Currently, we offer five secondary school programs:
- Food Webs
- Adaptation & Evolution
- Sustainability in a Changing World
Grounded in our Foundation’s research, our program ‘Classification of the Burrunan dolphin (Tursiops australis)’ gives students a feel for working as dolphin taxonomists. We discuss why scientists classify organisms; the use of dichotomous keys; evolutionary aspects of dolphins and whales; and species comparisons in shared environments. We use the newly described Burrunan dolphin as an example of a modern day discovery! Students become taxonomists with the opportunity to handle and study actual dolphin skulls, then photographically assess skulls and take simple measures to predict to which dolphin species each skull belongs, either the common bottlenose dolphin or Burrunan dolphin. This program can be delivered to either Year 7 or Year 9 audiences.
Our program ‘Population assessments of Burrunan dolphins’ allows students to become a dolphin researcher during the incursion using the Foundation’s current techniques of robust dolphin population modelling. Students learn how to distinguish individual dolphins based on nicks and notches along the dorsal fin and during the practical component, use our current photographic catalogue to identify dolphins across seasonal survey periods. This data is used to assess the population structure. Is the dolphin a resident or transient individual within the population? Abiotic and biotic factors as well as anthropogenic impacts that may influence the population are also examined.
Our ‘Ecosystems’ incursion will investigate the scientific definition of an ecosystem and the types of ecosystems found in both terrestrial and marine environments. Students discuss human and environmental impacts on ecosystems that can cause change, both short and long-term. The practical component incorporates the Foundation’s dynamic research by plotting dolphin sightings data on marine maps, discussing dolphin habitat use and behavior, and relating this to the importance of Marine Protected Areas in an ecosystem. Students use the Foundation’s current dolphin dataset and address contemporary issues in conservation science.
Working as biologists, students investigate how food chains and webs occur in nature. We discuss trophic levels, and how changes in one level will affect neighboring levels. Students expand on these concepts through the practical activity, creating models of food webs based on local systems from Port Phillip Bay or the Gippsland Lakes. Students will also study data gathered from the Foundation on two marine species involved in the ‘predator-prey cycle’, evaluating the population levels of the interacting species in the ocean. Students then ‘interact with the environment’ and explore the effects of anthropogenic impacts such as overfishing, population declines and climate change.
Our ‘Evolution’ program will allow students to become evolutionary biologists. This program explores adaptation and a deeper analysis into biological evolution, addressing the theory of natural selection, evolution and the importance of biodiversity. We discuss what can influence natural selection such as variation, isolation and selection. Students learn how to differentiate patterns of evolution and recognise what type of evolution separates two animals. This program includes several expansion options with different foci for students to consolidate their learning:
Our ‘Sustainability in a Changing World’ program introduces the concept sustainability, the impacts we as humans are having on our planet and the long term concerns facing us if we don’t “make a change”. This program raises awareness of sustainability at all levels – ecosystem, global and into the future. Despite issues in society of neglect of sustainability, we focus on empowering the students and enabling a sense of stewardship. The program can be tailored to both a primary school and a high school audience, with different consolidation learning activities.
Secondary school – Students are given the opportunity to investigate the different effects of fishing in our Port Phillip Bay and use critical thinking to debate the viewpoints of various members of society.
The VCE programs will include VCE Biology Unit 1, Area 3, Outcome 3 – Survival of a Species; VCE Biology Unit 2, Area 3, Outcome 3 – Genetic and Reproduction; VCE Biology Unit 4, Area 1, Outcome 1 – Evolution of a Species.