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Exploring Preferred Futures for Marine and Coastal Environments

Sample Unit Sequence and Activity Ideas: Inquiry Learning



PREPARING TO FIND OUT: Sample Activities

Group problem-solving
Working in small groups students plot the significant events for a significant marine or coastal site or location to date on a timeline. Students distinguish between those which they think local societies had some control over and those over which they had little control. See Resource 1.


Teachers model the continuation of the futures timeline, encouraging students to consider the probable and preferable futures of the site/location. In groups, students discuss the types of decisions needed if these preferable futures for their chosen sit/location are to eventuate.

As a class, collaboratively determine appropriate guest speakers from the environmental sector to discuss their ideas of possible, probable and preferable futures of the students’ chosen site/location. The selection of a clear set of issues may give the speaker(s) greater focus. Before the guest speaker(s) arrive, groups of students should discuss and frame some questions to ask them.

Visit the State of Environment Report(SoE) on-line at (Australia State of the Environment 2006 is Australia's independent five-yearly report into the state of the environment - its human settlements, atmosphere, biodiversity, coasts and oceans, inland waters, land, natural and cultural heritage, and the Australian Antarctic Territory.)

Read about the state of the environment and issues affecting it. Read Australia State of the Environment 2006 AT A GLANCE which is a summary of the 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee's key findings on Australia's environment. See

The theme commentaries provided for SoE 2006 are:

Coasts and oceans
Human settlements
Inland waters
Natural and cultural heritage, and
Australian Antarctic Territory.

Explore information about carbon pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in Australia. See the Australian Government Department of Climate Change website at . Encourage students to find out about carbon pollution and greenhouse gases being emitted to air, land and water from different in their local area, their state or across Australia.

Investigate key issues and then ask students to develop a futures wheel (see below) using a stimulus quote from the SoE report or NPI website. For example, ‘There is much to be proud of in Australia's environmental performance, but there remain several environmental issues of concern.’

Future’s Wheel
Develop a future’s wheel to explore the consequences of decisions and choices relating to greenhouse gases that are emitted. In groups, encourage students to decide what locally relevant issue they wish to explore about emissions to air, land or water. The issue is written in the centre of a sheet of paper and a series of concentric circles are then drawn lightly around it. The first question asked is “What are the immediate consequences?”

Ask groups to discuss what these might be and briefly write them around the first circle. Ask groups to link each statement to the central point by a single line. Next, students discuss what consequences may follow-on from the first ones. These second-order consequences can be linked by double lines to those from which they flow. Following on, third and fourth order consequences can be explored and marked in a similar way.

Share futures wheels and explore the difference between intended and unintended consequences.

Ask questions about issues. For example:

• What is the issue?
• What do we think, feel, hope and fear in relation to this particular issue?
• What do others who are involved think, feel and say?
• How has it come about?
• Why do we and others think, feel and act the way we do?
• What and who have influenced us and others involved?
• What is the history of this situation?
• Who gains and who loses?
• Who has power in this situation and how do they use it?
• Is it used to the advantage of some and the disadvantage of others?
• If so, in what way?

• What is our vision?
• What would things look like in a more sustainable future?
• What values can we use to guide our choices in the way the marine and coastal environment is used, managed and conserved?

• What can be done?
• What are the possible courses of action open to us?
• What are others already doing?
• Which course of action is the most likely to achieve our vision of a preferred vision?

• How will we do it?
• How might we implement our plan of action in school, at home, or in the community?
• How might we work together?
• Whose help might we need?
• How do we measure our success?

Source: Adapted from “Education For The Future – a practical classroom guide, D.Hicks, WWF, 1994, p.10

Visualising probable and preferred futures
Discuss the following quote and the implications it alludes to.
“As the twenty-first century begins, the world is on the edge of a new age…We are now in one of those rare points of history – a time of great change, a time when change is unpredictable as it is inevitable. No one can say with certainty what the New World will look like. But if we are to fashion a promising future for the next generation, then the enormous effect required to reverse the environmental degradation of the planet will dominate world affairs for decades to come.”
Source: State of the World, L. Brown, Earthscan Publications, 1991, London

Encourage students to sketch their impressions of what “the world on the edge of a new age” might look like. Ask students to include images related to emissions of greenhouse gases and carbon pollution that affect marine and coastal environments and the plants and animals that live within them.

Ask students to record issues and changes, which they feel are most important.

Introduce the terms “probable” and “preferred” futures, i.e. what we expect the future to be and what we hope the future to be. Encourage discussion, which explores how students might expect greenhouse gas and carbon pollution emissions to be reduced, and marine and coastal environments be protected and conserved in future years.

Using a timeline
Using a timeline marked off in 10-year intervals for a hundred years ahead, have students record what the realities and/or milestones in environmental protection and conservation for marine and coastal environments are likely to be.

Repeat this timeline activity, this time focussing on preferred marine or coastal conservation and protection options and trends that students hope will come about.

In groups, reflect on how the preferable timelines compare with the previously drawn probable ones. Talk about how they are different and what would need to happen for the probable timeline to be more like the preferable one.

Ask students to consider what the environment’s future would be like if their hopes for it were realised.

Encourage discussions about where marine and coastal environmental management fits into the overall picture of living as a sustainable society.

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