Module 5


Investigating Coastal and Marine
Environments through Science





Activity 1


Activity 2

Observing, Collecting Data and Generalising

Activity 3 3. Generalisations and Evidence
Activity 4

Barnacles in Mangrove Forests:
An Example

Activity 5

Designing a Field Trip

Activity 6 6. Where to Now with Science?


1. Introduction

The aim of this activity is for participants to reflect upon aspects of their current practices when teaching about coastal and marine environments in science and relate this to the "Working Scientifically" strand from the nationally-developed curriculum for science.

Note to facilitators: Facilitators may choose to use the scientific process sections of local syllabi instead of the national document in this activity if this is likely to be more helpful to participants.

Conduct a brainstorming exercise in which participants work as a whole group to develop a way of teaching about a particular coastal or marine topic in science. The rules of brainstorming include:

  • all suggestions are accepted as valid and useful;

  • no positive or negative comments can be made about previous suggestions; and

  • all suggestions should be written up in a list for all to see in words as close as possible to the original suggestion.

  • Nominate a topic and Year/Grade level (or ask for suggestions from group, if appropriate).

  • Explain to participants that during the next section of this activity, they will plan a two week unit of work on __________ (topic: e.g. reef ecology, coastal erosion, etc.) for their students. This will be done in two stages: firstly brainstorm all participants' suggestions for the unit (explain the rules of brainstorming), and then participants plan an outline of the unit from start to finish.

  • After all suggestions have been listed, ask the group to nominate ways of re-sequencing the suggestion to give a logical sequence of steps or phases for the unit.

  • As a conclusion to the activity, ask the group to suggest a name or title for each step or phase.

Note to facilitators: This activity could be conducted in small groups if there is a large number of participants attending or a variety of levels of teaching science in the whole group.

  • Provide each participant with a copy of Resource 1 and explain that it is based on the science process strand of the Science - A Curriculum Profile for Australian Schools. Ask the groups to compare the heading with the names they gave to the phases in their unit. What are the reasons for the similarities and differences?

  • Check the year/grade level for the group's teaching unit against the eight levels in Resource 1 and compare the details in each step/phase with the details in the profile for that level.

  • Using an OHT of Resource 1, ask a participant in each group to summarise the activity by highlighting the statements (using an overhead pen) which match their current practice.

  • Encourage a discussion over the details in the group's unit which match with "Working Scientifically" and those which do not match with "Working Scientifically".

  • Ask whether the details form "Working Scientifically" could be valuable to include in the group's unit? How true is the claim made by some scientists that teachers often do not include them at present? Why?

2. Observing, Collecting Data and Generalising

The aim of this activity is to provide an overview of some common methods used to investigate coastal and marine environments. It does this by providing a summary of a common method used in schools and then engages participants in the classification of some related activities using a mangrove environment as an example. The activity sets the scene to challenge participants to think about the validity of this method.

  • Use OHT 1 and Reading 1 to present a mini-lecture that outlines how the scientific process can proceed from observation to data collection, and then to forming generalisations.

  • Divide participants into groups of four and provide each group with a copy of Resources 2A -2D.


  • After noting groups' answers to Questions 1 and 2, ask each group to explain which activity from Resources 2A-2D 'best supports' the generalisations reached. Encourage debate and discussion of the nominations.

3. Generalisations and Evidence

The purpose of this mini- lecture is to focus on the four mangrove activities again and to consider: "Which activity 'best' supports the generalisations reached and which cannot?" It provides an overview on how the process of science seeks to support or reject generalisations. Reading 2 provides facilitators with background for this activity.

  • Explain that Resource 2A, Resource 2B and Resource 2C are all useful when investigating coastal and marine environments because they focus on observations which eventually lead to generalisations. Highlight, however, that only Resource 2D really had any generalisations supported with data

  • Use OHT 2 to discuss the validity of evidence needed to support a generalisation.

  • Explain that a valid test of a generalisation includes the steps of predicting or hypothesising:

    • creating a null hypothesis; and

    • subjecting this to an experimental test.

    OHT 3 provides a model to illustrate this.

  • Use OHT 4 to review the concept of the null hypothesis and how a generalisation can be supported.

  • Provide participants with Resource 3A and Resource 3B and highlight the similarity between the "Working Scientifically" scetions of curriculum documents. This can be done by asking participants in groups to highlight where this is obvious in these documents perhaps using a coloured pen.

    Note to facilitators: The relevant sections of local curriculum documents could be used instead of the ACT ones.

4. Barnacles in Mangrove Forests: An Example

This activity uses an example of barnacles in mangrove forests to illustrate the concepts developed in the last activity.

  • Explain to participants that a scientist (or student) has observed that there are more barnacles on the bark of trees in a mangrove forest in the seaward rather than landward areas of the forest. In the process of "Working Scientifically" we ask 'why?' and, from our reading and other experiences, could find many generalisations which could equally explain the same observation. Display OHT 5.

  • Use Reading 3 to explain that because all are equally valid generalisations we require some method to distinguish between them. Start with the simplest generalisation (OHT 6) and work through the steps of hypothesis, null hypothesis, testing by experiment, and then accepting or rejecting the null hypothesis and generalisation based on the result.

  • Explain the second example (OHT 7) and work through the steps of hypothesis, null hypothesis, testing by experiment, and then accepting or rejecting the null hypothesis and generalisation based on the result.

  • Summarise by revisiting Resource 2D and encourage discussion as to whether this activity followed the general steps outlined in OHT 7.

5. Designing a Field Trip

This activity uses data to allow participants to work through formulating their own hypotheses and null hypotheses. It then asks participants to design a field excursion based on this method.

  • Divide participants into small groups and ask to discuss how well the sample field trip follows the process outlined in Activity 4.

  • Provide each group with a copy of Resource 4A and Resource 4B. Ask groups to read through Resource 4A and complete the hypothesis and null hypothesis.

  • Ask groups for a consensus on whether they rejected or accepted the null hypothesis. What did this do for the original generalisation stated in the background information?

  • Provide each group with Resource 4B and encourage discussion of the four dot points on this sheet.

  • Allow groups 10-20 minutes to design their own field excursion.

  • Summarise the activity by having groups present their field excursions to the rest of the participants.

6. Where to Now with Science?

  • The purpose of this activity is to summarise the workshop and review the application of "Working Scientifically" into classroom practice and fieldwork.

  • Ask participants to think back to the teaching unit brainstormed in Activity 1 and to compare the unit with the sample activities and field trips in Activity 4 and Activity 5.

  • Using a third coloured pen highlight those statements still not covered in the document "Working Scientifically".

  • Discuss the similarities and differences, while also encouraging a discussion of common teaching practices. e.g. Is it difficult to teach with the "Working Scientifically" process? Where are the difficulties? Where do you see advantages and disadvantages in using this method? What are the limitations?

  • Consider the list of advantages of teaching through "Working Scientifically" in OHT 8. How useful is this process to our students and our teaching practice?

  • Now ask participants to re-examine Resource 1. Ask them to see if any steps in "Working Scientifically" are missing from the examples in this module. They will note that they process of 'Using Science' and 'Acting Responsibly' are missing.

  • Conduct a discussion of the ways 'Using Science And 'Acting Responsibly' could be incorporated into the field trip planned in Activity 5.

  • Conclude the workshop by stating that although we have used mangrove environments as an example this method can be used to investigate any coastal and marine environment.