Making Connections: Canada’s Geography – CLARK; WALLACE (CSS)

CLARK, Bruce W.; WALLACE, John K. Making Connections: Canada’s Geography. Prentice Hall: Toronto, Ontario, 1999. 506p. Resenha de: ROBERTSON, Virginia. Canadian Social Studies, v.39, n.2, p., 2005.

The sheer size and diversity found within this country make writing a national geography a formidable task. However, Clark and Wallace have done an admirable job of producing such a volume. Making Connections: Canada’s Geography is successful in its aim of leading students to discover our country’s geography. It provides a comprehensive study of Canada’s complex and interrelated geographic elements. The main theme is making connections and this is what students who use this book will do. The reader is encouraged to take responsibility for her/his learning and to make connections between elements of the physical environment, between the human environment and the physical environment, and between elements of the human environment. The book is rich in content and skills and offers students a wide range of knowledge and techniques to effectively understand the geography of Canada and the role it plays in the global community.

Designed primarily for grade nine students and to fulfill the requirements of the Ontario curriculum for Canadian Geography, the authors compiled a very practical and user-friendly textbook. Although there is an emphasis on the geography of Ontario, this textbook is an appropriate and effective tool to learn the country’s geography and to develop geographical skills, regardless of what province or country one inhabits. From beginning to end, this book invites and challenges students to think. Not only is the book visually appealing but it treats the inquiring students as young adults who possess intelligence and sophistication in their learning. At the beginning of the book there is an introduction which provides a clear statement of the knowledge and skills that will be acquired, followed by a section which explains how to effectively use the textbook to achieve this goal. The central core is structured into seven major units, each representing a significant theme. There are a total of thirty-six chapters, unevenly distributed among the units; the number varies according to the extent and complexity of the concepts being presented. The final section of the volume contains a valuable glossary that provides excellent definitions for all the bold face terms presented in the text.

The main body of the book is organized around seven units; one unit is devoted exclusively to geographical skill development while the other six provide content and learning activities pertaining to geographical topics that are both familiar and engaging to the adolescent mind. Although there are a varying number of chapters per unit, each chapter is structured somewhat the same. Each begins by presenting the concepts and learning expectations and lists the key terms that are integrated into that particular chapter. To clarify and establish the connections between the different geographical realms, some chapters provide case studies which serve to illuminate these interrelationships.

Throughout the text there is a wide range of learning opportunities presented by the variety of exercises and activities aimed at the whole spectrum of learning styles and intellectual abilities. These assignments help the students better understand and review the facts, concepts and connections while developing critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills. There is ample opportunity to develop such geography-specific skills as cartography, statistical analysis and graphing techniques. Suggestions of ways and means of developing technological skills are another important aspect of each chapter. GIS activities and Internet addresses are provided and the use of computers to research relevant topics and to produce graphic and written responses to challenging and complex questions is encouraged.

This book moves logically and smoothly from one unit to another while demonstrating the interconnectedness between them. The students are drawn into the learning process from the first unit which introduces them to significant and unique facts regarding our country. Students are encouraged to discover Canada’s position physically, economically, politically and demographically in the world. Using graphics, statistics and surveys Canada is compared to various other countries, thus providing an opportunity to examine Canada from many different angles and perspectives. The second unit is aimed specifically at exploring and developing essential skills that are required for geographical analysis. This unit is an excellent reference tool for the students as they progress through the book. The third unit focuses on Canada’s physical geography. Geological regions, landform regions, climate regions, vegetation zones and soil zones are portrayed independently with all the interconnecting factors responsible for their formation and they are portrayed collectively by demonstrating the interaction between them. These interrelationships are effectively and clearly explained through the appropriate and clever use of a vast array of graphics. Unit four is primarily concerned with concepts and principles pertaining to Canada’s demographic situation. The changing demographic scene highlights Canada’s multicultural heritage. Dynamism in Canada’s population is further demonstrated via the study of population growth and movement, changing settlement patterns and land uses, and urbanization. The fifth unit emphasizes the diversity and complexity of economic activities in Canada. The students easily discover that Canada’s economy is closely tied to its physical and demographic situations. Categories of industries, industrial location, resource management, transportation and communication are explored in all of their complexity and diversity. The main focus is on the exploration of the connections between the physical environment, demographic patterns and economic development. Unit six examines Canada’s role on the world stage. It shows Canada’s cultural, political, economical and environmental links with the global community and presents the major international organizations with which Canada is involved. Much of the unit focuses on Canada’s relationship with our most important trade partner, the United States. The final unit called Future Connections is largely concerned with the possible challenges that Canada will face in the future and takes a problem solving approach to these concerns. Environmental issues such as global warming, water resources and alternate energy sources are explored. The concept of ecological footprint is demonstrated and the environmental impact that Canadians have on the world is examined.

Making Connections: Canada’s Geography provides the curious adolescent with a high level of geographical study and analysis within the framework of a familiar environment. Although the reluctant and challenged learner may have difficulty with the vocabulary and concepts presented, the average and advanced learner will be stimulated into becoming a more responsible and independent learner. The colorful graphics enhance the learning and appeal to the whole spectrum of intelligences found in the typical grade nine classroom. The book has tremendous potential as a valuable resource or reference book in any senior high school library. Although it is a valuable teaching tool, it does have several weaknesses that prevent it from universal acceptance as a national geography textbook. First, one of its strengths as a resource book becomes a weakness as a textbook. There is such a vast amount of information and a large number of skills and suggested activities presented, that some teachers, and many students, might feel overwhelmed by the size and extent of the textbook. Secondly, the emphasis on Ontario’s geography, and limited reference to other provinces, could pose a problem for geography students outside Ontario. They may not have a familiar point of reference on which to hang new learning. Thirdly, the high reading level and advanced vocabulary would also be a challenge for students who experience language acquisition difficulties or who speak English as a second language. However, an alert and experienced teacher could easily compensate for these inadequacies and adapt the book to any level of learner in today’s multifaceted classroom.

In general, this book offers high school students an intelligent and insightful look at Canada’s geography. Opportunities to apply and develop geographical skills and life skills are found in abundance throughout the text. Although broad in scope, the authors clearly communicate the importance of the interconnectedness between human activity and the natural environment in Canada’s ecozones and highlight Canada’s relationship and unique position in the global community. They encourage students to think, explore and develop their own understandings; this supports the modern socio-constructivist approach to learning. In short, the book prepares students with the skills, knowledge and understandings that are necessary to meet the new realities of the 21st century.

Virginia Robertson – Lower Canada College. Montreal, Quebec.

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