New world order;Reviews;Environment;Books

25th June 1999 at 01:00
HISTORY IN THE SCHOOL GROUNDS. By Jacqui Dean. SouthgateLearning Through Landscapes. pound;8.99

MAKING IT HAPPEN: Agenda 21 and schools. By Gillian Symons. WWF pound;6.99. Tel: 01483 426444

LITERACY THROUGH THE ENVIRONMENT. Edited by Rosie Edwards and Ron Wilson. National Association of Field Study Officers. pound;6. Tel: 01780 782386

Agenda for the 21st century: Making it Happen with the WWF

Paul Noble on books that get children to think about their environment - past, present and future.

These books present different ways of looking at the world outside the classroom window.

Jacqui Dean examines not only history that might be found in the school grounds, but also ways of taking history into the grounds: the dramatic photograph of the burning of a large model of 17th-century London, which adorns the cover, attests to this.

A lot of old ideas and a good collection of new ones (especially in the section which deals with the history of technology) are packed into History in the School Grounds, with teaching suggestions described in reasonable detail. This is a book of ideas, a collection of notes tied together with the minimum of fluency and style, but I still reckon it is worth the pennies.

The World Wide Fund for Nature also sees the future through its window. In its glossy booklet, Making it Happen, the WWF starts with the Rio Earth Summit of June 1992, when 150 nations agreed a plan of action for both preserving the world's environment and achieving sustainable development (Agenda 21). It moves on to make suggestions about how one might do this at a local level.

Agenda 21 can be reduced to the trivial, but even the biggest of changes have to start with small actions. I was impressed by the strategies for dealing with dog mess; the school recycling project; and ways of getting children to think about the standards of living versus quality of life debate.

Buy it, but expect a sermon about empowerment, awareness and participation.

If ever there was a bandwagon, a mega-wheeled, multi-ton, unstoppable juggernaut, on to which anyone with the minimum of agility must feel compelled to jump, it is the literacy hour machine. The National Association of Field Study Officers leapt, rather than looked, through their window and produced the pamphlet Literacy Through the Environment.

Densely packed with ideas, this collection of 20 articles by skilled practitioners, shows how studies of the environment can be bent, stretched and moulded to fit literacy requirements. Fortunately the contributors don't take the literacy "hour" too literally - there is no timetable of "15-15-20-10 minutes" on Dunwich Heath or in the Down to Earth Centre Southampton.

Look for the contributions of the Flying Slug Project Officer, Leeds (don't ask), and the London borough of Waltham Forest. As for literacy content, the gymnastics are sometimes beyond the contributors and they fall on their bottoms. But this is a good compilation, so it really doesn't matter.

Paul Noble is head of St Andrew's primary school, Blunsdon, Wiltshire

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