1. Home
  2. Secondary 7-10
  3. Science
  4. Units of work and teaching sequences
  5. Story 1 - Wagga Wagga
  6. About the Topics
Print this page Reduce font size Increase font size

About the Topics

Keeping Warm

In the first-hand investigations in this teaching sequence, students extend their understanding of one way that humans control heat loss from their bodies. Students are guided to consider why traditional Aboriginal people and the early European settlers may have had different understandings of the insulative properties of materials available to them.

The Australian environment is often associated with hot and dry conditions. However, even in central Australia, winter nights can be very cold and in the higher altitudes of the mountain or tableland areas, winter temperatures can fall below freezing. Wind and rain also make winter conditions severe for humans and other living things occupying these areas.

Before European contact, many Aboriginal peoples wore cloaks made from the pelts (skin and fur) of animals such as possums. These cloaks protected them against wind, rain and cold. From 1830, woollen blankets were issued to Aboriginal people as part of the rations distributed by government agencies. The blankets were suitable for dry weather but did not insulate the body so well when they became wet. As the use of pelts for warmth decreased, an increase in the number of Aboriginal people contracting influenza, bronchitis and pneumonia was observed.

Teaching Sequence

Classifying Animals

Classification systems are based on criteria used to group and name objects and materials, including living organisms. A classification system groups together things that are similar to each other and separates ones that show differences. Names are then given to these groupings, which can facilitate communication between people about objects in their environment. This introductory teaching learning-sequence develops students' ideas about why and how people classify things, and develops students' understanding of the reasons for a scientific naming system for living things.

A key is one tool used by scientists to classify objects and materials. Students are introduced to simple dichotomous keys to identify some common Australian animals. The keys are flow diagrams and/or text, and use restored Aboriginal names for the animals. In introducing the activity, teachers should acknowledge that the restored Aboriginal names are those used by the Wiradjuri Nation. The animals used as examples in this activity are distributed across many areas of Australia. If there are Aboriginal students in the class whose families come from different areas, they could be encouraged to use their own language to name the animals in the key.

Teaching Sequence

Managing the Environment

Through the learning experiences in this sequence students gain an understanding of how different knowledge systems can affect the strategies that people use to balance human activities with the protection of the quality and sustainability of the environment. Students are guided to identify and analyse why different cultures or groups in society, including Aboriginal people, might have different views in relation to environmental management.

Traditional ecological knowledge is information built up over generations by groups of Aboriginal people living in close contact with their environment. For each group it is a set of interpretations about the local ecology and a system of self-management that governs the uses of both the non-living and the living parts of their environment, such as collecting, hunting, trapping and fishing. This knowledge is passed by word of mouth within traditional laws and practices and often as part of Dreaming stories.

In pre-contact Aboriginal communities, religious beliefs governed every aspect of people's lives, including their movements, what they ate and how they managed the land. Principles for the conservation of the environment for future generations were embedded in these religious beliefs. The principles were based on the knowledge of hundreds of generations of people about using the environment.

The colonial settlers introduced ‘new’ farming techniques to the Australian environment with little or no sense of the diversity of the Australian ecology. These agricultural techniques, developed for a British or European environment, had dire consequences for the quality of the land, and stood in stark contrast to the practices developed by Aboriginal peoples for thousands of years. For instance, the hunting and gathering of foods was done in such a way that environmental resources were managed through sustainable agricultural farming practices. Aboriginal people used (and, in some areas, continue to use) the technique of fire farming. Fire farming is the selective burning-off of areas of the natural environment, and has two main purposes. Firstly, by burning-off any vegetation build-up following the wet season the chance of large-scale bush fires occurring is reduced. Secondly, selected areas of the environment are regenerated, with the lands cleared by fire generating new plant growth that also attracts wildlife. Fire farming is a traditional technique used to manage the land, and to maintain and renew environmental resources. The harvesting of natural resources was achieved through an intimate knowledge of the land and its environments, and through the invention and ongoing refinement of technologies such as fire, tools, weapons and other implements.

In today's Western societies, management of the environment (often referred to as 'natural resources') is dependent on the collection and interpretation of information. A Western science based approach to natural resource management involves the collection and interpretation of information, including flora and fauna surveys, environmental impact assessment studies, economic analyses and scientific modelling. Usually government authorities use the results of these investigations in the drafting of legislation and management of natural resources and land use.

The nature of the relationships that exist between Western scientific and Indigenous knowledge systems is an area of current research. In recent years there has been an increasing recognition of Aboriginal community knowledge as an integral part of Australia's living culture and as a knowledge system that contributes to our understanding of the world.

Teaching Sequence

Print this page Reduce font size Increase font size