Biodiversity and nature

Nature investigation is a great opportunity to get students out of the classroom and engaged in the diversity of life around them.

Start with exploring your school grounds, and consider excursions to your local park or reserve or national parks.

Here you’ll find:

Teaching resources including:

  • investigations and actions to improve the biodiversity in school grounds and local natural environments
  • units of work
  • lesson plans
  • support materials
  • curriculum connections
  • information on field trips and excursions to national parks and local environments.

Student activities for more ideas on using school grounds and local environments for learning.

Teaching Resources

Primary

Junior Landcare Lesson Plans - developed to encourage more schools to better understand where their food comes from and participate in Landcare activities such as creating school gardens and building a closer connection with the land.

International Fund for Animals (IFAW) - IFAW offers a wide variety of free thematic education packs including teaching guides, lessons, worksheets, videos, and interactive activities aligned with core curricula.

Field of Mars EEC Multitouch Books - free multi-touch books designed to operate on an iPad or a Mac (running OSX 10.9). The books support the NSW Board of Studies Syllabus for the Australian Curriculum. Choose from phasmids or ringtail possums.

My Treasure - engage primary students in an exploration of place through creating artworks and writing artists statements. Building a connection and meaning to place in young people is the foundation for sustainability. (pdf)
Stages ES1- 3 | * Creative Arts, English, Geography, Science | Integrated unit |NSW DEC

Ocean Crusaders Educational Program - a series of lessons on ocean gyres, sharks, the Great Barrier Reef, turtles, whales, penguins, manta rays, dolphins, seals and more, exploring environmental issues.
Stages 2 -3 | Science and Technology, HSIE | Lesson plans, teaching ideas, student activities | Ocean Crusaders Volunteer Organisation

Learning through Landscapes - outdoor learning to help children connect to nature.
Stages ES1-3 | Science and Technology, HSIE, Creative Arts, PDHPE | Information, teaching ideas | UK charity

The GreenWay Schools Sustainability Program - a local model of sustainability involving 23 primary schools. The resource can be downloaded and includes a curriculum framework, activity sheets and excursion ideas.
Stages ES1-3 | Science and Technology, HSIE, Creative Arts, PDHPE | Unit of work, student activities | Local Councils, Railcorp, Sydney Water, RTA and Transport NSW

Does biodiversity education work? A case study using urban birds - an environmental education resource kit.
Teacher | Research | Presentations and final report | Birds in Backyards

Birds in Backyards - a whole-of-school approach to sustainability for K-6.
Stages 2-3 | Science and Technology | Information | Birds in Backyards

WilderQuest - a program developed by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to excite and engage children in nature. An interactive website and iPad app with fun games and activities provides beautiful authentic Australian environments for students to learn about the living world and the Aboriginal culture of these places. Visits to national parks bring these environments to life.
Stages 2-3 | Science and Technology | Interactive game | NSW National Parks and Wildlife service

Activity sheets - topics such as rainforests, biodiversity, conservation and forest fires
Stages 1-3 | Science and Technology, HSIE | Interactive game | NSW Forestry Corporation

Bugwise for Schools - brings the world of invertebrates to your students, engaging them in real science in local environments.
Stages 2-3 | Science and Technology, HSIE | Student activities | Australian Museum

Primary and Secondary

The Living Landscape Project - educational resource that includes fact sheets and work sheets for field work activities at the Bundanon Trust properties on the Shoalhaven River
Stages 3 - 6 | Earth and Environmental Science, Biology and Senior Science HSC | Student activities, site-based field work

Cool Australia - Primary & secondary biodiversity unit
Stages 1 - 5 | Integrated, Inquiry Australian Curriculum aligned lesson plans | Cool Australia

The Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust has an amazing new plant conservation and research facility called the Australian PlantBank at the Mount Annan Botanic Garden with activities for all stages of primary and secondary schools.

PlantBank app - free app showing behind the scenes at the Australian PlantBank, Mount Annan.
Stages 3-5 | Cross KLA | mobile app | Mount Annan Botanic Gardens

Native Plant Guide App - requires iOS 4.3 or later. Compatible with iPad
Stages 3-5 | Cross KLA | mobile app | The Native Shop

Our Place - three short films that celebrate Aboriginal cultural heritage.
Stages 3-5 | Cross KLA | stimulus videos | Australian Research Institute for Environment and Sustainability

Saving our Species - information on how to become involved in securing threatened species in NSW.
Stages ES1-6 | Cross KLA | Teacher information | NSW Office of Environment and Heritage

Nature Education Symposium - A series of interviews with students conducted by Richard Louv in 2012 exploring the importance of engaging with nature.
Stages ES1-6 | Cross KLA | Teacher information, classroom activities, videos | NSW DEC

The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust provides extensive online information about plant conservation and a program of botanical visitor experiences including curriculum-linked school excursions and school holiday activities.
Teacher | Cross KLAs | Resources

Nature Play WA - of particular interest are the 'Things to do' pages containing lots of activities relevant to students in New South Wales.
Stages ES1-6 | Cross KLA | Teacher information, classroom activities, ideas for parents | Western Australian not-for-profit association

Children and Nature Network - a not-for-profit international organisation that endeavours to connect all children, their families and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration and support of grassroots leadership.
Stages ES1-6 | Cross KLA | Teacher information, classroom activities | US not-for-profit association

Keeping reptiles in schools - information to increase awareness about the requirements for keeping native animals in schools.
Stages ES1-6 | Cross KLA | Teacher information | NSW DEC, AIS and CEC

Insects and spiders at the Australian Museum - providing links to information and programs on insect pests, pollination and bugs in fresh water.
Stages 3-4 | Science and Technology, Science | Teacher information, web links | Sites2See NSW DEC

Centennial Parklands - encompasses Centennial Park, Moore Park and Queens Park, and is Sydney's largest outdoor classroom.
Stages ES1-6 | Cross KLA | Teacher information | NSW Office of Environment and Heritage

Animals in schools - compliance and guidelines on the use of animals in teaching or research.
Stages ES1-6 | Cross KLA | Teacher information | NSW DEC, AIS and CEC

Koala Tracker - Do you have koalas living near your school? The national koala map and database recording live, dead, sick and injured koalas, with causes needs your data.
Stages 3-5 | Science and Technology, Science | Student activity | not-for-profit organisation

Our River, Our Future - teaching and learning website for natural resource management along the Murray in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
Stages 3-4 | HSIE, Geography | Lesson plans, student activities, information, maps, videos | Murray-Darling Association

Atlas of Living Australia - this website includes a database of the distribution of many Australian species. For a number of animal species students can review distribution by sightings and, if registered, can upload their sightings and photos to the national map.
Stages 3-4 | HSIE, Geography | Student activities, information | Australian Government

LandLearn NSW's photostream on Flickr - provides images for students to use in assignments.
Stages 2-6 | Cross KLAs | Images | Flickr

NSW ecosystems on show - highlights some of the natural ecosystem types found in NSW and the plants and animals they support. This is a learning resource for students investigating ecosystem types in NSW.

Stages 2-6 | Cross KLAs | Resources | NSW DEC

Woodland Virtual Excursion project - a set of five videos on woodlands featuring scientists, accompanied by transcripts and a short biography on each scientist.
Stages 2-6 | Cross KLAs | Resources | NSW Office of Environment and Heritage

Secondary

Landcare in your school - a resource for school teachers, written for Western Sydney schools but a great resource for any high school teacher wanting to get high school children involved with Landcare.
Geography, Agriculture, Science | Student activity | Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment Management Authority and Greening Australia

 

 

Student activities

The resources listed below, focusing on biodiversity and nature, are provided for teachers to incorporate into a classroom program. They can be investigated by students independently or be used as part of a group program within the class.

School grounds

School grounds are an excellent place to start nature education, as they have great potential as a location and context for learning. Students can do surveys of school grounds and the local environments to identify local species. Schools can explore environments that inspire native school gardens. Investigations may lead to new ways to manage the school grounds and bring back a variety of life.

Build boxes for the species which most need it around your school grounds - a guide from Local Land Services Greater Sydney for information on how to choose your species and other awesome tips for nest boxing.

Making a home for backyard critters, butterflies, frogs, birds and lizards - interesting factual article with lots of helpful hints and links.

Birds in Schools - is an environmental education project designed and delivered by BirdLife Australia and its Birds in Backyards program with support from the NSW Environmental Trust. It is open to students and teachers from Years 5-6 from primary schools in the Sydney region. It will commence in early Term 1 2014 and conclude in June 2015. Birds in Schools consists of one teacher professional development module and four inquiry-based Stage 3 curriculum modules.  If you would like to be involved contact the BirdLife Australia Discovery Centre.

Two tools have been developed by North Sydney Council. The Carbon Calculator measures the approximate carbon absorbed in a tree and the Tree Tape Measure translates the amount of CO2 absorbed in the tree into the amount produced during different activities.

Local environments

Visiting national parks and other local environments are an opportunity for students to be inspired by nature and learn through exploring the wonder of local flora and fauna.

Discovery for schools  from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) offers excursion programs for primary and secondary students to explore the environments in national parks or local reserves or discover and learn about Aboriginal or historic culture and heritage. Outdoor learning experiences and activities are linked to key learning areas and syllabus outcomes. In some regions outreach activities can be provided at your school.

Our Wetland Discovery Tour - this virtual tour was produced by Ocean Shores Public School and conducted by students as part of their Wetland Discover Project, funded through NAB School's First Award. (video clip - 11mins 19secs)

Information

Phasmids - book for iPads on the iBookstore. Phasmids explores the features, adaptations and life cycles of Australian stick and leaf insects. Designed for the NSW Syllabus for the Australian Curriculum and created by Field of Mars EEC.

EcoKids - What is biodiversity provides easy to read explanations of biodiversity, species diversity, what is the environment, food and human activity.

What is biodiversity? from World Wildlife Fund, examines genetic, species and ecosystem diversity, conserving biodiversity, wildlife and habitats and  also provides links to other useful websites.

Biodiversity poses the question, why does biodiversity matter?  Provides information, articles, videos and has a news resource detailing the latest actions for biodiversity.

Atlas of living Australia - explore Australia's species, find their locations, investigate natural history collections and map and analyse biodiversity in a given area.

Student activities

Cool Australia's Digital Toolbox - Find video clips, documentaries, images, articles, stories and news for each major topic, including water.

51 Things to do Before You're 12 - great activities to take students outside. Compiled by Nature Play WA as a way of connecting children to nature. This can be printed out as a classroom wall poster to give children ideas of what they can do outdoors.

WilderQuest is a program developed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service to excite and engage children in nature. An interactive iPad app with fun games and activities provides beautiful authentic Australian environments for students to learn about the living world and the Aboriginal culture of these places. Visits to national parks bring these environments to life.

Biodiversity of the Murray Catchment - Enviro-Stories Education Program - read the 44 e-books created by students. Titles include: River Rush; Benny and the Big Nest; Emily the Echidna; Our Local Bushman and Environmentalist and many more!

Our Farmers, Our Future - read the ten e-books created by students with a theme of farmers and caring for our environment.

Koala Tracker - do you have koalas living near your school? The national koala map and database recording live, dead, sick and injured koalas, with causes needs your data.

NSW ecosystems on show - highlights some of the natural ecosystem types found in NSW and the plants and animals they support. This is a learning resource for students investigating ecosystem types in NSW. An initiative of the Department of Education and Communities, Environmental Education Centres and NSW Curriculum and Learning Innovation Centre.

LandLearn NSW's photostream on Flickr - provides images for students to use in assignments.

A4 Poster series on trees and timber - a series of downloadable posters that provide an introduction to four key NSW timber species, and explains the terms softwood, hardwood, heartwood and sapwood.

EcoKids Take Action - step-by-step instructions on how to: build a bug house, grow and eat sprouts, reconnect with nature, swap stuff and start an anti-idling campaign. 

Web2spider toolkit for schools - a kit to monitor spider diversity in your local environment by observing and recording web types.

Video resources

Importance of scattered paddock trees - Scattered paddock trees are essential to the biodiversity and sustainability of farms and the rural landscapes of NSW. Learn why. YouTube video.

Underwater astonishments - jaw-dropping footage of amazing sea creatures. (YouTube 6:00 mins)

Conserving our diverse landscapes - Gardening Australia program looking at various landscapes and eco systems under threat. (YouTube 27.34 mins)

Billy B sings Biodiversity -  facts from the World Wildlife Fund. (YouTube 2:56 mins)

Helping the world by preserving biodiversity - preserving biodiversity in Central Africa. Scroll down the page, suitable for older students.  (11.46 mins)

Enviro-Inspiro! - the winner from 2011 Menai High School's Re-educate the cockies shows how they identified a problem and took steps to solve it.

Woodland Virtual Excursion project - a set of five videos on woodlands featuring scientist accompanied by transcripts and a short biography on each scientist explaining how they ended up working as a scientist in their particular field of expertise. An initiative of the Office of Environment and Heritage and the Department of Education and Communities.

What a wonderful world - from David Attenborough, BBC.  Sir David Attenborough speaks the lyrics to Louis Armstrong's 'What a Wonderful World' accompanied by gorgeous footage from the BBC's Natural History Unit. (2:04 mins)

Kill plastic not wildlife - from Australian Seabird Rescue. So much plastic waste ends up in our oceans it is having a devastating effect on marine wildlife. (6:01 mins)

Of Forests and Men - from GoodPlanet for the United Nations.  Stunning aerial images combined with factual commentary. Produced for the International Year of Forests (2011) using images from Yann Arthus-Bertrand's movie Home and his exhibition Earth from Above. (7:30 mins)

Landcare is for everyone - animation showing how we can all make a difference to our fragile Australian landscape.

Powerful Owl NestCAM - this is the largest owl species in Australia. View what is happening throughout the breeding system. New updates are posted weekly between April and August.

Interactive games and activities

Habitat the game -  A new environmental app, sending kids on real-life missions to save virtual endangered species and reducing their carbon footprint. Available to download for free on all iOS, Android and tablet devices.

The Life of Larvae - a photo matching game for younger students from National Geographic.

Footprint calculator - from the World Wildlife Fund, looks at Australia's ecological footprint, and let's you calculator your own ecological footprint.

NOTE: * indicates NSW Syllabus for Australian Curriculum.

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Page last updated: 15 December 2016