Brenda Runkle’s World Physical Geography was the first geography text to convince me that it is possible to produce a geography textbook that isn’t designed to put students to sleep.
Full-color illustrations throughout this beautifully illustrated text, a lively writing style, hands-on activities, “fun facts,” and frequent practical applications draw junior and senior high students into each topic. Definitions, geographical tips, and more fun facts are featured in the margins, coded with special symbols. Critical thinking activities, brain teasers, and other extras appear in some of the lessons. Review questions and a list of vocabulary words are at the end of each lesson. Also, more than worthy of mention is the generous section of full-color maps presented at the beginning of the text.
The text seems fairly bias-free, philosophically speaking. It is neither Christian nor evolutionary in presentation.
A separate Teacher’s Guide contains chapter tests, answer key, review answers, and vocabulary words with definitions. This guide is an essential part of the course, even though the guide does not provide lesson plans. The textbook itself is easy enough to follow without such guidance. (Student book and teacher guide are sold as a set.)
The Student Activity Workbook features the “Runkle Mapping Method.” This is an optional, 124-page book of 8 1/2” x 11” maps and lessons that can be used on their own or to extend geography lessons from World Physical Geography. They are designed to help students learn names and locations of countries, capitals, seas, etc. There are 60 maps accompanied by text, blackline maps (for student work), some activity ideas, and teaching helps featuring mnemonic devices to aid memorization. Using the workbook alongside the text significantly enhances the course.
This course will work well in a classroom setting as well as for individual students, although some of the activities are more fun if two or more students participate. Students can work through most of the course on their own, but I think frequent parent/teacher oversight might be necessary to ensure that students are reading margins and sidebars and doing the activities.