24th March 2000 at 00:00
GEOGRAPHICAL EYE: Geographical Eye over Britain 3. Scotland; Snowdonia;YorkshireVideo, pound;17.99Channel 4 Schools, POBox 100, Warwick CV34 6TZTel: 01926 436444Website: April) These new 20-minute programmes in the well-established Geographical Eye series are stimulating, sound and highly accessible key stage 3 resources. They all cover national curriculum matters of enquiry, themes, places, skills, patterns, processes and environmental change.

Each programme examines a single major theme and has a clear British location. The approach is questioning - of viewers and interviewees - and specific issues are linked to wider themes and places.

Personal narratives are told through interviews and footage of domestic or workplace activity. These are used to paint the broader picture which, in two of the three programmes, is only loosely tied to its location.

Thus Scotland covers sustainable energy resources and Snowdonia deals with traditional farm-based societies of upland Britain. Both could have been located elsewhere in Britain. The third focuses on the impact of Yorkshire Dales geology and geomorphology on landscapes and economic activities.

Scotland addresses sustainable energy options after North Sea oil and related changes over the past 35 years. There is imaginative use of maps, stimulating footage and soundtrack interviews, questions and emphasis on key points.

The link is made to sustainable options by proposing solutions to power station pollution and resource depletion. Peat, wind and hydro-electricity are visited in turn through key people's narratives. Methane production from Glasgow's landfill operations is then examined and the programme closes with energy conservation measures on Easterhouse.

As with Scotland, the programme on upland farming communities (Snowdonia) is fast-moving, lively and highly topical. Several families are used to tell key elements of the story but the lens widens to encompass matters such as pressures on village life, BSE, commodity prices, changing character of subsidies and organic practices.

The issue of the subtitle ("The future of upland farmers") is more implicit than explicit.

Yorkshire covers familiar material. The coverage is predictable but none the worse for that. The programme has many strengths, but one weakness is the fleeting attention given to geological process. We receive a whistle-stop tour of tropical oceans, shallowing seas, burial and compaction, earth movements, river floodplain sediments, erosion, glaciation and so on with no chance to pause and question. This is not typical of the Geographical Eye approach.

Roger Trend is a senior lecturer in education at the University of Exeter

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