CM Archive
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Langford, Ernest.

Vancouver, Douglas & McIntyre, c1984. 207pp, cloth, $16.95, ISBN 0-88894-866-2. (Explorations: A Canadian Social Studies Program for Elementary Schools) CIP


Siska, Heather Smith.

Vancouver, Douglas & McIntyre, c1984. 174pp, cloth, $14.95, ISBN 0-88894-865-4. (Explorations: A Canadian Social Studies Program for Elementary Schools) CIP


Mulligan, Vicki and Pamela Thomas.

Vancouver, Douglas & McIntyre, c1984. 371pp, paper, spiral bound, $25.95, ISBN 0-88894-870-0. (Explorations: A Canadian Social Studies Program for Elementary Schools) CIP

Grades 4 - 6
Reviewed by Howard Hurt

Volume 13 Number 3
1985 May

At one time, professional discipline in the schools ensured that all courses of study were closely followed. Social upheavals in the 1960s changed this, of course, and by the end of that decade many classroom teachers were assuming the right to make basic curricular decisions. In the case of the social studies, this often meant doing their own thing or even ignoring the subject entirely. A reaction to such excessive freedom was hardly surprising. In British Columbia, one indicator of the changing times was the publication by the ministry of a core curriculum that stated emphatically that social studies would indeed have an important place in the middle elementary years. At the same time, however, it was finally becoming understood that it could never be taught well until teachers were provided with comprehensible objectives and attractive instructional materials.

The publication of these two volumes marks another important step in the effort to achieve those objectives. For many years, the grade 4 course has focussed on the explorers and native peoples of Canada. It has been a popular program, but one that has often suffered from a lack of direction and a dirth of suitable teaching materials. During the 1970s a set of study prints was made available, and these visuals were later supplemented by a few booklets. Unfortunately, the reading material was either so old and unattractive or written at such unrealistic levels that it was used very little.

These textbooks from Douglas & McIntyre are very different. Like the primary level titles that appeared previously, they have been created by local teachers, authors, and artists especially for the new provincial curriculum. They have been conceived as part of an integrated series from grades 1 through 6 that expands outwards in scope by progressively exploring families, communities within regions, the notion of provincial and national identifies, examples of native cultures and the explorers who found them, a more structured study of Canada and, finally, selected cultures on other continents.

In The Haida and the Inuit, the authors wisely abandon any attempt to deal with the comprehensive pattern of native culture in Canada. Instead, they focus on two very interesting and distinctive peoples in order to demonstrate how physical environments create unique cultures. Some historical and geographic facts are formally presented, but most are learned by osmosis as we follow the daily lives of two lively pre-adolescents.

Explorers chronicles the activities of the first European adventurers who explored Canada's five major physiographic regions. The nature of the subject matter requires the text to be somewhat more structured than that of its companion volume, but there are many first-person narratives and informative digressions.

Both books will present intellectual challenges for nine-and ten-year-old children. They are also beautifully designed and profusely illustrated with photographs and drawings that will be sure to maintain interest. Glossaries, subject indexes, and pronunciation guides will help with assignments. A 371-page manual includes both philosophical background information and many specific suggestions concerning approaches to particular lessons.

These are excellent textbooks. Of course, if we look for minor errors, they can be found. The authors have clearly undertaken a good deal of historical research, for example, and yet illustrations of pre-contact villages depict sophisticated totem poles that could only have been carved with metal axes. The uncertain relationship of pre-historical cultures to the modern cult of multiculturalism might also be a source of criticism. Throughout both the introductory sections and stories, it is implied that Indian and Inuit children are just like the rest of us. That notion may not be altogether popular with professional native leaders who want to maintain the reserve system and fight for land claims rather than make it possible for future generations to move into the mainstream of contemporary Canadian life.

These texts are prescribed materials in British Columbia. They are being revised for use in other provinces and translated into French for immersion classes. Any teacher of social studies from grades 4 to 6 could find ways to use them for enrichment even if they do not precisely fit local courses.

Howard Hurt, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.
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