Getting the measure of the weather

18th June 2004 at 01:00
Stephen Scoffham looks at materials offering practical and imaginative approaches to learning across the age range

Badger Geography Key Stage 1 pack

Christine Moorcroft

Badger Publishing, pound;94.21

River Street School: The World In Our Street, Diversity and Inclusion Team Manchester City Council, pound;25 + additional licences, pound;1 each or free to Manchester Schools.

Tel: 0161 273 4232

Email: emas@notes.

Kestrel 4000 Pocket Weather Tracker

pound;335+VAT from Advisory Unit for Computers in Education, 126 Great North Road, Hatfield, Herts AL9 5JZ

Tel: 01707 266714

A complete geography course from reception to Year 2 is provided by The Badger Geography Key Stage 1 pack. Structured directly around the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority schemes of work, it contains one lesson a week.

There are three teachers' books, each with copymasters (one for each year group) and a linked set of 15 full-colour A2 posters. Further titles in this series are due to appear shortlyfor KS2.

There is much to recommend this course. The layout is clear and simple.

Each lesson is divided into a focused discussion, advice on how to use the copymasters and posters, a summary, outcomes and ideas for extension. There is also a valuable list of key words. The text is direct and gives enough advice without over-burdening the reader with details. The QCA schemes of work are not followed slavishly. There are lots of imaginative ideas and teachers are encouraged, among other things, to take their own photographs, invite visitors into the class, make use of relevant story books, atlases, CD-Roms and websites.

Indeed, good preparation will be essential if these books are to be used effectively. Over the past few years, publishers have concentrated nearly all their efforts on the core subjects and the primary strategies. Badger is to be congratulated for bucking this trend and producing a course that is affordable and full of good ideas, and succeeds in meeting the needs of non-specialist teachers.

The River Street School CD-Rom is intended for use by KS23 English as an additional language learners. Devised by the Manchester diversity and inclusion team, it introduces pupils to some of the language, concepts and skills required by the geography curriculum.

The programme begins with an introduction to an imaginary settlement, Millfield. This is followed by some simple map-work exercises.

A cast of children who live in the local streets then introduces us to their relatives in other parts of the globe. Finally, the links between Millfield and the wider world are explored through a study of goods and trade.

This is a calm and well-structured programme and its strength lies in its simplicity. From a geographical point of view the map-work exercises might not be the most imaginative, but they succeed in setting the scene.

It gains depth as the global links are introduced. The voices of the various characters, slowly articulating simple sentences, have a surprisingly haunting quality. There is no doubt that the material has been devised with both inclusion and diversity in mind.

This CD-Rom represents good value for money. It is clearly not a lavish production and suffers from appearing amateurish in places. However, the underlying principles are sound. At a time of increasing division and polarisation of communities, materials of this kind are welcome.

The Kestrel 4000 Pocket Weather Tracker is a neat piece of equipment which records a wide range of weather data. It measures temperature, wind speed, altitude and atmospheric pressure, as well as more technical information such as the dew point and wind-chill factors.

The simplest way of using the device is to display current readings and to scroll through the different categories. However, the tracker can also store data from up to 250 manual inputs or take automatic readings at set intervals. These can be displayed either as maximum, minimum and average figures or graphically as a chart. Once data has been recorded it can be downloaded on to a computer and analysed using an Excel spreadsheet. This makes it possible to look for correlations between variables such as temperature and wind speed, altitude or air pressure.

While it is important that children learn how to take measurements using traditional equipment, the tracker has clear applications for geography, science and other subjects from upper juniors onwards.

It might be especially valuable on fieldwork trips and advanced studies in the local area. For schools that can afford the price and want to embrace the latest technology the tracker will be a useful new resource, though reliability might be a factor to consider.

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