Badger History Bulletin - Review
America the Beautiful: Wisconsin
By R. Conrad Stein. (Children's Press, Chicago, IL, 1994. ISBN 0-516-00495-6 $19.95)
America the Beautiful: Wisconsin, Teachers Manual
By Jaye M. Zola. (Children's Press, Chicago, IL, 1994 ISBN 0-516-09395-9 $15.95)
Originally published in BHB Volume 1, Number 3
I teach a fourth- and fifth-grade multiage grouped class with a team of eight teachers. Because our students remain in the class for two years, we needed a two-year curriculum. Our district awarded us a grant and we developed a curriculum that follows the U.S. history timeline. We teach about Wisconsin in the context of where it falls on the timeline.
In our search for a new Wisconsin text, we came across America the Beautiful: Wisconsin, which includes a student text and a teacher's manual. The student text is a collection of factual information presented with anecdotes, folklore, and personal narratives that make it interesting and informative. The book follows a timeline format that begins with land formation and explorers, and it takes the reader through present-day Wisconsin.
The teacher's manual provides three to six activities for each chapter. The activities include a pre- and post-test for each chapter of the student text, comprehension questions, mapping skills, letter writing, interviewing, and comparison making, among others. All activities are age-appropriate and enjoyable for children. This manual also includes reproducible work sheets for each chapter and answer keys where applicable.
America the Beautiful: Wisconsin is well-organized and easy to read in comparison to many other social studies texts whose readability is too high for the average fourth-grade reader. Chapters are divided into subsections that include colorful photographs with captions depicting the geography, history, and culture that make Wisconsin unique. Most photographs are scenic. Those photographs that include people tend to favor European males.
This text lacks the emphasis of Wisconsin as a multicultural state. I suggest the use of supplemental materials to expose students to the variety of unique and interesting cultures that make up our state. Another area that neither the text nor photographs address are those contributions made by people with disabilities. This area will also need supplemental materials if teachers want to use America The Beautiful: Wisconsin as the primary social studies source in their elementary classrooms.
This series offers two excellent special sections. The first is "Facts at a Glance," an almanac of state information including state motto and symbols; places to visit; and statistics on the population, government, education and economy of Wisconsin. Also included in "Facts at a Glance" is a detailed timeline and catalog of important people. The second section is an atlas containing maps depicting the physical and political United States as well as the products, highways, counties, boundaries, weather, population and topography of Wisconsin.
Missing from this text is a glossary of terms. Although key words are highlighted in the text and defined in context, I'm concerned about the lack of a pronunciation key. People who are not native to Wisconsin will have difficulty pronouncing the unique names of important people and places in our state.
I find this an excellent text for use in a fourth- or fifth-grade classroom. It can be used as a supplemental text or as the core program with other materials used to make it more personal. The teachers manual has application-based activities meeting a variety of learning styles, and is easy to use. I plan to use this text and integrate it into the U.S. history curriculum currently being taught at Huegel Elementary school in the fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms.
Ray W. Huegel Elementary School
Madison Metropolitan School District