! The Rowntree family were closely linked to Bootham School, and you can find out more about Quaker education in the exhibition. The event is in the Recital Room (entrance through 45 Bootham) and is open from 10am until 4pm on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th January. Check the Rowntree Society website for more details.
Term has finished, with all the Christmas events the end of term brings, this year’s ‘Bootham’ magazine has just been posted, and the school is quiet. From my office I can hear the Minster clock chime. So it seems appropriate to end this Christmas series with a drawing of ‘The Christmas Bells’ from the ‘Extra Christmas Number’ of The Observer from 1873.
The editor finishes his introduction to the issue by “wishing Contributors, Artists, Poets and Readers
A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
20 Bootham, December 11th 1873”
140 years later, I would like to send the same wishes to everyone reading this.
- The Observer, Vol XII, p735. The image is signed SPT, almost certainly Silvanus Philips Thompson, who was a pupil at Bootham School between 1858 and 1867, and taught at the school between 1870 and 1875. He went on to become a well known physicist and there is a blue plaque with his name on Bootham.
- 20 Bootham was later renumbered as 51 Bootham.
“Is not the robin always brought with pleasant recollections to our minds when we think about the legend of the little children who lost themselves in the wood, I think I am justified in saying that he is.”
So Bernard B. Alexander starts his essay about robins in the 1866 edition of The Observer. Thanks to Jenny Bailey, the past Head of English and Senior Mistress, for identifying the legend as ‘Babes in the Wood’, where a robin covers the two children with leaves.
After the brief reference to legend, Bernard’s essay goes on to describe the robin in enormous detail, including their behaviour, where they live and so on. There is more than a page about their “pugnacity”, and Bernard talks about experiments that he’d heard of involving a robin’s reaction to a toy robin in the window.
Natural History has a strong tradition at Bootham, and the Natural History Society was established in 1834. The essays in The Observer, the Natural History Journal (which was made up of contributions from all the Quaker schools in England and Ireland) and the other records of the society show that an enormous amount of time, energy and care went into observing and recording the world around them.
- Vol. VII, p153-65. The essay was written by Bernard B. Alexander, who was at Bootham School between 1862 and 1866.
- For more on Bootham School’s Natural History Society, see http://www.boothamschool.com/senior-school/about-bootham/school-history/natural-history-society/ or the book Natural History at Bootham: the early years (contact me if you would like more details).
I’ve thought for a while that one of the marks of being ‘grown up’ is whether or not you get excited by snow. Last winter I had to concede that I might be grown up, as I checked the forecasts, got very cold scraping ice off the car, and worried about slipping over.
As the season for cold weather arrives again, it seems appropriate to start a series of extracts from the Observer with illustrations and words from ‘Skating and Sliding’, from November 1865, in which John W. Procter describes what happened when the weather got cold enough.
“The first time that we had occasion to put on our skates this year, occurred about the 20th of Jan, when we had sufficient frost to make it worthwhile ‘pouring down’ for skating and sliding.
Accordingly leave was applied for by some of our most energetic and skilful companions and being kindly granted the asphalt was covered for skating and a slide was made from the fives court down to the bottom of the playground, out of which we had a good deal of pleasure as well as many rolls and tumbles.
We also had some pleasant skating, though the primary foundation of the skating ground being composed of asphalt instead of water which necessarily made it rather rough and as there are always a great many performers, and not too much space to perform in, before very long it got worn through in some places and stones and other ‘tripups’ appeared in abundance, which of course, caused further skating not to be salutary either with respect to ourselves or our skates.”
- The Observer features handwritten essays by Bootham students on a wide range of subjects. It ran from 1856 to 1963, and many of the essays include beautiful illustrations.
- The essay is in Vol VI, Number 18, 1865, p329-340. The author was John W. Procter, who was at Bootham between 1862 and 1866. According to the 1935 Bootham School Register, he went on to become an agricultural merchant and chemical manure manufacturer.
- The essay goes on to talk about how they looked for other places to skate. They were not allowed by skate at the new skating ground at Heworth, which was owned by the skating club, but were able to skate at Strensall Common.
- The essay includes a cautionary tale about the dangers of skating on frozen ponds, thankfully apparently no one was seriously injured or killed. I should point out that the passage should be read with a ‘don’t try this at home (or in the playground)’ warning!