Go wild in class
Nigel Spring on resources to help make the most of conservation field trips.
When it comes to environmental studies, the best way to learn about the world around us and our impact on it is to get stuck into it. To feel the pull of the current in a fast-flowing stream; to touch seaweed on a rocky shore and search for animals in it; to hear the crash of waves on a rapidly eroding coastline - these are direct experiences that no CD-ROM, video, book or worksheet can hope to improve upon.
However, it is back in the classroom, refreshed and inspired, with notepads dried out, that follow-up resources become essential.
The WWF's Data Bulletin packs consist of a set of floppy disks, a clear user's guide and a teacher's handbook containing an ambitious range of suggested activities with photocopiable work sheets. The scope is impressive and the WWF's objectives of education for a better environment and the sustainable use of resources shine through.
The information is designed as a kind of pik-and-mix, not as a fixed programme of learning. For example, the wildlife section in Exploring Rivers includes references to our impact on rivers, clean water, the status of water voles, otters, freshwater animals and plants, with readings from The Wind in the Willows, and much more.
In spite of the stated intention that these programmes are also for use by pupils, the text items would seem more appropriate for teachers. The graphics are of limited value for pupils because there are few direct links with the text items.
In the interesting section on rare breeds in Exploring Farms it would be logical to have been able to click on to the graphics section and see a selection of animals. The presentation of the tabular items is confusing in places: line, pie, bar and solid graphs are options for all the data, when in fact some of these are unsuitable.
Each bulletin pack has more than 50 text items; add to these thegraphics and many tabular items, and the task of adapting thematerial for the classroom can appear initially daunting (particularly given the rather dry presentation). But time invested in what is an essential curriculum theme will be well spent.
Nigel Spring is director of the Kingcombe Centre in Dorset.