Up the longest creek;Primary;Books;Geography;Subject of the week

26th March 1999 at 00:00
OUR WORLD INFORMATION AND ACTIVITY BOOKS. Living in the Rainforest. Living in the Polar Regions. Living in the Desert. Living by Lakes and Rivers. By Terry Jennings. Channel Four Learning. pound;6.95 each.

Handle with care! These superficially attractive books are riddled with errors and misleading statements. Even quite intelligent children may find it hard to reconcile: "New Guinea is the second largest island to Greenland" with "Greenland is the second largest island to Australia".

They will probably also be confused to read that the Nile is the longest river in the world, while the Amazon is the largest.

The maps are poorly drawn with no scale. In Living by Lakes and Rivers, the map of the Ganges is in fact the Brahmaputra, and in another, tropical rainforest covers central Australia. Climatic differences between the Arctic and the Antarctic are attributed to the relative heating and cooling characteristics of land and sea when both regions are permanently under ice sheets. The most blatant howler stems from the confusion between American and English billions.

The problems continue in the activity sheets. Three of them have "comparing climates" exercises in drawing graphs. One asks pupils to finish a graph which is not even started, another illustrates rainfall with a line graph for rainfall when it should be bars. With temperature graphs, months on the horizontal axes refer to spaces, and not to lines, and a question on polar climates refers to a station in the rainforest. Experiments do not always demonstrate what is intended. For example, melting ice cubes in a bowl of water will not illustrate the impact of global warming on sea level.

There are some features to be commended: the illustrations are fascinating and lesser-known communities are sympathetically described. It is also useful to challenge pupils to consider the part they can play in sustainability. But this is a flawed series, which needs to be corrected before it is ready for key stage 2 pupils.

Colin Harris is a geography inspector and consultant

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