Heed valuable advice
These two contrasting books make equally valuable contributions to the primary teacher's bookshelf. One offers a challenging and sometimes disturbing critique of what often passes for geography in the junior school classroom and then discusses how the subject can be successfully implemented. The other provides a highly readable and accessible account of environmental science in the primary curriculum.
Bill Chambers and Karl Donert identify several key issues as a prelude to interpreting and implementing the national curriculum and finally provide realistic guidance on the role of IT in geography. The book ends with a series of supplementary materials, some potentially terrifying, in which copiable planning and audit matrices furnish check lists for self-diagnosis on how successful your geography curriculum planning has been and how well you may satisfy the Office for Standards in Education.
The key issues defined in the first section are not the expected ones of pollution and town planning, but include fieldwork, the threat posed by an over-reliance on worksheets, special educational needs and the pivotal role of OFSTED. The authors cleverly identify quotes from reports and other authorities to highlight, for example, what they regard as the danger of topic work detracting from place as the central concern of geography, and they are not averse to criticising fellow members of the Geographical Association. But they offer sound advice across a wide range of curriculum issues, especially those which many find perplexing, such as enquiry, progression, differentiation and assessment.
Don Plimmer, Eric Parkinson and Kevin Carlton by contrast have produced a guide that introduces the non-specialist primary teacher to the scientific basis of the environmental debate. They state intelligibly and accurately the principles underlying the science of ecology and the implications for education and lifestyles of the major environmental issues which are often in the news but not so well understood.
Farming, food supplies, population growth, conservation, technology, pollution and waste are among the many topics chosen for careful discussion. From time to time references are made to classroom experience and possible issues to be pursued with pupils, as well as practical suggestions for tree planting and some experiments, but the book mainly addresses the teacher's own understanding.
The final chapter, while dealing with pessimistic and optimistic scenarios for the future, touches on the work of the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, but does not take this forward in the context of Local Agenda 21, which is increasingly occupying attention at local government level as well as in the classroom. But this is a minor quibble. The book is thoroughly readable, not only for primary teachers and students, but also for a wider public.