Names sometimes outgrow their origins. You can buy a lot more than sweaters at the Sweater Shop; it's the same at the Tie Rack. What about a penny whistle at Pounds 5.95?
Naturetrek may sometimes wish they had chosen another name for their company. Today their primary catalogue for environmental education boasts a wide range of materials under a number of theme headings. Sure, there's plenty of nature, but only a bit of trekking.
That said, the name Naturetrek does conjure up the right image: resources based on practical and lively investigations of the natural world around us. Two packs, An Amazon Rainforest Settlement and Investigating Minbeasts typify the output. They are easy to use and clearly presented. They cover interesting topics, relevant to the national curriculum. And the investment is in the contents and not the packaging.
An Amazon Rainforest Settlement looks at the Tambopata Basin, a Peruvian section of the Amazon rainforest. The pack will sit perfectly in the locality slot for key stage 2 geography. It comprises a 16-page teacher's booklet supporting a selection of stimulus colour photocards and monochrome photocopiable worksheets. The cards are all A4, robust and laminated.
Although the natural splendour of the region, the diversity of the wildlife and the intricacies of interdependence are all given exposure, it is the inhabitants of Tambopata that take centre stage in this publication. Students will be fascinated by a lifestyle that is finely tuned to its surroundings: seasons, wildlife and forest.
Investigating Minibeasts is closer to home, exploring the world of British creepy crawlies. Aimed at 6 to 9-year-olds, the pack has the same basic ingredients as An Amazon Rainforest Settlement with the addition of larger posters and a beetle domino game. The photographs are excellent and the worksheets extremely practical. The exercises work and the ideas for extension work (the insect zoo in particular!) look good.
With Naturetrek products, typified by Investigating Minibeasts, you are purchasing huge amounts of research and preparation time. These products may look easy to produce but they belie the effort and time that are prerequisite for anything of this quality. Their lack of sophistication should not be seen as a weakness. They are what the classroom needs, in a format to which students will respond.
Naturetrek are publishing for the real classroom. Their growing list is a reflection of their accurate targeting of primary materials. Let's hope they are able to flourish, like the Tambopata Basin.