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Neering, Rosemary, Saeko Usukawa and Wilma Wood.

Vancouver, Douglas and McIntyre Educational, 1986, 400pp. cloth, $28.95, ISBN 0-88894-873-5. (Explorations: A Canadian Social Studies Program for Elementary Schools) Includes Teacher's Guide. CIP.


Van Veen, Valerie.

Vancouver, Douglas and Mclntyre Educational, 1986. 384pp, paper, $29.00, ISBN 0-88894-874-3. (Explorations: A Canadian Social Studies Program for Elementary Schools) CIP.

Grades 6-7
Reviewed by Graham A. Draper

Volume 15 Number 4
1987 July

The Explorations program is an exciting series of student and teacher resources in social studies that has been introduced over the past several years. This program uses an expanding horizons organization, beginning with an examination of the family at grade 1, moving then to the neighbourhood and community, the home province, early Canada, contemporary Canada, and finally, the world. Exploring Our World is the grade 6 student textbook for this series.

The book focuses on four countries in four different parts of the world. Beginning with an introductory chapter that offers sketchy definitions of important terms needed by students in their study of other countries, the text goes on to examine Japan, Peru, Nigeria, and France. These studies have parallel structures, first identifying ways in which the people meet their basic needs, then exploring in turn education and the arts, religion, the economic system, transportation and government. Throughout the student textbook, coloured photographs and illustrations are used to add visual depth to the studies. The photographs are remarkably varied and interesting. Overall, the design of the book is stimulating. A comprehensive glossary and adequate index conclude the volume.

The inquiry process shapes the approach to the content of Exploring Our World as well as the rest of the Explorations program. Students are encouraged to actively investigate topics, first gathering information and then developing ideas that are used to solve problems. The student book has features that promote this view: chapter titles are in the form of questions; captions usually ask students to speculate further on the topic; the text contains developmental exercises; chapters are concluded with review activities. But the focus on inquiry does not stop here. The teacher guide, an integral part of the program, offers instructors a host of activities that are designed to support the inquiry mode of learning. The inquiry approach is described in detail in the opening pages of the guidebook.

Visually, the teacher book is handsome. For classroom teachers its value will be in the help it gives in planning units and lessons. Unit coverage starts with an overview of the topic and a planning chart. Activities of a general nature are suggested, as are reference materials for students and teachers. Individual chapters are covered in more detail. Here objectives are given, as well as comments on the material found in the student book and activities relating specifically to textbook pages. Photographs of teachers and students in the classroom demonstrate behaviours appropriate to the inquiry approach.

While there is much to praise about the student book, there are weaknesses. The framework that was used to organize the units resulted in the leaden coverage of some topics and limited the exploration of potentially interesting themes. The introductory chapter's coverage of important physical, economic, and social concepts is far too brief to be of value for instruction. As well, captions, which typically include a statement about the illustration followed by a question, are boring.

The teacher book is not without problems. A great amount of space is given to re-stating and answering textbook questions, most of which would not prove difficult for teachers to answer on their own. The wire binding will not encourage teachers to add to or modify their guidebook as they might with a binder format.

Social and environmental studies teachers would be well advised to examine Exploring Our World and the rest of the Explorations series. Teachers will value the help offered by the teacher book; students will find the textbook both physically attractive and informative. The student book should be in every school library.

Graham A. Draper, Langstaff S.S., Richmond Hill, Ont.
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