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Teaching young minds about the web of life

Hands holding a seedling plant

Biodiversity consists of the ‘web of life’, encompassing all living things and the ecosystems of which they are a part. Plants, animals and microorganisms form the living parts of this web and are dependent upon each other for survival.

September is Biodiversity Month, highlighting the importance of defending, conserving and improving the Earth’s biodiversity. It prompts us to ask how we can take action to ensure the ongoing survival of this essential and unique network of life? Given the looming crisis of dwindling biodiversity, both in Australia and worldwide, one of the best paths forward is to engage young minds in the value of caring for the environment.

Earlier this year, Warrnambool West Primary School took action by instigating tree-planting activities for students. The Year 3 and 4 students explored the topic ‘Beneath our Feet’, and Years 5 and 6 focussed on sustainability. On the day of planting, the students were introduced to a range of plant species and learnt how planting these on school grounds will create vital habitats for insects and organisms.

Toby Webb, a teacher at Warrnambool West Primary School, expounds the benefits of planting activities and the importance of children fostering a connection with nature from a young age.

‘The students are shown how to interact with their environment, which increases their ecological literacy,’ he says.

‘They also gain pride in their school, have fun, and maybe even find it therapeutic to make a personal connection with their environment.’

The Victorian F–10 Science curriculum has a strong focus on the biological sciences. Students investigate living things, including animals, plants and micro-organisms, and their interdependence and interactions within ecosystems. They explore their life cycles, body systems, structural adaptations and behaviours. Students are introduced to the cell as the basic unit of life and the processes that are central to its function.

Each Science level has progressive achievement standards for students. For example, Level F–2 students are taught to suggest how the environment affects us and other living things, Level 3–4 students are taught to compare the key stages in the life cycle of a plant and relate life cycles to growth and survival, and Level 5–6 students should be able to predict and describe the effect of environmental changes on individual living things.

For more information, go to the F–10 Science Curriculum webpage.