Reaching a high point in self-study

27th October 1995 at 00:00
GEOGRAPHY. Age range 11 to 16 Images of Earth: A Teacher's Guide to Remote Sensing in Geography

The Geographical Association Pounds 49.50 Developing Geography: Ghana Land and Life Kumasi and Beyond pupils' books Pounds 4.95 Issues and Inquiry Teachers' books Pounds 12 The Development Education Centre

Countryfile India Worldaware Pounds 19.50

Images of Earth is an extraordinary pack from the Remote Sensing in Geography Project, which has the dual purpose of providing resources for pupils' self-study and teachers' in-service education. It is a much-needed service that teachers will appreciate, bringing them up to date with their understanding and interpreting of aerial photographs and satellite images.

Satellite imaging appeals to geography teachers for a variety of reasons. It is particularly gratifying to have a new application in the secondary school curriculum which relates to so many geographical themes and yet complements the conventional tools of mapping and spatial analysis. And geographers have eagerly grasped at remote sensing as a valid way to bring an authentic commercial process into the classroom.

If the 50 superbly printed pictures and posters included in Images of Earth is a feast for inquiring eyes, then the gourmet section comes in the form of two floppy discs of data drawn from satellites such as Landsat, which can be used with a wide range of software.

A 23-page chapter in the 200-page accompanying book details further resources for remote sensing. Besides showing you how you might spend several hundred pounds, the most useful references are to sources of multiple sets of images included in this pack.

As well as providing the raw material in the form of the photographs and data, Images of Earth also includes suggestions of how satellite pictures of the landscape might be used in the classroom. Many of these in-service activities are flexible enough to fit in with a teacher's own plans, especially those using the accompanying sketch maps.

Taken as a whole, time spent with this pack will be of benefit both to teachers and pupils. It confirms, yet again, that as geographers and teachers, there is always much more to discover.

There is also more to discover about distant countries, beyond the stereotypes and pre-conceptions that children might bring to school, according to Developing Geography: Ghana. Warning of "a danger that our pupils may be offered a diet of isolated case studies of exotic, perhaps biased and stereotypical images", the pack aims to enable the country to be placed within a wider global perspective. This pack is available as three separate items, or in various sets, with Issues and Inquiry: teaching about a nation providing 24 photographs printed on A5-size cards and the teachers' notes.

These outline a structure for considering five issues - youth, international links, economics and justice, gender in development, and environment. A photocopiable pupils' page faces the brief teacher's notes which simply and sensitively set the scene and provide cross-references to the other booklets and beyond.

The full titles of Land and Life: rural development and primary production and Kumasi and Beyond: urban development and enterprise give a good indication of the scope covered in 36-pages of each A4-size booklet. These materials are the result of a study visit to Ghana where English and Ghanaian geography teachers worked together, and this is apparent in the careful balance between an appropriate language level and the authenticity of detail. Geography teaching should be highly visual in its content and these booklets use photographs at a decent size and contain clear maps and diagrams.

A different style and substance are apparent as Countryfile India attempts coverage of a nation for key stage 3 and GCSE. Ten four-page units, such as "The People of India" and "Made in India", contribute towards a descriptive style of geography, with statistical detail, conventional pupil activities and barely a photograph in sight.

Unfortunately, the four pages of teachers' notes consist mainly of shorthand answers to the activities. And if these answers can be reduced to a list such as "Less; 50; girls; boys; ninth; sons; son; sons; sons," it is clearly not predominantly an enquiry approach.

These sheets with their up-to-date graphs and charts could be used as reference material to support older, but still useful, resources. Such packs are usually bought for new or up-to-date information which has not yet filtered into mainstream textbooks. But in spite of its claim to be stand alone material, Countryfile India does not have enough ready-to-use material to make it an instant classroom success.

* The Geographical Association, 343 Fulwood Road, Sheffield S10 3BP * The Development Education Centre, 998 Bristol Road, Birmingham B29 6LE * Worldaware, 1 Catton St, London WC1R 4AB

Angus Willson is a geography consultant

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