Eco Schools: biodiversity

Get students out of the classroom and investigating the diversity of the natural world.

School grounds, parks and remnant bushland can be home to a variety of plants and animals suitable for students to study.

Biodiversity projects can be done on school grounds or beyond them.

Project tips

Students can research local plants that give birds and animals food and shelter. They can make surveys of the school’s grounds. They can also explore concepts such as the web of life and the food chain.

  • Visit local national parks and reserves to study ecosystems and watch birds and animals in their natural homes.
  • Speak with experts in local Landcare or Bushcare groups or at your local council. They can tell you about plants and animals in your area and help align your project with other environmental initiatives.
  • Consider health and safety. Watch out for spiky plants or trees that may drop limbs. Avoid plants known to trigger allergies.

Link your project to the curriculum

Learn how you can link environmental projects with the curriculum in key learning areas for student outcomes at all stages.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures

  • ways of thinking and interacting with the environment
  • seasonal calendars
  • land links, non-verbal

Sustainability

  • design solutions to environmental issues
  • improve and manage biodiversity
  • understand species interdependence

Literacy

  • research, analyse, evaluate, communicate
  • read informative texts e.g. fact sheets
  • biodiversity journals
  • compose texts

Critical and creative thinking

  • use reason and imagination
  • think deeply and creatively
  • evaluate knowledge
  • consider alternatives
  • solve problems

Personal and social capability

  • question, solve problems, explore and display curiosity
  • make informed choices
  • take responsibility
  • work effectively individually and in teams

Ethical understanding

  • be a responsible citizen
  • apply ethical guidelines in biodiversity management
  • create a stance on right and wrong conduct

Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia

  • diverse environments

Information and communication technology capability

  • web research
  • share information
  • digital photography

Numeracy

  • measure, calculate
  • construct tables and graphs
  • analyse numerical information

Civics and citizenship

  • participate in decision making
  • be an active citizen
  • foster involvement

Difference and diversity

  • engage with others’ opinions
  • identify and empathise with varying perspectives
  • intercultural understanding
  • respect cultural diversity

Work and enterprise

  • impacts of business activities on people, places, environments
  • biodiversity management organisations

Science and technology

Working scientifically
  • questioning and predicting
  • planning
  • investigating
  • processing and analysing
  • communicating
Working technologically
  • exploring and defining
  • generating and developing ideas
  • producing solutions
  • evaluating
Earth and space
  • use of Earth’s resources sustainably
  • use of science knowledge
Living world
  • features of living things
  • identification and classification
  • stages of growth
  • plant and animal places
  • needs of plants and animals
  • use of science knowledge

HSIE: Geography and History

Geography
Features of places
  • natural and human features
  • caring for places
Weather and seasons
  • Aboriginal seasonal calendars
How places are organised
  • location and purpose of trees and gardens in school
People and places
Local and global connections
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ connections with local biodiversity
Geographical concepts
  • place
  • environment
  • interconnection
History
The past in the present
  • history of part of local natural environment
Historical concepts
  • continuity and change
  • cause and effect
  • significance

Mathematics

Working mathematically
  • problem-solving
  • representation of mathematical ideas
Addition and subtraction
  • mental and written strategies, estimation
Multiplication and division
  • solve multiplication problems
  • problem-solving strategies
Fractions and decimals
  • represent fractions
Length
  • estimate and measure length and distance
  • perimeters
Area
  • measure area
Position
  • interpret and draw maps and plans
Data
  • collect and classify data e.g. invertebrates in school yard

English

Speaking and listening
  • use persuasive language
Writing and representing
  • informative and persuasive texts
  • text structures and language features
  • audience and purpose
  • publish in different modes and media
Reading and viewing
  • comprehension strategies
  • author intent
  • sequencing
  • visual elements
  • fact and opinion

Personal development, health and physical education

Communicating
  • active listening
Decision making
  • making safe choices
Interacting
  • cooperating in group activities
Problem solving
  • analysing
  • planning
  • problem-solving
Active lifestyle
  • daily activity
Interpersonal relationships
  • cooperating with others
  • caring for others
  • communication skills
Personal health choices
  • environmental health

Creative arts

Visual arts
Making
  • details of living things
  • properties of art media and tools
Appreciating
  • representations in artworks

Science and technology

Working scientifically
  • questioning and predicting
  • planning
  • investigating
  • processing and analysing
  • communicating
Working technologically
  • exploring and defining
  • generating and developing ideas
  • producing solutions
  • evaluating
Earth and space
  • changes in a local environment due to human activities
Living world
  • features of living things
  • environment and life cycles
  • factors needed for survival
  • relationships between plants and animals
  • role of living things
  • effects of natural changes
  • use of science knowledge

HSIE: Geography

Geography
The Earths environment
Different environments
  • natural characteristics
Significance of environments
  • importance of natural vegetation and resources
Protection of environments
  • sustainable practices to protect environments
Geographical concepts
  • environment
  • interconnection
  • sustainability
History
First contacts
  • Aboriginal peoples’ connection to Country
  • traditional Aboriginal way of life and relationship with Country
Historical concepts
  • continuity and change
  • cause and effect
  • significance

Mathematics

Working mathematically
  • problem-solving
  • representation of mathematical ideas
Addition and subtraction
  • mental and written strategies, estimation
Multiplication and division
  • solve multiplication problems
  • problem-solving strategies
Fractions and decimals
  • represent fractions
  • percentages
Length
  • estimate and measure length and distance
  • perimeters
Area
  • measure area
Position
  • draw maps and plans
Data
  • collect and represent data e.g. compare diversity of invertebrates in two areas

English

Speaking and listening
  • use persuasive language
Writing and representing
  • informative and persuasive texts
  • language features
  • evaluative language
  • audience and purpose
  • express a point of view
Reading and viewing
  • skimming and scanning
  • comprehension strategies
  • summarising paragraphs
  • audience, purpose, context
  • visual elements
  • language choices and devices

Personal development, health and physical education (PDHPE)

Communicating
  • communicating within groups
Decision making
  • making safe choices
Interacting
  • contributing in group activities
Problem solving
  • analysing
  • planning
  • problem-solving
Active lifestyle
  • daily activity
Interpersonal relationships
  • group participation
  • communication skills
Personal health choices
  • environmental health

Creative arts

Visual arts
Making
  • focusing on details
  • creating particular effects e.g. for marketing
  • 3D work e.g. sculpture, scarecrows
Appreciating
  • representations in artworks

Science and technology

Working scientifically
  • questioning and predicting
  • planning
  • investigating
  • processing and analysing
  • communicating
Working technologically
  • exploring and defining
  • generating and developing ideas
  • producing solutions
  • evaluating
Living world
  • structural features and adaptations
  • conditions needed by a plant to survive
Material world
  • innovative use of materials e.g. geotextiles for water retention

HSIE: Geography and history

Geography
Factors that shape places
Factors that change environments
  • ways people change the natural environment
Humans shape places
  • how people shape places
Geographical concepts
  • environment
  • interconnection
  • sustainability
History
The Australian colonies
  • ·nature of colonial presence and environmental changes
  • impact of settlement
Historical concepts
  • cause and effect
  • empathetic understanding
  • significance

Mathematics

Working mathematically
  • problem-solving
  • representation of mathematical ideas
Addition and subtraction
  • mental and written strategies, estimation
Multiplication and division
  • multiplication problems
  • problem-solving strategies
Fractions and decimals
  • represent fractions
Patterns and algebra
  • word problems and number sentences
Length and area
  • estimate and measure length and distance
  • perimeters and area
Volume, capacity, mass
  • calculate volume and mass
  • use scaled instruments

English

Speaking and listening
  • deliver presentations
  • discussions
Writing and representing
  • analyse persuasive devices
  • compose informative and persuasive texts
  • research
Reading and viewing
  • text structures and language features for purpose
  • impact of first and third person narration
  • evaluative and emotive language
  • comprehension strategies
  • summarise texts
Responding and composing
  • compose for purpose and audience
  • strategies to influence

Personal development, health and physical education

Communicating
  • communicating in various situations
  • using negotiation skills
Decision making
  • makes healthy choices
Interacting
  • contributing in co-operative situations
  • caring for the environment
Problem solving
  • selecting alternatives
  • planning
  • enlisting support
Active lifestyle
  • leisure time
Interpersonal relationships
  • working relationships
  • communication skills
Personal health choices
  • environmental health

Creative arts

Visual arts
Making
  • observing details
  • using artistic concepts
  • audience and purpose
Appreciating
  • reasons for artworks
  • audience responses
  • representations in artworks
  • meaning of artworks

Science

Working scientifically
  • questioning and predicting
  • planning
  • investigating
  • processing and analysing
  • communicating
Living world

LW5 Science and technology contribute to finding solutions to conserving and managing sustainable ecosystems

  • interactions between organisms
  • effects of human activities on interactions in food chains and food webs
  • how scientific evidence contributes to developing solutions to manage the impact of natural events on Australian ecosystems

HSIE: Geography and history

Geography
Place and liveability
Influences and perceptions
  • perceptions of the liveability of places
Environmental quality
  • impact of environmental quality on liveability e.g. land degradation
Geographical concepts
  • place
  • space
  • environment
  • interconnection
  • sustainability

Mathematics

Working mathematically
Computation with integers
  • compare, order, add and subtract integers in a real-life situation
Fractions, decimals and percentages
  • solve a variety of real-life problems involving percentages, interpret and use statements about the environment involving percentages
Financial Mathematics
  • investigate and calculate ‘best buys’
Length
  • find perimeters of parallelograms and solve problems involving perimeters
Area
  • choose appropriate units to measure area
Data collection and representation
  • construct and compare a range of data displays

English

EN4–1A Responds to and composes texts for understanding, interpretation, critical analysis, imaginative expression

  • structures and features of informative and persuasive texts
  • language of opinion
  • compose informative and persuasive texts

EN4–4B Makes effective language choices to creatively shape meaning with accuracy, clarity and coherence

  • create informative and persuasive texts for issues

EN4–5C Thinks imaginatively, creatively, interpretively and critically to respond to and compose texts

  • express points of view and arguments on sustainability and the environment in speech or writing

EN4–7D How texts can express aspects of their world and their relationship within it

  • analyse how words, sound and images create perspectives of the same issue e.g. sustainability

Creative arts

Visual arts
Artmaking – conceptual framework
  • the world as a source of ideas and concepts to make art
  • use their diaries to research and investigate the world, including the environment
Artmaking – frames
  • cultural frame
  • use their cultural and community identities and social perspectives of interest to them in the development of ideas and interests to represent the world in the making of art

Science

Working scientifically
Living world

LW2 Conserving and maintaining the quality and sustainability of the environment requires scientific understanding of interactions within ecosystems

  • effects of changes in biotic and abiotic components
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ practices and knowledge contributes to sustainable ecosystems
  • balance in protecting and maintaining environmental sustainability with human needs
Earth and space
  • ES3 People use scientific knowledge to evaluate claims in relation to interactions of the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere
  • scientific evidence of some current issues e.g. loss of biodiversity

HSIE: Geography and history

Geography
Environmental change and management
Environments
  • role and importance of natural environments
Environmental change
  • human-induced environmental changes
Environmental management
  • environmental management, including by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Investigative study
  • biophysical processes
  • environmental change and management
Geographical concepts
  • place
  • space
  • environment
  • interconnection
  • sustainability

Mathematics

Working mathematically

5.1 Properties of geometrical figures

  • solve problems using ratio and scale factors e.g. construct scale drawings

5.3 Bivariate data analysis

  • investigate reports of studies in digital media and elsewhere for information on their planning and implementation
  • critically review surveys, polls and media reports
  • investigate the use of statistics and associated probabilities in shaping decisions made by governments and companies

English

EN5–1A Responds to and composes increasingly sophisticated and sustained texts

  • analyse ideas, information, perspectives, contexts and ideologies in texts
  • create sustained texts that reflect upon challenging and complex issues

EN5–3B Uses language forms, features and structures of texts

  • present a point of view on a subject
  • use persuasive language and voice effects to argue a point of view or persuade an audience

EN5–7D Understands and evaluates the diverse ways texts can represent personal and public worlds

  • use and analyse increasingly complex language features to present a viewpoint on issues

Creative arts

Visual arts
Artmakingconceptual framework
  • artworks using an extended range of material and techniques and various investigations of the world
  • make artworks that build a body of work using an extended range of materials and techniques and various investigations of the world
  • the world as a source of ideas and concepts to make art
  • develop research and investigative skills using their diary
Artmakingframes
  • cultural frame
  • focus on issues of significance to their school and culture to generate ideas for artmaking and the conceptual interest of works e.g. the environment

Stage 1

Students produce a series of biodiversity inspired artworks for display around the school.

Science and technology

ST1–11LW and ST1–10LW

  • Collect playground invertebrates and classify them into insects, arachnids, etc.
Creative arts

VAS1.1 and 1.3

  • Create scientific drawings of invertebrates and use them to create large class artworks, guided by an artist.
  • Make clay invertebrates using sticks, leaves and gum nuts found in the school grounds.

Stage 2

Construct a native or locally indigenous garden in the school grounds.

Science and technology

ST2–11LW

  • Investigate different animals that live in or visit the school and restore or design improved habitats for them.
HSIE Geography

GE2–1

  • Create a sketch map of the school playground or local park, identify different places animals can live. explain why they can live in each place.

Stage 3

  • Design and build nest box habitats for native animals, such as birds, in the school grounds. ensure you consult an expert for advice.
Science and technology

ST3–10LW

  • Observe and describe the structural features of native animals that visit the school grounds and identify their habitat needs for survival.

Science and technology

ST3–5WT

  • Design and make nest boxes for the school grounds.
English

EN3–2A

  • Compose a text that includes sustained and effective use of persuasive devices to convince the community to build and install nest box habitats in their gardens.

Stage 4

  • Create a locally indigenous garden or outdoor learning garden in the school grounds. rehabilitate and re-vegetate an area of the school to increase habitat and biodiversity.
HSIE Geography

GE4–5

  • Investigate the human causes and effects of land degradation in the school grounds (e.g. land clearing).
Science and technology

SC4–14LW

  • Construct food chains and food webs in ecosystems in the school grounds and describe the interactions between organisms. predict effects of human activities.
  • Create a digital text that details the structural features and habitat value of a native plant growing in the school.

SC4–17CW

  • Discuss how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples use science knowledge by making chemical changes to plants for use in everyday life, e.g. bush medicine

Stage 5

Rehabilitate and re-vegetate an area of the school to increase habitat and biodiversity.

HSIE Geography

GE5–2

  • Investigate the role and importance of natural environments.
  • Analyse the environmental impacts of human alterations to the school grounds.
Science and technology

SC5–14LW

  • Discuss and implement ways to conserve and enhance the quality of the ecosystem in an area of the school.

Case studies

Staff and students at Soldiers Point Public School created a ‘safe house’ for koalas within their school grounds by protecting existing koala trees and increasing habitat areas through replanting.

The school’s 2012 Eco Schools grant has helped students learn more about koalas by investigating the local koala population and the factors contributing to its decline. Students learned about the needs of koalas in the local community through a visit from the Hunter Koala Preservation Society and classroom research. With assistance from the Australian Koala Foundation and Port Stephens Council, they then set about identifying, mapping and labelling significant koala habitat trees within the school grounds. Overlaying recorded koala sightings on the map helped the students determine which areas of the school would benefit the most from new tree plantings.

Part of the project involved designing changes to the school playground to support the koala population. One tree in particular has provided a home to several koalas over the past 4 years. Students have established a passive playground in this part of the school where equipment such as balance beams, climbing poles and a sandpit have been constructed using natural materials. A wooden deck provides an area for sitting, reading or quiet games that will not disturb the koala in residence.

Students and their parents have learned what to do if they see a sick or injured koala, with two koalas being rescued from the playground by the Hunter Koala Preservation Society during the year. Students watched the rescues and followed the progress of the sick koalas through the society’s website.

Forty square metres of new habitat were planted with tube stock, and students were actively involved in the planting, mulching and monitoring of the new plants. Students have been communicating the outcomes of the project through an Edublog webpage that provides information about the local koala population and the school’s resident koalas. Students are rostered to survey the 3 main habitat areas in the school each morning and daily posts are added to the site.

The Koala Preservation Society in particular was paramount to our project. They are a wealth of practical information and on the front line when habitat loss causes problems with fauna in the local environment. Their presentation initiated great interest and care from all students and we will continue their presentations each year to keep the interest going.

Sharon Egan, Soldiers Point Public School

Top Tip

Link your project to local activities by council or volunteer groups and use the learning outcomes to address a local environmental issue.

An unused and unloved space at the side of Coogee Public School has been transformed into an outdoor classroom, complete with native gardens, vegetable gardens, a frog pond, a native bee hive and garden art. The school’s 600 students now have a place to explore the role of biodiversity in a natural environment within the school grounds. With half of the school’s students living in apartments, the new play space also gives many students a rare chance to interact in a natural environment.

The project began with the children carrying out a biodiversity audit of the school grounds and helping to design the new classroom. A hard-working team of volunteers from the school community helped with site clearing, garden construction, and installation of the frog pond. Unique handmade signage was created by students in art workshops.

Staff and students received training from Australian Museum staff in best practice for design and management of outdoor classrooms. A team of students in the before-and-after school care program play a key role in maintaining the space.

When the children of Curl Curl North Public School were learning about biodiversity, it became clear that they saw very few animals around the school because the grounds were barely vegetated. Helped by a 2009 Eco Schools grant, the teachers, students, parents and school community worked hard to bring their school gardens to life and create outdoor learning areas.

Over 120 square metres of new gardens have been created to make the school grounds more attractive to native animals. Different kinds of garden beds were established to attract different types of animals. A frog pond has hosted its first tadpoles while another garden provides lizard habitat. Yet other gardens attract native birds. The children have even set up an enclosure for leaf insects, after visiting a similar exhibit at Taronga Zoo.

All the gardens were designed and planted by the children after researching what plant species were required to attract different animals. The children were also involved in the hands-on work of clearing, planting, mulching and watering of the new garden beds. Students have been given responsibility for maintaining and monitoring specific garden beds and reporting on their progress at school assemblies.

Local sponsors donated soil and landscaping materials which enabled the school to create more garden beds than initially planned.

As the children’s involvement increased, so too did the desire to involve more children in the planting and establishment of more garden beds. Having hands-on children helpers has had the biggest impact on their commitment to the project and its longevity.

David Shuster, Principal, Curl Curl North Public School

Top Tip

Involve children in all aspects of designing and constructing new garden areas. This fosters a personal connection between the children and their school grounds and a sense of pride in their achievements.