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Teaching Ideas
“Exploring Sawfish” - Ideas for Studies of Society and Environment

Cross-sections or models

Activities linked to grade levels 4 - 10

Students produce annotated cross-sections of a typical coastal zone either as a chart, or by using computer graphic programs, or by making a small model from “recycled” materials. These can subsequently be compared with the local metropolitan beach to understand how the coastal zone has been modified by human activity.

Issues and values

Activities linked to grade levels 6 - 10

Identify a number of issues potentially affecting the future of the sawfish or other marine environments and their species. For each of these conduct a ‘values – continuum’ activity. Small groups of students brainstorm list of issues to be represented on the values – continuum, and the values that lie behind them. The students then mark their position on the continuum.

For example, consider the following propositions:

• An area of the sea is to be set aside for unlimited access by any type of vessel, from surfboards to ocean liners.
• An area will be made available that would allow up to 2,000 pleasure craft to moor on a reef at anytime.
• Twenty five per cent of the area is to be set aside in green zones that will allow snorkelling and diving, but ban fishing, including line fishing and spear fishing.

What attitudes towards the environment do these proposals suggest?

How does what we do at home and school impact on threatened species like sawfish?

Activities linked to grade levels P - 10

Discuss ways in which the sea receives waste and pollution, both through deliberate dumping and by run-off from the land. (P – 10)

Talk with students about the ways in which what we do at home and school can affect the sea and oceans. (P – 10)

Discuss what happens when water goes down a drain at school. Describe what might be contaminating the water that goes down the drain, such as dirt from washing hands, paint brushes, or glue pots. (P – 10)

Brainstorm ways the class might avoid disposing of chemicals down the drain, e.g. by scraping left over paint into paint pots, clean paint palettes using newspaper, not using too much detergent or soap. (4 – 10)

Identify and chart areas in the school and home where water is used e.g. drains, gutters, down pipes, sprinklers, tap, showers, laundries, rainwater tanks, toilets, drinking fountains. (4 – 10)

Discuss environmental issues that arise from our use of water. Draw ‘cause and effect’ flow charts to illuminate the issue and its effect on coastal area. (5 – 10).

For example:

Drains blocked with leaves and litter mini flooding in school grounds and after draining away pollutes coastal areas

Talk with students about litter and urban and agricultural run-off that washes into watercourses and drains. Follow its path to the sea. (4 – 10)

Brainstorm ways the class could get involved in activities for the protection of our waterways and the sea. (4 10)

Develop community links with others in your area concerned about water issues. Contact your local Waterwatch Co-ordinator Office. (4 - 10)

Future perspectives

Activities linked to grade levels 5 - 10

Students select an issue they consider has affected a coastal area. Students write the issue in the centre of the circle and then surround this circle with three additional concentric circles, each slightly bigger than the other. (5 – 10)

Students identify first, second and third consequences of the issue – one per outer circle.


In groups, older students might discuss and record why they think it is important to find out about the sea and its resources, both now and in the future.

Ask these questions:

• What present and past patterns of use can you see when you look at the sea and coastal areas?
• Do you think the sea and coastal areas are being used sustainably? Will your grand children still be able to enjoy these environments as you do?
• What do you think we have to do to ensure that the sea and coastal areas will be used sustainably in the future?
• What types of resources do you think the sea and coastal areas will and won’t be able to provide if we continue to manage them in the same way as we do now?

With older students, introduce the concept of sustainable coastal management or ecologically sustainable development. In their groups, students consider a range of questions (see below) and prepare an ‘effects wheel’ to illustrate their preliminary thoughts about the issue:

• If vast areas of the sea are affected by human activity, what might this mean in the future?
• If we continue to strive for a balance between our present need for resources while conserving and protecting natural areas for the benefit of future generations, what might this mean for the future?
• What we do at home has implications for the sea.

Imagining the future

Activities linked to grade levels 5 - 10

Ask students to imagine what the environment of the sawfish and the coast where they live might look like when they are adults.
Ask students to illustrate possible changes to these places and the sawfish that could occur between now and when they become adults:

• What changes do you think might occur? Consider boating activity, shell grit production and over-fishing, pollution of an area that has been ‘loved to death,’ and the effects of increasing human population on the coast.
• What might these places look like in the future? Why?
• What new trends might emerge?

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