Fruitful case studies
THEMES AND ISSUES: National Parks in the UK. By Sheryl Owens and Jonathan Green. Stanley Thornes Pounds 6.99.
THE UK amp; EUROPE. By David Waugh. Questions compiled by Tony Bushell. Nelson Pounds 10.50
From Britain's national parks to the forests of Brazil: Patrick Bailey reviews geography GCSE publications.
Up-to-date case studies are the stuff of stimulating geography courses and a powerful aid to high achievement in exams. The Developing World contains 32 such studies, drawn mainly from Brazil, the Indian sub-continent and Namibia, with additional examples from the Caribbean, Mexico, Rwanda and Hong Kong. This volume follows two already published, The United Kingdom and Europe, and is to be followed in 1998 by one focusing on China and Japan.
All the volumes are pitched at a uniform level and designed to be used with key stage 3 and GCSE courses at appropriate points.
Development is hard to define, but the book begins by attempting to do so,suggesting at the same time that, because the world is interdependent, levels of development and relative wealth and poverty impinge on one another in a multitude of ways.
Short profiles of Brazil, India and Namibia are followed by the thematic case studies, each of two pages and drawn from the three exemplar countries. The studies deal with a full range of physical and human topics including natural hazards, farming, irrigation, power generation schemes, mineral extraction, demography and population movements.
Also covered are aspects of the urban-industrial world, including mass tourism. Trade, aid and future development are discussed in an extension section. Each study contains excellent statistical and illustrative materials and questions to consider. The material is high-powered, clear and expertly crafted for classroom use.
Only occasionally does the two-page format cramp a study, as in the example of Caribbean banana production, where nothing is said about the highly sophisticated storage and distribution operation carried out by firms such as Fyffes in Britain to place the bananas on supermarket shelves just when they are ready to eat.
Britain's national parks are uniquely interesting because they seek to conserve inhabited landscapes as socio-economic going concerns. This contrasts with, say, parks in Spain, where the conservation of natural landscapes is the prime concern. The British approach is infinitely harder to manage - it gives rise to a wealth of people-and-environment relationships which make excellent geographical teaching material.
National Parks in the UK is a GCSE support book which samples the possibilities in an imaginative and wide-ranging way through 14 case-studies. The studies are prefaced by a general discussion of the characteristics of national parks. They are drawn from all 11 national parks, with additional material from the New Forest and Loch Lomond. Each study includes a substantial text and useful illustrations and statistics. There are also role-plays, simulation exercises and suggestions for fieldwork. Topics discussed include farming and mineral extraction, reservoirs and power generation, industrial location in national parks and the impact of mass tourism. A useful glossary and index add value to the whole book.
Case studies also feature prominently in The UK amp; Europe, a high-quality GCSE core text which, in timely fashion, treats Britain as part of Europe. The book covers the requirements of both GCSE and Scottish Standard Grade examinations through a sequence of all-Europe sections. Each section is splendidly illustrated and packed with maps, diagrams and statistical material as well as the case studies. Questions are then added in GCSE format, which serve as an excellent revision guide and exam practice resource.
Teachers can use the book on its own or (if they can afford it) with others, and can readily substitute their own materials. The clear and direct style and attractive layout make it ideal for homework-setting and individual study. It would also be a powerful aid to parental education, showing how interesting and useful today's geography is.
The construction is conventional. The book begins with aspects of the natural world, then relates these to human responses and activities. The second half focuses more directly on human themes, such as farming, industry, urban growth and tourism, but links these back to physical geography at every stage.
Altogether, this is a notable addition to GCSE texts, and one which presents modern geography as an important and dynamic subject, relevant to the concerns of modern life.
Patrick Bailey is a senior teacher at the University of Loughborough