Robin Buss's pick of the week

24th September 2004 at 01:00
British Isles: A Natural History

BBC1 Wednesdays, September 29 to November 17, 8-9pm

BBC1's eight-part natural history of the British Isles takes Alan Titchmarsh on a journey from Ben Nevis to the Scilly Isles and from the Giant's Causeway to the Wash - then back three million years to discover how the land was formed. Naturally, the affable presenter himself pops up in the different landscapes, dressed as a mountaineer or a fighter pilot when he needs to get an aerial view. Gimmicks aside, this is as clear and well-illustrated an introduction to the physical geography of Britain as you are likely to get. The first four parts of the series cover the basic prehistory of the islands, the next three deal with the effects of human activity on the landscape and the conclusion looks into the future, with a reminder that what has changed, will change. This being computer-age Britain, the TV series is not the end of the story: the final 10 minutes of programmes 2-8 give a local slant on what has just been shown, with encouragement to go out and find the wildlife in the Chilterns, the cabbages of Lundy Island or the marks of the last Ice Age on the scenery of London. The website offers further information. Later, there will be a book of the series (October) and a DVD (November).

That'll Teach 'Em 2

C4 Monday-Friday, September 27-October 1, 9.30-10.20am

Modern geography is not about anything so trivial as knowing how to find Belfast or Bristol on a map: "If I want to go to Plymouth, I'll get a train," says one of the young participants in this experiment, rudely transported back from the 21st century to a 1960s-style secondary modern school. Practical skills turn out to be a bit of a shock for the "fast-food, text-message generation", but not nearly so much of a problem as 1960s discipline. There are soon tears over the typewriters.

The most interesting observation to emerge from this is the extent to which modern teenagers are divorced from the things that made up the everyday life of their forebears: not only milking a goat, but cooking a meal or even finding where they live on a map of the British Isles are bewildering tasks. A very watchable new, five-part series, designed for teaching history to 14 to 19-year olds, with implications for citizenship and PSHE.

Word Games 2

Radio 4 Thursdays, September 23-December 2, 3.35-3.50am

Fun with words, presented in a way that works well on radio. This second series, designed for 7 to 9-year-olds, covers topics that include alphabetical order, synonyms and antonyms, spelling, past tense and parts of speech. Each 15-minute programme can be recorded and used in sections with a whole class, or with smaller groups.

Full listings can be found at:


* www.channel4.comlearningmainprogrammestv_schedule.htm



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