Preparation Branch of the Rensselaer School, 1826

Recently established at RENSSELAER SCHOOL.

From a respect for the frequent solicitations of many gentleman in the Southern States, and some in the Northern, and from the desire expressed by the patron, to see the results of an extension of his plan, a preparation branch was this day established at this school, to go into operation on the third Wednesday of November.
The following is an outline of the Plan.

1.  The original method of instruction which has produced such unexpected results, called the Rensselaeran method, will be extended to this branch ; to wit, that of exercising the student, on the forenoon of each day, by causing him to give an extemporaneous dissertation or lecture on the subject of his course, from concise written memoranda ; and to spend the afternoon in scholastic amusements.
2.  The circle of instruction is divided into five parts ; and to each part is attached a course of summer and winter afternoon amusements.  The following order will be observed in the fall and winter terms.  In the spring term it will be inverted.
First Division.  BOTANY AND ETYMOLOGY.  (The latter branch will extend to so much knowledge of the Latin, Greek, and French languages, as will enable the student to trace scientific terms to their themes which are derived from those languages.)  AMUSEMENTS.  For summer.  Collecting and preserving minerals, plants and insects.  For winter none, as this division will not be studied in the winter.
Second Division.  GEOGRAPHY AND HISTORY.  AMUSEMENTS.  For summer.  Selecting specimens for illustrating the physiology of vegetation, and examining them under the common and the solar, microscopes, and making drawings of their internal structure.  For winter.  Each making a globe of plaster of Paris, and drawing the chief subjects of geography upon it.
Third Division.  Elements of PRACTICAL MATHEMATICS and of MORAL PHILOSOPHY.  AMUSEMENTS.  For summer.  Land-surveying, taking the latitude, and performing simple hydraulic (?) experiments.  For winter.  Making and using a set of mechanical powers, exercises in percussion with suspended balls (?), gauging, measuring cordwood and timber.
Fourth Division.  LOGIC AND RHETORIC.  AMUSEMENTS.  For summer.  Experimenting upon the most common gases, as oxygen (obtained from vegetables by the action of light) nitrogen, hydrogen, carbonic acid (with its combination in soda water) testing their specific gravities, &c. and experimenting upon aqueous exhalations – all to be performed with apparatus disengaging combined caloric by compression and affinity.
Fifth Division.  Elementary principles of GOVERNMENT AND LAW, and PARLIAMENTARY RULES.  AMUSEMENTS.  For spring and fall.  Constructing dials, fixing meridians, constructing and using air-thermometers and hygrometers, taking specific gravities, using the blow-pipe and constructing the three elementary musical chords to illustrate the science of tones.  For winter.  Making camera-obscura boxes ; producing focal images by a pair of burning glasses and ice lenses, and vessels of water, and separating the coloured rays by ice cut into triangular prisms.
Candidates are admitted to the preparation branch, who are deemed of sufficient discretion for going through the course, provided they have been successfully taught in reading, writing, common arithmetic and English grammar.  The Faculty of Rensselaer School are to judge upon their qualifications ; but the Trustees have, in the second article of the by-laws of this branch, expressed an opinion that “the age of thirteen or fourteen years and upwards, is best adapted to this course.”
EXPENSES.  Tuition $1  50 cents for every three weeks, which constitutes a step in the circle.  Students may enter either step in the circle at the commencement of every three weeks reckoning from the beginning of each term.  The terms (?) of this branch, correspond with the other terms of the school.  Board, in commons with the other students, never (?) exceed $1  50 per week.  Rooms will be furnished at or near the school, to be under the inspection and controul of the faculty (?), at a small expense.  No charge is made for the use of public rooms, library, chemical and philosophical apparatus (?) tools of the workshop, or the cabinet.  And each student will attend the daily lectures of the Professors, free of charges.  (?) student of strict prudence, may pay all his expenses for the 45 weeks in each year, at this branch, with $120, as follows : Tuition $21 : board $63 : fuel and lights $10 : washing and lodging $10 : text books $6 : amusement apparatus $10.
As this circular may fall into the hands of some, who have not read the new code of by-laws, passed April 3d, 1826, and the legislative act of incorporation, passed March 21st, 1826 it may be advisable to state as follows:
The Rensselaer School was founded by the Honorable Stephen Van Rensselaer, solely for the purpose of affording an opportunity to the farmer, the mechanic, the clergyman, the lawyer, the physician, the merchant, and in short, to the man of business or of leisure, of any calling whatever, to (?) practically scientific.  Though the branches which are not taught here, are held in high estimation, it is believed (?) school attempting every thing makes proficient in nothing.  The Rensselaer School, therefore, is limited to an EXPERIMENTAL course in the NATURAL SCIENCES.  The studies of the preparation branch are extended no farther than is necessary, as auxiliaries to the experimental course.
The FALL TERM commences on the third Wednesday in July, and continues 15 weeks.
The WINTER TERM commences on the third Wednesday in November, and continues 12 weeks.
The SPRING TERM commences on the first Wednesday in March, and continues until the last Wednesday in June ; which is the day of annual commencement.
EXPENSES.      All the same in the preparation branch, with the addition of double the charge for tuition in the fall and spring terms, on account of the great amount of additional labor required for teaching the student to perform with his own hands about sixteen hundred experiments in chemistry and natural philosophy.  But students who have gone through a course in the preparation branch with success, will not be required to attend the winter term.  This will reduce the necessary expenses to about $95 for the whole experimental course.
Many unsuccessful attempts have been made to render science amusing to the youthful mind.  They have generally proved very unprofitable, by diverting the attention of the student from literary pursuits, and by creating an attachment to useless, and often demoralizing sports.  By the plan adopted at this school, the objections to scholastic amusements are effectually obviated ; and it will appear by this circular, that those have been selected, which will give due exercise to both body and mind.  The muscular powers of the body will be called into action, and their forces will be directed by the mental ingenuity, until the student becomes familiar with the most important scientific manipulations, and particularly with those which will be most useful in the common concerns of life.
The Rensselaerean scheme for communicating scientific knowledge had never been attempted on either continent until it was instituted at this school, two years ago.  Many indeed mistook it, at first, for Fellenberg’s method ; but its great superiority has now been satisfactorily tested by its effects.  As the experimental school, as well as the preparation branch, were founded solely for the public benefit by its disinterested patron, it is the particular desire of the trustees, that its excellences should be understood and imitated at other schools, as set forth in a former circular.  Like other useful inventions, much expense was required for making the first experiment.  Fortunately for science, the trial has been fairly made at the expense of many thousands, advances by a single individual.  Now it may be followed, in its chief advantages, by every school district ; while the parent school at Troy will prepare competent teachers.

By order of the Trustees.
Rensselaer School, Troy, (N. Y.) Sept. 14, 1826.    SAMUEL BLATCHFORD, President.
Hon. Stephen Van Rensselaer, with the power to appoint all Examiners.
Surveyor Gen. S. De Witt and Prof. T. R. Beck, of Albany-Hon. J. D. Dickinson and Hon. R. P. Hart, of Troy-Rev. Dr. Blatchford and E. Parmelee, Esquire, of Lansingburgh-Hon. G. Van Schoonhoven and Hon. J. Cramer, of Waterford.
Rev. S. Blanchford, President,-A. Eaton, Sen. Prof.-L. C. Beck, Jun. Prof.
Dr. Moses Hale, Sec’ry.-Mr. H.N. Lockwood, Treas.-T. Dwight Eaton, Moniter and Librarian,-Asahel Gilbert, Steward,-Cyrus A. Lockwood, Esquire, Acting Steward.

Back to top