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Experiment kits and instruction manuals around 1900 - continued...

School experiments

In the last three decades of the Nineteenth century, experimental study of science in schools became increasingly important. The "Allgemeine Bestimmungen" [general regulations] of 1872 in Prussia were the first provisions to promote experimental science as a standard component of practical instruction in "Volksschulen" [common elementary schools]. This practice was particularly embraced in the "Gymnasien" [college preparatory schools] where the reform of 1882 expanded instruction in the natural sciences and mathematics while scaling down instruction in the ancient languages, orienting curricula along the lines of those in the "Realschulen" [secondary schools] with a focus on the natural sciences. Official orders demanded that the classrooms be equipped with apparatus and teaching aids; furthermore, instructions were published on how to conduct experiments and construct devices (Frick 1872).

This development applied mainly to physics and chemistry, however as the natural sciences continued to gain recognition in schools, especially in the reformed curricula developed after the turn of the century, other types of experiments, for example physiological experiments were carried out as well. Dead matter for use in identification exercises and microscopic investigations was provided by companies selling natural produce and teaching material. However, because few lecturers were familiarized with physiological experiments over the course of their education and because teachers are reported to have experienced "a much high number of failures" than with chemical and physical tests, instruction in physiology was mostly limited to theoretical descriptions (Höller 1908, 388). In 1913 and 1914, Carl Schäffer and Ludwig Spilger attempted to bridge this gap with Instructions on the independent study of living phenomena for young naturalists [Anleitung zum selbsttätigen Studium der Lebenserscheinungen für jugendliche Naturfreunde] and a Biological Experiment Kit [Biologischer Experimentierkasten] (Schäffer 1913; Spilger 1914), but it was not until the 1920's that biology courses became a standard part of the advanced classes of secondary education.

Reference: Beek, Viola van. 2009. Experimental spaces outside the laboratory - Experiment kits and instruction manuals around 1900. The Virtual Laboratory (ISSN 1866-4784), http://vlp.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/references?id=art73&page=p0002