Home and abroad

7th November 2003 at 00:00
Stephen Scoffham reviews primary resources

START-UP GEOGRAPHY SERIES. Our Local Area, Rubbish and Recycling, Journey to School, Jobs People Do, Traffic and Safety, Passport to the World. By Anna Lee. Evans pound;9.99 each (hardback)

This series of six books has been devised to support the key stage 1 schemes of work. The titles focus on different aspects of pupils' locality, environmental issues and the wider world.

The books are attractively produced with clear, informative photographs and accessible text. The images are well-balanced in terms of gender and ethnicity. Although slightly dull, they are a useful teaching resource.

They could be used either by individual children for reference or for group or class work. There are questions, activities and suggestions for surveys.

Key words are highlighted with a border and there are teacher notes on how to use each spread.

However, it seems odd that none of the titles covers the seaside or an island home (two important Qualifications and Curriculum Authority units), there are no aerial photographs and the opportunity to refer to story books has not been pursued.

One book uses a world map projection which seriously misrepresents the importance of tropical regions and almost completely fails to show Antarctica. The focus of each book would also have been clearer had the highlighted vocabulary been restricted to geographical terms.

PRESSURE POINTS. Five 15-minute programmes Channel Four Learning. pound;14.99 plus pound;3.90 pamp;p. Tel: 08701 246 444 www.channel4.comlearningshop

These five programmes aimed at nine to 13-year-olds explore some key plans for Scotland. Topics are the new bridge to the Isle of Skye, traffic congestion in Edinburgh, forestry in the Borders, urban redevelopment in Glasgow and skiing in the Cairngorms.

The notes offer background information, ideas on how to use the programmes and advice on curriculum planning. There are full-colour Ordnance Survey maps, suggestions for role-play and debates, and a board game. Each programme follows a similar format with an introduction presented by Natasha Stillwell, followed by an interview with an expert and a variety of other views, including those of children.

Geographers have a long tradition of using case studies to illustrate wider ideas and these programmes contain lots of useful material. But will younger pupils recognise the relevance of these issues to their own lives? Despite the use of questions, the programmes have a "top-down" approach which tends to undermine their effectiveness. They are likely to be most useful for developing children's own investigations on similar themes in their area.

DROUGHT. Resource pack pound;3.50; Video pound;7.50 Assembly fundraising ideas free from: Harvest Help, 3-4 Old Bakery Row, Wellington, Telford TF1 1PS Tel: 01952 260699 www.harvesthelp.org

These materials focus on a Zambian village on the shores of Lake Kariba in Zambia. They provide details of daily life and the problem of food security in a community which is largely self-sufficient.

The main pack provides information about the area and consists of loose-leaf worksheets and documents in a plastic wallet. The video, which lasts about 15 minutes, provides a portrait of a typical day through the eyes of a child. The assembly ideas are designed for schools that wish to raise funds and link especially to the harvest festival.

Devising teaching materials on places in the developing world is fraught with difficulties. The main pack suffers from being fragmented, is rather amateurish and fails to develop any ideas in depth. It is a pity that only one of the worksheets considers long-term solutions to the problems of food security.

The video, which is beautifully filmed, has a much better balance and creates a realistic but positive image. As the commentary says: "Life in the village might seem very hard, but if you lived in Jali you wouldn't think of it that way. There are many jobs to do, but there is always time for fun." An experienced teacher could use this material to good effect.

Stephen Scoffham is principal lecturer in the faculty of education, Canterbury Christ Church University College

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