Many families and friends

29th March 1996 at 00:00
THE BIG FAMILIES PACK. A contrasting locality study for key stage 1. ActionAid Pounds 45. Chataway House, Chard, Somerset TA20 1FA. Speaking for ourselves, Listening to others. A resource for 9-13 year olds, Leeds Development Education Centre Pounds 17.50 plus Pounds 1.85 pp. 153 Cardigan Road, Leeds LS6 1LJ.

ActionAid's locality resource on northern Ghana is large enough to be seen and studied by more than a small group, and sturdy enough to hold up or lean against the wall. It is also very expensive. Price apart, this is a magnificent collection of pictures, giving infants a realistic impression of what it is like to live in a completely different country from their own.

While the village of Nansoni in the Chereponi district to the north of Tamale provides the locality focus, the Mahamas, a Muslim family from the village, provides the human interest. Text is printed on the reverse of each large board and this, together with photocopiable resources and a folder of instructions on pupil activities, offers ample material for active learning. Simple sketch maps and line drawings of people at work add to the accessibility of the pack and help pupils develop geographical skills and learn to appreciate similarities and differences between places. Farming, cooking, school, journey to market and health are among the topics illustrated.

The least important feature of the Leeds Development Education Centre pack is its relevance to the national curriculum, although the authors dutifully follow custom by including references to the English and geography Orders. Certainly as far as geography is concerned, the ideas presented in this "active learning resource" make a refreshing addition to the sometimes bland diet of locational knowledge by concentrating on what Kenyan boys and girls think about themselves, their country and England - and contrasting this with the views of their counterparts in Yorkshire.

The set of A5 photographs varies in quality, but gives invaluable images of Kenya that may well contrast sharply with popular impressions.

It is good, for example, to see a girl buying chocolates and two children reclining on the floor watching television. Issues of gender, image, perception and stereotypes feature prominently, but not aggressively, in many of the activities. There are mental maps and a published map of Nairobi, comments by Danish and Greek children as well as fascinating self-images from the Kenyan children, and a wealth of suggestions for activities.

There may be geography teachers who feel they do not have the time to explore these issues, but it would be very sad if the constraints of the national curriculum were to inhibit this work. These approaches offer sensible ways of achieving one of the principal aims of geography, which is to develop an awareness of other cultures. The pack certainly adds much to personal and social education at key stages 2 and 3, and is a major contribution to multicultural education.

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