The fourth edition of BJU Press’s Cultural Geography text deals with both geography and cultures as you might guess from the title. The book has been significantly updated from previous editions, reflecting the huge geographic and cultural shifts that are continually occurring.
Written for ninth graders, the student text is a large book (over 600 pages) attractively designed with many full-color maps and photos. It consists of 24 chapters arranged into nine units. Maps, a glossary and an index are at the end of the book.
The book begins with a foundational overview of the biblical view of cultures, including man’s relation to the environment. The second chapter is an introduction to geography and its applications through the ages as well as to various types of maps. The third chapter addresses the geological history of the earth from a creationist point of view, including discussion of Noah’s flood and its effects. It also covers basic terminology, major landforms, major bodies of water, the makeup of the earth’s crust, rivers, plate tectonics, climate, vegetation, biomes, and other foundational topics.
The fourth chapter looks at industry’s use of natural resources while the fifth chapter discusses some key elements of cultures: languages, religion, and government.
The remainder of the book divides the world into regions for study. Chapters are grouped into units that cover continental areas. For example, Latin America, the fourth unit, includes chapters on Middle America (i.e., Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies) and South America. The content in every chapter ranges broadly through geography and culture often making connections to historical events.
As is typical of BJU Press textbooks, there are section review questions within each chapter and additional questions at the end of each chapter. Answers are in the teacher’s edition. “Let’s Go Exploring” sections in most chapters address map and chart reading skills with interpretive questions for students to answer. For instance, the “Let’s Go Exploring” inset in chapter ten has a map of Latin America showing various types of land usage such as crop farming, subsistence farming, manufacturing and trade, and ranching, along with the location of natural resources such as gold, iron, and petroleum. Five questions require students to analyze the map and draw some conclusions. The final question asks to students, “Which nation has the greatest variety of land use?” (p. 233).
Other inset boxes address special geographical sites of interest and interesting topics that don’t fit the flow of the text such as Gypsies, “Mennonites in Belize,” and immigration issues.
The text is written from a Christian worldview. While it includes discussion of other major world religions, it examines them from a Protestant perspective. A few of the questions at the end of the chapters ask the student to evaluate information about the various countries in the light of Scripture. Some of the religious content springs from discussions suggested in the bottom margin of the teacher’s edition rather than from the student text, so students reading the text on their own will miss those topics.
The Student Activities Manual works hand in hand with the text. It has questions, map work, charts to complete, and enrichment activities that go beyond the student text. The Activities Manual has its own answer key.
The teacher’s edition consists of two spiral-bound books that contain reduced images of the student text pages. The teacher’s edition serves as your answer key, but it also provides a great deal of helpful information for those who want to directly teach the course. It has the religious discussion topics mentioned above as well as other discussion questions with some suggested responses or aspects to bring up. It also has suggestions for multi-media resources you might use, and it ties in pages to be completed in the Student Activities Manual. A Teacher’s Toolkit CD-ROM that is included at the back of the first volume of the teacher’s edition offers additional resources that will be most useful to those teaching group classes.
I encourage you to take advantage of the extra resources and suggestions in the teacher’s edition. I realize that some homeschooling parents will choose to have their students complete this course on their own, and that will work. It just isn’t likely to be as interesting if you leave out the discussions and extra activities.
The Cultural Geography Subject Kit includes the student text, teacher’s edition, activities manual, activities manual answer key, tests, and tests answer key. The student text is also available as an etextbook.
This text is suggested for use in ninth grade. While it could be used a different year in high school, it makes sense to use it before studying world history since it gives students underlying geographical knowledge which then makes it easier to understand the dynamics of world history.