Aussie Animals – Teacher Notes

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					                                                                                                     Southern Diversity: Teacher Notes

Pre and Post Visit Activities
1 Animals are our Friends!
Brainstorm the many ways in which we depend on animals. Start with domestic or farm animals, then move on to consider
native Australian animals. Think widely for this exercise:
  Domestic animals (eg. sheep, chickens) and native animals
  Animals that live on land and animals that live in the sea
  Mammals, birds, insects
  Food, Clothing
  Pollinators (eg. birds and insects)
  European and Aboriginal uses
  Aesthetic and spiritual values
Hopefully	you	will	realise	that	native	animals	(and	not	just	the	cuddly	ones)	are	valuable,	and	that	Australia’s	biodiversity	
should be urgently protected.

2 Compost Animals
Use magnifiers and microscopes to examine a variety of soil and compost samples. Be sure to include samples of rich, damp
compost, which should contain a great variety of insect and other invertebrate decomposers. Which of your samples contains
the most animals? What are they all doing? Try to identify some by consulting a suitable reference. The Gould League sells a
Compost Creatures poster and other material on this topic for teachers and students. (Telephone: (03) 9532 0909).

3 Bioinformatics Website
Visit Museum Victoria’s Bioinformatics website:
This will give you access to Museum Victoria’s databases on many of Victoria’s animals. From the front page, open ‘Student
Projects’	and	choose	‘A	Report	on	the	Butterflies	(or	snakes,	frogs,	mammals	or	lizards)	of	your	District’.	Follow	the	step-by-
step process to create a report on these animals in your district.
Additional projects on Victoria’s butterflies are available at:

4 Whales
Revise what you know about whales as preparation for visiting the Blue Whale skeleton at Melbourne Museum. Pace out the
length of a Blue Whale in the school corridor or playground (up to 33.58 metres), and compare their weight (up to 130 tonnes)
with	objects	that	the	students	know	(3,500	students	or	28	elephants).

5 Victoria’s Environments
Discuss the localities of Victoria that have been visited by class members. What was the climate and vegetation like in these
Obtain simple rainfall, altitude and vegetation maps of Victoria. Mark the localities that have been discussed on the maps.
Discuss the climatic and vegetation characteristics of the various regions of Victoria. What sorts of adaptations would you
expect animals in these regions to have made?
Simple rainfall, altitude and vegetation maps are available at:

6 Terrestrial Environments
Prepare a short report on one of the following environments that are featured in Southern Diversity:
•	 The	Mallee
•	 The	Australian	Alps
•	 River	Red	Gum	country	(eg.	the	Barmah	Forest)
The notes in Section 3 of this kit will be useful. What are the main characteristics of this environment, what animals live there,
what needs to be done to protect the environment?                                                                                             4
                                                                                               Southern Diversity: Teacher Notes

7 River Red Gum
Prepare a poster to show some of the things that live in a River Red Gum forest. Use the internet and the notes in Section 3 of
this kit.

8 Web-based Activities
There are lots of good student activities related to Australia’s animals and biodiversity located on the following websites:
The Backyard Birdwatch from the ABC Science Unit:
ABC TV’s Australian animals site for lower primary students:
Gould League Food Webs:

9 DSE Resources
The Department of Sustainability and Environment has published two books of student activities related to Victoria’s
biodiversity. These are:
Victoria’s Biodiversity: Education Resource Book 1 (Science & SOSE CSF levels 3-4), 1999
Victoria’s Biodiversity: Education Resource Book 2 (Science & SOSE CSF levels 5-6), 1999
Other resource material related to biodiversity is also available.
Contact: NRE Information Centre
8 Nicholson Street
East Melbourne, 3002
Phone: (03) 9637 8150

10 Threatened Species
Adopt	one	of	Australia’s	threatened	species	(or	one	for	each	class	member	—	there’s	plenty	for	everyone).	Research	the	
animal (or plant), and produce a poster or report indicating its present status, the threats it is facing, and what can be done to
improve the prospects of its survival. Reference material is available from: The Gould League (Endangered Species Kit, Edge
of Extinction)
The Department of Sustainability and Environment’s website . Proceed:
DSE Home > Plants and Animals > Native Plants and Animals > Threatened Species & Communities > Threatened Species
Fact Sheets.

11 Introduced Species
Many exotic plants and animals have been introduced into Australia and become pests over the last 200 years. As a class,
make a list of those you can think of. Don’t forget the introduction of marine plants and animals. Each class member should
choose one species for further research and the production of a short report. Include a description of the plant or animal,
and the history and impact of its introduction to Australia.
The Department of Sustainability and Environment is a very good source of information: . Proceed: Front Page > Plants and Animals > Pest Plants and Animals.
The Gould League has published Feral Peril	(16	A4	pages)	for	junior	students.                                                                                           5
                                                                                          Southern Diversity: Teacher Notes

12 Excursions
Healesville Sanctuary
Badger Creek Road
Healesville 3777
Phone: (03) 5957 2800
Melbourne Zoo
Elliott Avenue
Parkville 3052
Phone: (03) 9285 9355
Royal Botanic Gardens
Birdwood Ave.
South Yarra 3141
Phone: (03) 9252 2358

13 Mass Extinctions
Use the Internet and your library to research the largest ‘mass extinctions’ of the past. What were the causes and
consequences of these events? What types of animals became extinct? Are we currently experiencing a ‘sixth extinction’,
brought about by human exploitation?
The five big mass extinctions recognised by palaeontologists are:
•	 The	Ordovician	Extinction,	434	million	years	ago
•	 The	Devonian	Extinction,	354	million	years	ago
•	 The	Permian	Extinction,	251	million	years	ago
•	 The	Triassic	Extinction,	205	million	years	ago
•	 The	Cretaceous	Extinction,	65	million	years	ago                                                                                    6
                                                                                                Southern Diversity: Teacher Notes

14 Classification Exercises
A list of animals in the Southern Diversity exhibition is printed below.
(a) Divide the items in the list (or a sample of them) between class members. Use reference books, websites and dictionaries to
find brief descriptions (and, if possible, pictures) of each type of animal. Put each item and its description onto an index card.
(b) Try to arrange the cards into groups. (Use Bluetak and a large piece of blank wall!) The groups can be determined by
class members, but should be kept fairly simple. Two or three groups are probably enough to begin with: eg. big/small; land/
sea dwellers; swimmers/walkers/fliers.
(c) For more senior students (Levels 4 and above), try to arrange the items according to a hierarchy. If a few additional
categories are needed, these could be written on index cards and used. Start with very general terms (eg. marine/terrestrial,
vertebrate/ invertebrate) and proceed downwards to the more specific.
(d) For students at Levels 5 and above, revise the system of scientific classification for Kingdom Animalia. Choose a sample
from the index cards prepared above, add the level of classification (Phylum, Order, etc.) for each term where this is possible,
and place each card in its hierarchical position. If the class is very keen, try to do this for all items!

Animals in the Southern Diversity Exhibition

 Ants                             Crustacea                        Honeyeaters                      Scorpions
 Basket Stars                     Cuttlefish                       Insects                          Sea Cucumbers
 Bats                             Damselflies                      Invertebrates                    Sea Stars
 Beetles                          Dragon flies                     Land snails                      Sea Urchins
 Birds                            Dragon lizards                   Legless lizards                  Skinks
 Brittle Stars                    Echinoderms                      Lizards                          Slaters
 Brooch shells                    Feather Stars                    Mammals                          Snakes
 Bugs                             Fish: freshwater                 Marsupials                       Spiders
 Butterflies                      Fish: marine                     Monotremes                       Sponges
 Centipedes                       Flies                            Moths                            Squid
 Cephalopods                      Frogs                            Octopuses                        Stick insects
 Cockroaches                      Gastropods                       Parrots                          Stoneflies
 Cowrie shells                    Geckos                           Placentals                       Vertebrates
 Crabs                            Goannas                          Possums                          Volutes
 Crayfish (freshwater)            Grasshoppers                     Reptiles                         Wasps
 Crickets                         Heart Urchins                    Sand Dollars                                                                                               7
                                                                                            Southern Diversity: Teacher Notes

15 Animal Adaptations
The animals below are all in the Southern Diversity exhibition. They are adapted to their environments in quite unique ways.
Photocopy this page, cut out each animal name in the left-hand column and each description in the right-hand column. Mix
them up, and see if you can paste them back correctly on a blank sheet of paper.

     Animal                                  Animal Adaptation

1	 Cricket	                                  Has	large	hind	legs	for	jumping
2    Dung Beetle                             Uses its back legs to roll dung into balls
3    Galah                                   Has a hooked beak for cracking seeds
4    Greater Glider                          Has membranes of skin from its front to its back legs
5    Honeyeater                              Uses its long tongue to drink nectar from flowers
6    Huntsman Spider                         Catches its prey by running after it
7    Malleefowl                              Incubates eggs in a large mound of compost
8    Marsupial Mole                          Has no eyes, lives underground
9    Masking Crab                            Camouflages itself by planting seaweed on its back
10 Mountain Pygmy Possum                     Lives in tunnels under the snow
11 Red Kangaroo                              Has big, flat feet for moving in sandy country
12 Sea Urchin                                Is protected by a covering of large spines
13 Skink                                     Can shed its tail if being chased
14	 Squid	                                   Uses	its	torpedo	shape	and	jet	propulsion	to	swim	swiftly
15 Stick Insect                              Is camouflaged as a stick
16 Thorny Devil                              Can absorb water through its skin; lives in arid regions
17 Tiger Snake                               Uses venom to immobilise and kill its prey                                                                                         8
                                                                                                Southern Diversity: Teacher Notes

Teaching Resources
Biodiversity in the Victorian Curriculum
Victorian Government policies have been developed at several levels to promote the conservation and the inclusion of
biodiversity as a component of the school curriculum:
•	 The	Department	of	Sustainability	and	Environment	has	developed	a	Biodiversity	Strategy	which	emphasises	that	
   maintaining and enhancing our biological heritage is essential for our economic, cultural, social and spiritual well-being.
•	 The	Department	of	Education	and	Training’s	current	Environmental	Education	policy	emphasises	the importance of an
   aesthetic appreciation of environments and an understanding of the operation of natural systems. http://www.sofweb.vic.
•	 The	Victorian	Curriculum	and	Standards	Framework	II	has	incorporated	the	study	of	biodiversity	into	several	key	learning	
   areas. Specific references are outlined in the table below
Biodiversity in the Victorian Curriculum and Standards Framework II

 CSF II         Details of Learning Outcomes (LO)
 Learning       and suggested Learning Activities (LA)
 1 and 2        LO: Describe, and identify simple patterns in the natural world.
                 Biological Science—Living Together: past, present and future
 3.1            LO: Describe environmental factors that affect the survival of living things.
                LA: Prepare a poster to show the living things that find shelter in a tree, pond or
                compost heap.
 4.1            LO: Identify relationships between living things which help them survive in their
                Indicators: Draw simple food chains.
                LA: Compare living things from different places and relate differences in their
                structures to conditions in their habitat.

 5.1            LO: Explain	the	biological	basis	of	classification	of	organisms	into	major	groups.
                Indicators: Identify patterns of similarities and differences between a range of
                living things.
                Define	the	major	characteristics	used	in	the	5-Kingdom	system	of	classification.
                LA: Report on the work of a taxonomist in an herbarium or museum and why
                such work is important.
 5.2            LO: Describe interactions between living things and between living things and
                their non-living surroundings.
                LA: Investigate the relationship between pollinators, for example, birds and
                insects, and flowering plants.
 6.2            LO: Evaluate theories concerning evolution of organisms.
                LA: Discuss possible explanations for the evolution of Australia’s indigenous
                flora and fauna.                                                                                           9
                                                                                              Southern Diversity: Teacher Notes

 CSF II         Details of Learning Outcomes (LO)
 Learning       and suggested Learning Activities (LA)
                  Biological Science—Living Together: past, present and future
 6.6            LO: Relate concepts of adaptation, biodiversity and evolution to the survival of
 Extension      species
                Indicators: Explain the significance of adaptations of organisms in relation to
                their survival,
                Evaluate theories about the causes of extinction of particular species,
                Draw conclusions about the consequences of reducing biodiversity.
                LA: Present arguments, based on scientific evidence, for protection and
                preservation of parts of the biosphere.
                Investigate the rate of extinction of Australian animals or plants since European
                settlement and suggest causes and implications of this.
                Summarise the relationships between adaptations, evolution, selection
                pressures, environmental factors and extinction, by drawing a concept map.
                         Studies of Society and Environment: Geography
 5.1            LO: Explain how natural processes and human activities change environments.
                Indicators: Describe natural processes which change environments, using
                geographical media such as photographs, maps, satellite images, bioinformatic
                web sites.
 6.4            LO: Develop a comprehensive strategy to resolve an issue related to the use
                and management of a natural or human environment.
                Indicators: Use a range of geographical media to describe the environment.

Biodiversity and VELS
For approaches to teaching about biodiversity using the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS),
The study of biodiversity can be included as part of the Science domain, especially the Science Knowledge
and	Understanding	dimension.	It	also	has	relevance	to	the	Thinking	domain—reasoning,	processing	data,	and	
reflecting on and evaluating ‘Big Ideas’. Working in teams, part of the Interpersonal Development domain, can
also	be	emphasized.

Biodiversity and the VCE
The content of Southern Diversity is relevant to parts of Biology Units 1 and 4, Geography Unit 1, Environmental
Science Units 1 and 3, and Outdoor and Environmental Studies Unit 1.                                                                                     10
                                                                                             Southern Diversity: Teacher Notes

Further Reading
The Department of Sustainability and Environment has published several education resource books on Victoria’s biodiversity.
DSE Information Centre
8 Nicholson Street
East Melbourne, 3002
Phone: (03) 9637 8150
The Gould League produces and stocks a wide range of references on Australian animals and biodiversity for students of all
levels. A catalogue is available.
The Gould League
PO Box 117
Moorabbin 3189
Phone: (03) 9532 0909
Discovery Centre at Melbourne Museum has a range of reference books related to Australian animals and biodiversity. These
are available for use by teachers and senior students when visiting the museum.
ACMI has video resources for loan:
Environment Australia distributes booklets, fact sheets, posters and stickers on biodiversity:
A comprehensive list of references on biodiversity and the animal groups exhibited in Southern Diversity is available from:
Melbourne Museum Education Service. Email:

Websites to Visit
Museum Victoria’s Bioinformatics site (Victoria’s butterflies, snakes and frogs):
Community Biodiversity Network One Stop Shop of Australian Biodiversity Links:
The Environment Portal (Australian Government):
The Biodiversity Centre:
The Nature Conservation Council of NSW:
Environment Australia’s Biodiversity Guide:
Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment:
Department of Environment and Heritage:
The Australian Museum:
CSIRO Biodiversity:

Endangered Species
Environment Australia:                                                                                        11
                                                                                                Southern Diversity: Teacher Notes

Victorian Frog Group:
Frogs from the Queensland Museum:

Birds: our environmental indicators:
The Life of Birds (Sir David Attenborough):
Backyard Birdwatch: ABC Science

Healesville Sanctuary Animal Search:
Wildlife Australia: Classification of Marsupials:

Australian Ecosystems
Australian ecosystems:

National Parks
Victorian National Parks Association: includes information on the Alps, marine parks, sustainable fisheries and Wilson’s
NSW	National	Parks	and	Wildlife—	Children’s	Corner:

Environmental Education
Victorian Association for Environmental Education Inc.:
Department of Education and Training: Environmental Websites:
Gould League:
Earth Alive:
World Wildlife Federation:

University of California:
Wildlife Australia: Classification of Marsupials:                                                                                       12