Updated: Jan 27, 2022
Object Lessons - The Rabbit
Gerrie told us ....
I was reading the Log Book of the Chard Municipal Girls Board School a few months ago and was intrigued by several mentions of a pupil teacher giving a class an "Object Lesson" with the Head Mistress, Elizabeth Parkenson, observing. The lessons were on random subjects, ranging from 'The Camel', to 'Making the Bed' and it puzzled me what they could teach the children.
A few weeks later we were donated a collection of Victorian education books and one of these was Evans's Object Lessons, Price 2s. The book contains 60 lesson plans for a teacher to follow, together with a list of props needed to illustrate each subject. These could be quite short, for example, for 'The Windmill', you would need a picture of a windmill, a drawing of sails and some grains of wheat. However, for 'Brushes', you would need different kinds of brushes, a brush showing how the bristles are attached at the back, cocoanut fibre, strips of whalebone, and wire.
My favourite Object lesson is, however, 'The Rabbit' because it shows how attitudes have changed since the book was written and it's not very politically correct for the modern era. I have reproduced the lesson plan although it is slightly abbreviated.
1. What is the name of the little animal shown on this picture (Rabbit) Who has seen one? Where? Who can see one now? Which way shall I catch hold of him when I lift him up? (By the ears). The live rabbit is then used to show the different parts of his body and their uses. What is the rabbit covered with? (Fur). Now look at the legs, how many are there? (Four). Are they all the same in appearance? In what way are they different? (Two short and two long).
Author’s Note - at this point, you must remember that the rabbit is still being held up by his ears in front of the class!
2. What is the shape of the rabbit's face? (nearly oval). Where are the ears (top of the head). What kind of ears are they? (long). - Pointing to the eyes) - What are these at the side of the head? (eyes). Why are they here? (to allow the animal to see nearly all the way around). Now look at the rabbits lips, what do you see? (Upper lip has a slit in it). Of what use is the cut lip to the rabbit? (The lip can be moved and so escape being cut when gnawing hard food). What must a rabbit have to gnaw with? (Very sharp teeth). How are rabbits always able to gnaw hard things? (Their teeth continue to grow as long as the animal is alive).
3. Tame rabbits are kept in a hutch. The wild rabbit has its home in the ground and lives on farmers crops. When they see or hear anyone coming where do they go? (In holes in the ground). When large numbers of rabbits live near each other, what are their burrows called? (A warren). Why does the rabbit make its home in the fields? (To be near its food). What does it eat? (barley, oats, grass, clover, turnips and other roots). To whom do these things belong? (The farmer).
Author’s Note - the last questions and answers would not be considered acceptable in this day and age for five to nine year olds, but they do highlight a matter-of-fact attitude to country life in the late 1800s.
4. The rabbit provides sport for men; its flesh is used for food, and its fur for different articles of clothing. By eating the farmer's crops what do rabbits cause? (Great damage and loss). How does the farmer try to prevent this? (By shooting them). What time of year does he choose for this? (Winter). What does he take with him? (Gun). What else? (Dog, ferret) What is the work of the dog? (To fetch the rabbit after the farmer has shot it). What do the rabbits do when they hear the firing of the gun? (Run to their holes). How are they sometimes driven from these places? (Ferrets enter the holes and make the rabbits run out). What happens then? (they are shot). Of what use are they when dead? (Their flesh is used for food). What is done with the skin? (Used for lining cloaks, and making tippets, muffs, caps etc).
Author’s Note - a tippet is a long piece of fur that is draped over the shoulders and a muff is a roll of fur that you can put both hands in.
Just a little snippet to add to this, a train ran from Chard to London once a week, during World War 2. It was full of rabbits for sale! So, rabbits were still fair game then!