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

Activities linked to grade levels P - 10

Talk about sawfish. List all ideas. Ask questions such as: (P – 10)

• What are sawfish?
• Why are they important?
• What life do they support?
• What plants and animals live in the sea with them?
• What would an oil spill do to the waters in which sawfish might live?
• Where did a real-life oil spill occur?
• What might happen if plastic is left in the waters in which sawfish live?

Use the question grid below to stimulate more questions. (P - 10)

What is?

Where/when is?

Which is?

Who is?

Why is?

How is?

What did?

Where/when did?

Which did?

Who did?

Why did?

How did?

What can?

Where/when can?

Which can?

Who can?

Why can?

How can?

What would?

Where/when could?

Which could?

Who would?

Why would?

How would?

What will?

Where/when will?

Which will?

Who will?

Why will?

How will?

What might?

Where/when might?

Which might?

Who might?

Why might?

How might?

Talk about the natural features of the waters in which sawfish live. Record information about these places e.g. colours, plants, animals seen within and around it, and different parts of the marine environment. (P - 10)

Create a concept map showing of what the sea consists. (4 - 10)

Make a chart describing the molluscs, crustaceans, fish, echinoderms, corals and sea grass in the sea. Sort and classify descriptions into categories. (4 - 10)

Develop awareness of places in which sawfish live localities. Ask questions like:

• Where are these places?
• What is this place like at present?
• Why is it like this?
• What is currently happening to this place, and what factors influence this?
• How could this place change?
• Why might this place change?
• What grows here?
• What animals live here? (4-7)

Collect or download photographs of sawfish. Discuss features of these animals and where they live. (4 - 8)

Identify things that animal/plant groups have in common and note differences. (4 - 6)

Write phrases that describe the different species, and how and where they might live. (5 - 8)

A number of ‘nasties’ impact on sawfish. Research them. Find out how they can harm sawfish. Consider how sawfish can be protected. (5 - 8)

Research threats to sawfish. As a class, discuss which issues are affecting sawfish are most important to tell other people about. Develop a web page, brochure, or a segment for television or radio, case study for a journal or newspaper or piece of art to communicate the issue. (4 - 8)

Discuss how the sawfish as a species is important to education, tourism, and scientific research. (5 - 8)

Talk with students about how all organisms in the sea are connected, and share the same resources. Ask students to compile a table of the main physical characteristics of marine ‘ecosystems’ or the plants and animals in the sea e.g.:


Main features

Characteristic plant species

Characteristic animal species





Use additional references to learn about characteristic species, for example: what they look like and special features that help them survive . (6 - 8)

Draw a flow chart to illustrate the effects of removing creatures from the sea e.g. consider what the sea might be like without sawfish, echinoderms, molluscs, crustaceans, and sea grass. (6 - 8)

Locate information on the MESA Seaweek 2008 website about the way in which the reef and its plants and animals are managed. See: (6 - 10)

Conduct a group discussion or debate about an issue that impacts on sawfish. Identify one such issue within the school’s local community and explore the range of views that people might hold on the matter. As a class, formally or informally debate these views. (7 - 10)

Ask students to interview a member of their family or a trusted adult about their environmental concerns and any activities they have undertaken related to sawfish or another threatened species. (6 -10)

Focus on one (or more) species living within a marine or coastal environment. Students could address the following issues: (7 - 10)

• Are the species endangered, vulnerable, or threatened?
• Where do they live?
• Describe their natural habitat.
• What does it need to survive?
• Describe any special adaptations the species may have that enable it to live in different habitats.
• Why is it endangered, vulnerable or threatened?
• What strategies are in place to protect/manage the species?
• What is the role of the local Authorities in the management of this species?

Use effects wheels to investigate the changes to the environment likely to lead to species becoming endangered or ultimately extinct. Consider the immediate effects of such changes and then second- and third-order effects that may result. (7 - 10)

Talk about ways endangered marine species can be conserved. (7 - 10)

Get involved in volunteer efforts that support the monitoring of our reef species. Find out about the Order of Underwater Coral Heroes (OUCH), Waterwatch, Fishwatch, COTSwatch, Sea grassWatch, and Reefwatch (6 - 10)


Activities linked to grade levels 4 - 10

Ask students what they expect to find and do when they go to a marine or coastal environment. List responses on cards for students to group in later activity. Students suggest names for a range of categories such as:

• Animal life
• Landforms
• Plant life
• Things humans have built on the reef
• Things seen or found in the water
• Things seen or found on the land
• Other beach activities
• Things people eat
• Games to play
• Things to do
• Things people use
• Things seen in the air.

Sort responses and ask students to give reasons for their choices. Students can also sort and categorise information using a grid or Venn diagram to show how one item may belong in two or more categories.

Caring for the environment

Activities linked to grade levels P - 10

Things you can do to help protect the animals and plants within the sea. (P – 10):

• When visiting the sea, remember the sea is alive, so be careful where you walk and try not to damage anything.
• If you move any plants or animals, always return them to exactly where you found them. Otherwise they might die. Remember some animals can’t survive for long out of water.
• Do not leave any rubbish behind. It can be dangerous for marine animals.

Read “One Less Fish” by Kim Michelle Toft and Allan Sheather, and A House for a Hermit Crab by E Carle. As a class discuss ways students can care for the marine environment on the visit. Make a three-column chart with headings: ‘Our action’, ‘Is it good or bad?’ ‘Why is this so?’ Present scenarios based on students’ experiences to add to the chart. (P - 10)

For example:

Our action

Is it good or bad?

Why is this so?

Leaving fishing line on the beach


Taking our rubbish home from the visit





Might entangle living creatures


Reduces risk to animals, and enables plastic, glass to be recycled

What we know: knowledge circles

Activities linked to grade levels 5 - 9

Students sit in two concentric circles. Arrange students in pairs, facing opposite directions. Each pair exchanges information about the sawfish as a threatened species to show what students investigated and learnt. After a given time each circle moves on one place. Repeat the exchange of information in a new pair. Continue until students have shared information with several classmates. Re-form as one large circle. Move around the circle, each student contributing one piece of information they learnt from another student.

Transfer information onto cards and sort, using categories such as natural features, tourist attractions, sea creatures, ecosystems, biodiversity, vegetation, issues, recreational activities, activities related to caring for and valuing marine areas.

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