Discovering the Human World – HANNELL; DUNLOP (CSS)

HANNELL, Christine; DUNLOP, Stewart. Discovering the Human World. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 2000. 274p. Resenha de: ROBERTSON, Virginia. Canadian Social Studies, v.38, n.2, p., 2004.

Designed generally for grade eight students, Hannell and Dunlop have compiled a very practical and user-friendly textbook to introduce young inquiring minds to the complexities of human geography. The approach is consistent with the demands of the constructivist social studies curriculum that prevails throughout modern education systems. As the title suggests, the key word is discovering. The volume aims to lead students to discover dynamic facts and concepts of human population, settlement patterns, economic systems and human migration. Students are presented with a myriad of opportunities to discover and demonstrate an understanding of geographical concepts, while developing and honing their geographical skills.

The volume is structured to provide a wide range of learning opportunities and provides a framework for the learning of a major segment of human geography. The bulk of the book is organized into three main thematic units, each subdivided into six chapters of consistently equal length. The introduction to each unit provides an overview of the unit content and states the skills that will be acquired or discovered. Each unit concludes with a summary of the knowledge gained and provides a culminating activity that promotes active student learning. The chapters that comprise each unit follow a uniform format; each deals with a significant concept related to the understanding of the wider demographic theme. Key terms relevant to understanding the concept are highlighted and defined at the beginning of each chapter. The chapters conclude with discover activities that review the content and develop geographical, communication, critical-thinking and interdisciplinary skills. The final section of the textbook is devoted to explaining the geographic skills that the student is expected to have perfected. Mapping skills, statistical analysis techniques and research methods are explained and simplified for easy understanding by the full range of grade eight students. A valuable addition at the end of the book is a glossary that explains important geographical terms presented in the text.

From the first glance, the book engages the typical young adolescent geography student. The curious contrast of human habitation in the developed and developing world, illustrated on the cover, entices even the reluctant learner to open the book. Once opened, the book has immediate visual appeal. There is a wide range of colourful photographs, diagrams, maps, charts and sketches to attract and capture the attention of the viewer. The easy readability of the text will further encourage the student to discover more about the human world. Case studies and the vast array of activities provide opportunities for challenges and successes for the whole range of student ability and creativity found within a modern classroom.

Human patterns of density and distribution are fundamental to the study of human geography. The first unit effectively deals with the terminology and the concepts relevant to this global demographic reality. Settlement patterns, urbanization, land use, population growth and standard of living are important topics explored and studied. Generally, the content is presented from a Canadian perspective but there is ample opportunity to investigate and visit other areas of the globe. By reading and engaging in the various learning activities, students are often invited to compare their way of living with that of their global neighbours. This approach solidifies the new knowledge gained, enriches it and promotes desire for future learning.

Economics is the main theme of the second unit. The basic principles of economic theory, major economic systems, level of economic development, the importance of industrialization and the major components and value of trade are presented and demonstrated. In the final chapter there is an in-depth study of Canada’s economy with its interaction and interdependency on other countries in the global community. Suggested exercises and activities provide the students with opportunities to develop their media literacy, to sharpen their problem-solving ability and to manipulate data to interpret, analyze and demonstrate understanding of economic situations at home and abroad. Some contemporary global economic issues are included in this unit of study.

Although the concept of dynamism and interdependency, prevalent in human geographic systems, is well presented throughout, nowhere is it more effectively demonstrated then in the third unit. In this section, the focus is on human migration and mobility. The concept of change and evolution through time is clearly indicated. Ideas of culture, multiculturalism, human migration (permanent and temporary) and modes of transportation are extensively explored and include the discovery of positive and negative impacts inherent in human movement. Again the Canadian situation provides the background for the investigation of this topic.

Hannell and Dunlop create a multitude of valuable and varied learning opportunities within the framework of their suggested activities, projects and exercises. The specific geographic learning includes relevant vocabulary, subject content and the development of mapping, graphing and statistical interpretation skills. Cross-curricular themes and methods are clearly and frequently indicated throughout the text; they include mathematical, scientific, historical, language, artistic and web links. Possibilities for the formation and development of media literacy, co-operative group work, problem-solving techniques, and effective research methods abound as the students apply the geographical knowledge acquired.

There is no doubt that Discovering the Human World is a textbook jam-packed with positive learning possibilities. However there are a few weaknesses or deficiencies. The first drawback is the noticeable use of outdated statistics. Statistics regarding population, trade and incomes have dramatically changed since 1997. The use of incorrect figures can lead students to discover faulty conclusions. Secondly, the use of GNP (Gross National Product) per capita (p. 136) is no longer accepted as a valid indicator of a country’s level of economic development, the GNP has widely been replaced by the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capita or, more recently, the PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) per capita. The third disappointment is the lack of reference to contemporary global concerns such as environmental degradation caused by industrialization and the negative economic, social and political impact of globalization, especially in the less developed countries. The fourth drawback is the overwhelming emphasis on Ontario and the lack of recognition of similar situations in other provinces. This restricts the effectiveness of this textbook. If students learn by reference to what they know, learning is less efficient for students who live elsewhere. Finally, there is little in the way of concrete strategies for student assessment and evaluation. The authors are surprisingly silent on how student work is to be assessed. The inclusion of suggestions and strategies (including rubrics) would be most valuable to the success that students experience in the completion of assignments.

In spite of these weaknesses, Hannell and Dunlop have done an admirable job of producing a textbook that successfully introduces the main features of human geography, is attractive to students and teachers and, most importantly, provides ample opportunity for active student learning through a discovery approach. The knowledge and skills presented in this volume will provide a firm background for future and more sophisticated study of geography that is typically offered as the student progresses through the upper high school curriculum.

Virginia Robertson – Lower Canada College. Montreal, Quebec.

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