In the Air, on the Ground is a pack for teachers of post-16 students created in collaboration by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), British Airways, BAA (the Airports Company) and the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF).
At first sight, these are somewhat strange bedfellows, though the pack is quick to point out that long-term survival for airlines and the industry in general depends on managing their impact on the environment in a responsible and acceptable way.
Whether or not the residents of the London borough of Hounslow, or others affected by traffic into and out of Heathrow airport, believe this to be the case is open to question. It is typical of the value of this resource that we are able to find this out.
The pack, extremely reasonably priced, consists of three written elements, the first aimed at teachers of general studies and key skills, the second at business studies and economics teachers and the third at geography teachers. Although the relevant syllabus areas are clearly defined, there is a blurring of boundaries, and specialists will find much of value in the ones not obviously aimed at them.
In addition, there are two data disks. These provide a further rich source in texts, tables and graphics, enabling students to explore issues and controversies raised in the booklets' activities.
As an industry, aviation has much t commend it for a study of this type. It is modern, both in the sense that it has only existed for 50 years or so, and in its image which remains one of glamour and adventure combined with technological progress and complexity. Furthermore, it is an increasing reality in young people's lives. For the teacher, then, generating initial interest in the subject will not be hard. In addition, because aviation does not have a particularly "green" image, presenting data that challenges such an assumption should provoke further involvement.
Ken Webster, well known for his work with WWF, deserves much credit. The activities are original and challenging, and virtually all the materials needed are supplied in the pack. They are all linked to appropriate websites in addition to the data disk, and - what I found especially attractive - there are detailed source references so that the committed can discover what education for sustainable development is all about.
If there is a drawback, it might be that there is too much information for the busy teacher to assimilate, but this is surely carping. Resources such as this, which provoke and challenge assumptions and prejudices, represent education in its purest sense and will repay any amount of time and effort spent in their exploration.
David Lines is a lecturer in business and economics education at the Institute of Education, University of London.l National business and environment scholarship scheme: What's New page 25