Endangered Species

Research and present a report/poster on a local endangered or threatened animal Southern Right whale, Murray cod (image), Trout cod, Humpback whale, Grey Nurse shark, Leatherback turtle etc.

Sand, waves, tides and humans

Materials needed:        Large plastic trays, icypole sticks, sand, hair dryer, jug of water, rocks

Form sand dunes in the sand tray (Warning: can be messy!)  Find out how sandy beaches are affected by waves, tide and wind by experimenting with trays of sand to represent the beach and sand dunes. Use jugs of water to simulate rain and waves, rocks and straws to represent structures and a hair dryer to simulate wind.  Predict what might happen to beaches in a storm.  Investigate the effects of piers and groynes in the sea by using rocks and icypole sticks to represent these structures and to impede the water flow.  Construct ‘before’ and ‘after’ models of sand dunes (using the plastic trays) that have been eroded by foot traffic, and then reclaimed by protective action and replanting.

Food webs

Materials needed: Names or pictures of animals/plants to form food chains with string/wool attached, make sure there are many producers and less predators; String or wool pieces about 40cm long; some open space.

Act out simple food webs by finding out who eats them and who they eat. Connect each other with pieces of string/wool to make a large food web.  Ask people holding a certain type of animal or plant to sit down. Does it pull the string for others?  What effect is there when one part of the food web is removed?

Impacts on the food web

Introduced species - research facts on introduced marine species such as the Northern Pacific sea star.  Discuss the impacts of introduced species on a marine food chain. How do they impact native animals and their habitats?  Investigate the introduction of marine animals though ship’s ballast water.  Design a machine that could:  allow a ship to change its ballast water safely; prevent the uptake of marine organisms from country of origin; prevent the introduction of marine organisms to other countries;  design your own machine, report and evaluate

Climate change - research the effects climate change may have on the marine environment.  Discuss how changes in the ocean temperature and acidity may affect the food chain.

Floating and sinking

Investigate a range of materials and test to see which ones float and which ones sink, compare fresh and salt water.  Choose materials to design and construct a boat or raft.  Test different models and evaluate their performance.

From the land to the ocean or the story of a river

This activity introduces students to water pollution in our oceans or waterways and ways they can help keep our waterways clean and healthy.

Materials needed: the story below the table, a large clear container (like a fish tank) half filled with water, containers with labels and filled with each of the following from the table:

Human Activity



Oil Tanker

Vegetable Oil

1 teaspoon oil in water


Plastic and Styrofoam

Small pieces


Yellow water and Toilet paper

2 drops yellow food dye & small bits of toilet paper in water


Fishing line

Piece of line

Recreation Boats


Small pieces


Baking soda

½ teaspoon


Balsamic vinegar

I teaspoon in water



2 drops detergent in water

Farming Country

Baking soda

½ teaspoon

Herd of Cattle

Muddy water

¼ canister dirt in full canister of water

The story - From the land to the ocean or the story of your local river

This is a tale about how the water from a river reaches the sea. Let’s start at the top of the river, where there is a large factory. Detergent is used to keep the equipment clean. The dirty water is then hosed and washed down the gutter, down the storm water drain and into the river.

Next to the factory is a very busy road. Sometimes oil leaks out from the cars and when it rains washes down the storm water drains.

Further down, the river weaves its way through farming country. The farmers have recently fertilised the crops. They then watered the crops and the run-off ended up into the river.  On this farming land, a herd of cattle are feeding on the plants around the riverbank.  There are very few tree roots around to support the banks, the cattle trample over the bank and the soil collapses into the river.

The water continues travelling, down the river, carrying all the pollutants that it has picked up along the way. It is now heading through the suburban parts, past houses and parks, before it arrives at the ocean.

Around the houses, most people have gardens. To keep their gardens pest free, people use pesticides. When the people water their gardens, the pesticides wash down the storm water drains and into the river. People inside their homes are busy eating and drinking. After a satisfying meal Tom goes to the toilet. His waste is then flushed down the toilet into the sewage system that may also end up in the river or to a sewerage treatment plant.

At last the river meets the sea, but it is not the end of the journey. Along the side of the ocean, families are enjoying themselves on the beaches. When they get up to go home, they realise there are no bins around and leave their litter on the beaches. At night when the tide comes in, it collects these bits of rubbish and carries them out to sea with it. In the middle of the ocean fishermen are out late trying to catch a fish for tea. Some of the line gets tangled up and lost out to sea.

During the day several recreational boats leave the harbour and head out to the ocean. The people on board are going out to enjoy a lovely sunny day out on the ocean. They bring with them a picnic, but once they have finished eating, they toss their garbage overboard.

A large oil tanker is also making its way to the harbour. It is carrying oil. All of a sudden there is a loud bang. Everyone on the bay turn to look in its direction. The ship has hit a rock. Oil spills out all over the ocean. Plants and animals are covered in oil. A penguin suffocates in the mess.

Could this really be the end of the story? Is this how you want your story to end?

Have containers ready as you read the story.  When the relevant ‘Human Activity’ comes into the story, empty the contents into the clear bowl of water – ‘the ocean’ or river.   When you have finished reading the story,  look at the water. What do you think?  Would you want to swim in it or drink it? How do you think the animals living in the ocean feel when all this pollution is washed into their habitat?  What can we do to make sure that the ocean does not become polluted like this?

How long does litter last in the sea?

Make a display of rubbish.  What do you think of the rubbish lying around. Use a plastic bag as a prop and and ask how it could hurt an animal (e.g. entanglement or turtle might swallow it thinking it’s a jellyfish). How long they think the plastic bag would last in the sea?  Continue with other pieces of rubbish that you may have.

How long does litter last in the sea?

paper bag - 2 to 4 weeks

piece of rope - 3 to 14 months

piece of material - 1 to 5 months

piece of wood - 10 to 20 years

plastic bag - 200 to 300 years

plastic strapping - 450 years

aluminium can - 200 to 500 years

Write a list of suggestions – how can we be environmentally responsible with our rubbish?  Refuse Reduce Reuse Recycle

We all need seaweed!

Investigate the many uses of seaweeds by humans:  as food, Cosmetics, toothpaste, shampoo,  as alternatives to plastic, fertilisers, medicine, fuel alternatives

Life in the deep sea

Try an experiment to investigate how water pressure effects animals in the deep sea.   Puncture three holes vertically in a plastic bottle or milk carton, tape up the holes and fill the container with water, remove tape and observe what occurs.  Explain the relationships between the length of the jets of water and the depth of the water.  Research why some marine animals can survive at great depths and why humans cannot survive such pressure.

Beam of light

Students investigate the properties of light through water and how some deep sea animals camouflage. Using blue cellophane, students make ‘deep sea glasses’ to see how animals appear at differing depths under water

Plastic not so fantastic

Design an experiment to investigate and compare the time it takes different materials to break down in a marine or freshwater environment.  Choose a variety of different materials and leave them in differing conditions - in the sun, buried in sand, immersed in water etc. Consider the implications of your results for aquatic life