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Coastal and marine studies in Australia: a workshop manual for teachers

Griffith University and the Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1997
ISBN 0 868 57872 X

Module 6

Investigating Coastal and Marine Environments Through SOSE


This module provides guidance on the use of enquiry based teaching as a strategy for investigating coastal and marine environments through Studies of Society and the Environment (SOSE). In particular, this module focuses on the 'process' strand in SOSE which incorporates not only 'investigation' skills, but also those of 'communication' and 'participation'. These skills help students to study key questions, issues and problems in the coastal and marine environment not just as ends in themselves, but also as part of the process of becoming an active and informed citizen who is knowledgeable about coastal and marine issues and willing and able to work with others to enhance the quality of coastal and marine environments.


The objectives of this workshop are:


There are five activities in this workshop:

  1. Introduction
    The introduction begins with an icebreaker activity followed by an overview of the workshop aims and outline. The introduction also includes a guided imagery exercise to focus participants on the characteristics of enquiry based teaching.
  2. What is Inquiry Based Teaching?
    Workshop participants engage in an example of enquiry based learning. This is followed by a mini-lecture on models of enquiry based teaching and their appropriateness for coastal and marine studies. These models are then examined to identify their contribution to the "Investigation, Communication and Participation" strand of the Studies of Society and the Environment Key Learning Area.
  3. Overcoming Barriers to Enquiry Based Teaching
    This involves participants working in small discussion groups to identify opportunities and constraints for teachers to develop enquiry based teaching in coastal and marine studies.
  4. Planning Enquiry Based Teaching
    Participants then have the opportunity to work in small groups to develop an outline for an issue or enquiry based unit related to their teaching in coastal and marine studies.
  5. Conclusion
    The workshop concludes with a summary of the major workshop themes and a review of the workshop objectives identified in the introduction.


A. Provided

Overhead Transparencies
OHT 1: Workshop Objectives
OHT 2: Workshop Outline
OHT 3: Enquiry Based Environmental Education
OHT 4: Environmental Education and Action
OHT 5: A Learning Process for Enquiry Based Environmental Education
OHT 6: Four Enquiry Questions
OHT 7: A Five Step Process for Exploring Issues
OHT 8: Objectives of Coastal and Marine Studies
OHT 9: The Process Strand in SOSE
OHT 10: Skills Students Need for Enquiry
OHT 11: General Characteristics of an Effective Teacher
OHT 12: Characteristics of an Effective Teacher as an Enquiry is Developed


Resource 1: A Guided Journey
Resource 2: Guided Journey Discussion Guide
Resource 3: Catchment and Coastal Pollution
Resource 4: Pollution Events
Resource 5: Newspaper Reports on Pollution
Resource 6: Questions on Pollution Events
Resource 7: The Process Strand in SOSE
Resource 8: Evaluation Matrix
Resource 9: Opportunities and Constraints
Resource 10: Enquiry Unit Planning


Reading 1: A Process for Addressing Environmental Issues

B. To Obtain

Activity 1B: Marking pens and chart paper
Activity 1C: Relaxation tape ( optional)
Resource 2: for each small group of 4-5 or facilitator prepared slide presentation
Activity 2: Cut up sufficient copies of Resource 4 and place them in envelopes so that there is one set for each 4-5 participants
Activity 3: Resource 9 one for each small group
Three - four A4 or A5 sheets of paper or cardboard for each small group.
One thick marking pen per group
Tape or bluetack
Activity 4: Resource 10 enlarged to A3 size for each small group and paper


Fien, J. and Paden, M. (1994) The Australian Teacher's Guide to World Resources, Griffith University, Brisbane, Module 9.

Gough, N. (1992) Blueprints for Greening Schools, Gould League, Prahan.

Naish, M., Rawling, E., and Hart, C. (1987) Geography 16-19: The Contribution of a Curriculum Project to 16-19 Education, Longman, Harlow, UK.

Pennock, M.T. and Bardwell, L.V. (1994) Approaching Environmental Issues in the Classroom, National Consortium for Environmental Education and Training, University of Michigan, Ann Arbour.



1. Introduction

A. Introductions in Pairs

B. Workshop Overview

Introduce the workshop as 'Investigating Coastal and Marine Environments through Studies of Society and Environment'. Using a brainstorming technique, ask participants to identify what they expect from this workshop. Record responses on a board or chart (retain a copy of these expectations as an evaluation tool). Identify the objectives of the workshop and how this relates to the expectations participants listed for the workshop. A suggested workshop outline and objectives are detailed on OHT 1 and OHT 2.

C. Guided Journey

The guided journey activity asks participants to relax and take a tour of a variety settings where coastal and marine studies may be taught. This tour will form the basis for participants to discuss their understanding of what enquiry based teaching looks like. It is important to carefully prepare the participants to engage in the guided journey. As the facilitator you will need to gauge whether it would be best for the group to participate in the guided journey seated at a desk, lying on the beach or floor, etc. It is very important that participants feel comfortable. You will require a very quiet location. It might also be appropriate to play soft relaxation music as a background for this activity.

Depending on the situation, facilitators may find it useful to collect a set of slides or photographs of a variety of coastal and marine studies settings. This slide presentation could replace the guided journey text included as Resource 1.

This activity will allow participants to focus on some of the key concepts to be developed in the workshop. This activity provides a focus for participants to consider what they think enquiry based teaching involves.

2. What is Enquiry Based Teaching?

This section consists of four activities. Activities A and B involve participants in a classroom activity (and debriefing) based on a catchment and coastal pollution issue. Activity C is a mini-lecture which outlines a number of approaches to enquiry based teaching for coastal and marine studies. Activity D asks participants to evaluate these models of teaching and learning against the process strand in the Studies of Society and Environment Key Learning Area.

A. Sample Activity: Catchment and Coastal Pollution

B. Debriefing

Use the following questions as the basis for a debriefing following the activity. It will be important to point out that action was not developed in this activity due to time constraints.

C. Mini-Lecture

The purpose of this mini lecture is to provide participants with a theoretical background for inquiry based curricular appropriate for coastal and marine studies. A suggested sequence follows using OHT 3-8 and Reading 1. Reading 1 is for the workshop facilitator, but could be provided to the participants as a background or follow-up reading. Use the experiences of participants from the previous activity to highlight points and provide examples throughout the mini-lecture.

Do enquiry or issue based teaching strategies achieve the goals of coastal and marine studies? Use OHT 8 to remind the group of the objectives of coastal and marine studies from Module 1. Ask the group whether the "Four Enquiry Questions" on the "Five Step Process for Exploring Issues" could achieve the objectives of coastal and marine studies. It would be useful for participants to have copies of OHT 6-8 for this discussion.

D. The Process Strand of Studies of Society and Environment

This activity relates to enquiry learning to the process strand of the Studies of Society and Environment (SOSE) Key Learning Area

3. Overcoming Barriers to Enquiry Based Teaching

When considering enquiry based teaching it is important to consider both the opportunities and constraints teachers can encounter. These will differ for each individual teacher due to a variety of factors including personal concerns, lack of support structures, and issues related to lack of time, equipment and space within the curriculum. This activity needs to be general to suit the needs of specific situations. The facilitator will need to use their understanding of the context of teaching during this discussion.

4. Planning Enquiry Based Teaching

In small groups participants consider the development of an appropriate enquiry based unit. Participants may decide to form groups based on year levels taught or topic areas of interest. Resource 10 uses the "Four Enquiry Questions" model as a general outline to guide group planning (it is suggested that Resource 10 be enlarged onto an A3 sheet). Alternative general outline sheets can be developed by the facilitator or participants. Depending on the time available, each group may report back on its planning.

5. Conclusion

To conclude the workshop, you may wish to use the following points:


Workshop Objectives


Workshop Outline

  1. Introduction
    1. Ice Breaker
    2. Workshop Overview
    3. Guided Journey
  2. What is enquiry based teaching?
    1. Activity: Catchment and Coastal Pollution
    2. Debriefing of Activity
    3. Mini-Lecture
    4. The Process Strand of SOSE
  3. Overcoming barriers to enquiry based teaching
  4. Planning enquiry based teaching
  5. Conclusion


Enquiry Based Environmental Education

Source: Gough, N. (1992) Blueprints for Greening Schools, Gould League, Prahan, p.90.

Much of what is generally regarded as 'good practice' in environmental education is a result of students being encouraged to respond to their own concerns or curiosity to investigate and act upon an environmental problem or issue.


Environmental Education and Action

Source: Adapted from Jensen, B.B. (1993) The Concepts of Action and Action - Competence. Unpublished paper presented at the First International Workshop on the Project 'Children as Catalysts of Global Environmental Change', University of Surrey, p. 2.

Environmental education needs to develop students as active democratic citizens who collectively and individually can take action for a healthier environment. Students need awareness, knowledge, attitudes and skills for participating in the solutions to environmental problems.


A Learning Process for Enquiry Based Environmental Education

Source: Adapted from Gough, N. (1992) Blueprints for Greening Schools, Gould League, Prahan, p.90.

  1. Learning originates in a challenge
    After becoming aware of demands, constraints, pressure, and/or needs, students reach a state of puzzlement, tension, discord and expectation. At this point students may feel challenged to enquire.
  2. Preparation for the task
    The problem is defined or redefined. Students gather resources and work out what they need to know and do. They consider the problem, imagine, try to predict, work out what they already know and/or assess their ability to succeed.
  3. Searching
    They may then need to extend their previous knowledge; so they 'have a go'. They question, select, rehearse, talk over, narrow the field, sort, discard, shape hypothesis, and so on.
  4. Trying out our solution
    Eventually students settle on a possible solution and try it out. This is where they may make errors and/or have success, and decide to modify, consolidate and reassess their plans.
  5. Reflection
    Then students need to consider how they achieved what they set out to do. They reflect, confirm, see where to improve, plan new things, celebrate and evaluate.


Four Enquiry Questions

Source: Adapted from Calder, M and Smith, R. (1992) A Better World For All: Development Education for the Classroom. Teacher's Notes, Australian Government Publishing Services, Canberra, p.42; and Naish, M., Rawling, E., and Hart, C. (1987) Geography 16-19: The Contribution of a Curriculum Project to 16-19 Education, Longman, Harlow, UK, p. 61.

  1. Description
    • What is the question, issue or problem?
    • Who does it involve?
    • Where is it?
    • Why does it occur here?
  2. Evaluation
    • What is the significance of this question, issue or problem to my life, the local community, my nation, and/or the world?
    • How have factors in the past influenced it?
    • How might it be seen by different people?
    • What conflicts of interest are there?
    • Who gains? Who loses? Who decides?
    • How are the relationships between people and the natural environment affected?
    • What are the relationships between people and other phenomena?
  3. Reflection
    • Are these relationships desirable?
    • What happens if these relationships are altered?
    • What are the alternatives?
    • How can these be evaluated?
    • Who gains and who loses from different decisions? Why?
    • Who decides? Why?
  4. Action
    • What change, if change is thought to be desirable, should be introduced?
    • How can we bring about change if we, or others, think it is desirable?
    • Who could we contact to discuss action projects?
    • What action should we take?


A Five Step Process for Exploring Issues

Source: Pennock, M.T. and Bardwell, L.V. (1994) Approaching Environmental Issues in the Classroom, National Consortium for Environmental Education and Training, University of Michigan, Ann Arbour, p. 7.

Image of A Five Step Process for Exploring Issues


The Objectives of Coastal and Marine Studies

Source: Adapted from Our Sea, Our Future: Major Findings of the State of the Marine Environment Report for Australia, Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Canberra, 1995, pp. 34-37

To develop:

The sustainability of marine and coastal systems depends on 'Australians knowing about the marine environment, recognising threats to it, wanting to care for it, and learning the skills to look after it.'


The Process Strand in SOSE

  1. Investigation
  2. Communication
  3. Participation

OHT 10

Skills Students Need for Enquiry

  1. Decision Making
    Students need to be able to make appropriate decisions according to each situation. This might include choosing appropriate decision making strategies, such as: consensus, majority rule, two- thirds majority and secret ballot.
  2. Facilitation Skills
    Students will learn these skills from their teacher role model. Students can begin to use and build upon these skills by facilitating group discussions as part of the enquiry process.
  3. Critical Thinking Skills
    Students need to engage in higher level thinking skills, considering both the factual and values components of information. One example is the careful consideration of the source of information and possible bias.
  4. Conflict Resolution
    Enquiry learning often involves issues that are controversial. Students need well developed communication skills to assist them to deal with conflict.

OHT 11

General Characteristics of an Effective Teacher

Source: Adapted from Pennock, M.T. and Bardwell, L.V. (1994) Approaching Environmental Issues in the Classroom, National Consortium for Environmental Education and Training, University of Michigan, Ann Arbour, p. 7.

Effective teachers:

OHT 12

Characteristics of an Effective Teacher as an Enquiry is Developed

Source: Adapted from Pennock, M.T. and Bardwell, L.V. (1994) Approaching Environmental Issues in the Classroom, National Consortium for Environmental Education and Training, University of Michigan, Ann Arbour, p. 7.

Resource 1

A Guided Journey

Make yourself comfortable ... make sure you are in a position where you can comfortably relax for the next five minutes ... you will need to relax ... close your eyes... make your mind go blank ... think only about breathing in and out slowly ... breathing in to the count of 1 2 3 and out 1 2 3, and in 1 2 3 out 1 2 3... now your mind is blank ... and you feel relaxed ... you feel very calm and relaxed ... slowly you are becoming conscious of a bird call ... the bird is quite a distance away from you ... now it is coming closer ... it is getting louder ... there are other birds now ... it is early morning on the beach ... you realise that you are able to float around and take a close look at everything ... float up to the tree tops and sit with the birds for a while... then you hear the voices of children ... they are laughing and enjoying themselves ... you can see what they are doing ... but they cannot see you.

The children look like they are having breakfast ... there are about three groups ... you notice there are four adults with the children ... the children look about twelve years old ... one group of students are chatting over their breakfast ... Jenny says ... "how far do we have to walk today?" ... all David could say was ... "a long way' ... Bill wanted to know why all Year 7 camps have to have such a long walk along the beach ... John was preoccupied with checking he had enough food and water to last ... the students, teachers and two parents set off for their walk ... the students had no idea where they were going ... except that this is what everyone does on Year 7 camp... you walk along ... they walk very quickly and stop only occasionally for everyone to have something to eat ... there isn't much time to look ... the children all seem intent on carrying their backpacks and making it to the place where they will sleep that night...

You decide to float away from this scene ... you move high up into the clouds ... then back down again ... you can see from the sky a school ... you float down and find a Year 10 class ... you take a seat on the window ledge to watch ... the room has thirty single desks in it ... the desks are arranged in five rows of six ... the students are all sitting quietly writing in their notebooks ... they are writing down the information from the blackboard ... the teacher talks now and then ... they seem to be writing down information about what a wetland looks like ... they will soon have to draw a picture ... three students up the back of the room are distracted by something happening outside ... they are told to get back to work ...

You decide to move on to the noise that distracted the students... this room looks really busy ... these are Year 5 students sitting in small groups reading things and really discussing issues ... they are arguing a lot and justifying their reasons for saying things ... each of the groups had a different role ... as tourists, councillor, developer, an ecotourist, local residents and so on ... each group has to justify whether an on the coast should be rezoned for development ... the teacher is talking to different groups as they ask questions ... some students are now leaving the room to go to the library to find out some information ... another student is going to make a phone call to clarify a detail ... these students will soon have a public meeting to discuss the issue ... this is a simulation of a similar case that has happened in the local area ... they will use this study to highlight the things groups do in response to environmental issues. This room looked really interesting ... but you need to move on ...

You decide to visit a junior science class ... you go to their normal lab ... they aren't there ... then you see them making their way down to the local stream ... follow them down ... they are going to test the water because they are concerned that the new industrial estate has been dumping things into the stream and it flows into the sea ... some of the students used to swim in the stream and now they say it smells funny ... they have organised a range of tests to do today to check out the situation and then decide what they can do about it ... the teacher has helped them decide what tests to do and how to analyse the results ... she helps them keep track of where they are going ... Karen says "our teacher is great because she always makes sure we choose a few things to do well rather than heaps of things half done" ... Jill says she wants to go to the council and tell them all about what they find out ... "they need to know that this is happening and we need to work out how to stop it ... it will take us a bit of time to get all the information we need before we can go down and see them".

Well its time to go now ... back up to the sky and nothingness ... then you will come back down ... you can see me ... you can see where we are ... settle yourself ... you are conscious of where we are ... you slowly open your eyes and see the other participants.

Resource 2

Guided Journey Discussion Guide

In small groups discuss the following questions:

  1. If you were a student, which class(es) would you like to be in? Why?
  2. As a teacher, which class do you think might take the most time to prepare for?
  3. Which class would you like to teach? Why?
  4. What makes the learning different between these classes?
  5. In which class(es) do you feel the teacher was using enquiry-based teaching? Why?

Resource 3

Catchment and Coastal Pollution

Source: Fien, J. and Paden, M. (1997) The Australian Teacher's Guide to World Resources, Griffith University, Brisbane, Module 9.

Image of Catchment and Coastal Pollution

Resource 4

Pollution Events

Source: Fien, J. and Paden, M. (1997) The Australian Teacher's Guide to World Resources, Griffith University, Brisbane, Module 9.

  1. Tests reveal high lead levels in the soil of a central riverside residential district.
  2. Another major fish kill has been reported in a river that has suffered from agricultural toxins before.
  3. Community effort has resulted in a large unspoiled tract of mangrove and marsh being protected as a wetland reserve.
  4. The collision of two ships results in a large unspoiled tract of mangrove and marsh being protected as a wetland reserve.
  5. State and Federal politicians are in dispute over the continued dredging and clearing of mangroves for an island resort.
  6. Unacceptable high heavy metal contamination was still present even after a mining company's creek bed clean-up.
  7. A research team from two universities has made significant advances in the bacterial treatment of sewage.
  8. The collapse of a major urban sewer has, for the second time, caused heavy contamination of the receiving river and nearby beaches.
  9. The removal of trees and natural bush has left this island with severe soil salinity.
  10. The pilot research project of an artificial wetland to treat effluent has been so successful that others have been started.
  11. Ballast water being pumped from the bilges of visiting ships has introduced several unwanted species into our waters.
  12. A large cargo ship breaking up in rough seas off the coast has poured fuel oil into the sea.
  13. Sewage plants at well sites are discharging wastes into rivers and fish kills are being reported.
  14. The reduction of koala habitat continued as forest only meters from trees occupied by koalas was pushed over to create housing lots.
  15. A criminal investigation into alleged organised dumping by industry of toxic wastes down storm water drains has been initiated.
  16. Water reclaimed from sewage has been successfully used to grow trees in an arid area thus reducing pollution and producing a valuable product at the same time.
  17. Pollution, overuse and poor management are destroying many Australian rivers.
  18. A bright orange strong acrid smelling pollutant flowed from an urban storm water drain into the local creek for over an hour.
  19. A major city applying only primary treatment to its sewage has polluted its own beaches with fecal coliforms.
  20. The fishing industry is fighting a plan by a pulp mill that wants to pump its toxic wastes into the sea.

Resource 5

Newspaper Reports on Pollution Events

Source: Fien, J. and Paden, M. (1997) The Australian Teacher's Guide to World Resources, Griffith University, Brisbane, Module 9.

  1. Tests Find High Lead Levels. Silt under Brisbane's Storey Bridge has tested positive for high lead levels resulting in some Kangaroo Point residents having precautionary blood tests. A spokesman for the Environment Minister said there was no immediate evidence of a major health risk (Courier Mail, 13 October 1994, p.3)
  2. Dead Fish Prompt River Poison Tests. The Mary River poisoned once before with endosulfan, a chemical used in agriculture, has been poisoned again. The kill reported by residents of Cambroon took place in one of the few remaining deep holes in the drought affected river (Courier Mail, 21 November 1994, p.3).
  3. 700 hectare Wetland Reserve. In Boondall in Brisbane, community energy, organisation and commitment culminated in the 1990 declaration of an unspoiled area of tidal flats, salt marshes, mangroves, melaleuca forest and grass lands as a reserve, thus saving it from development.
  4. Spencer Gulf Oil Spill. On 30 August 1992, upper Spencer Gulf, South Australia suffered the largest oil spill in the state's history when, as the result of a collision at Port Bonython, 295 tonnes of fuel oil escaped from a tanker into the shallow gulf waters and ultimately the tidal creeks of the opposite shore. The area is the home to a significant scale fish industry and a nursery for prawns (Saltfish, 17(2), 1992, pp. 4-6).
  5. Controversy Again! The Federal Government and the Queensland State Government are locked in a bitter dispute and an 11th hour decision to allow or stop further mangrove clearing and channel dredging for a Hinchinbrook Island resort development (Courier Mail 17 November 1994).
  6. Toxin at MIM Clean-up Site. A chemist has reported that levels of lead and cadmium were still unacceptably high after a clean-up operation in a river bed situation leaving creeks and gullies contaminated (Courier Mail, 8 July 1992).
  7. Team Takes Bugs Out of Sewage Treatment. A team from the University of Queensland and Latrobe University studying bacterial diversity has made advances that could revolutionise the treatment of sewage and prevent extensive environmental damage every year (Australian, 22 February 1995, p.25).
  8. Collapsed Sewer Wreaks Havoc. For the second time in recent months a major sewer has collapsed in the Melbourne metropolitan area causing heavy contamination of the Maribyrnong River and pollution of inner city bayside beaches (Australian Environmental Review 1992, 7 (11) p.6).
  9. Kangaroo Island South Australia. Extensive soil salinity is directly related to excessive removal of native trees and bushes. Large tracts of the Pilbara region in Western Australia suffer such extreme erosion that only bedrock is left (Beale, B. and Fray, P. (1990) The Vanishing Continent, Sellers Pty, Kenthouse, NSW).
  10. Wetlands Used for Treating Effluent. The successful use of an artificial wetland started at Ingham, Queensland, as one of several pilot projects researching the treatment of effluent. The project started in 1993 and is now treating approximately 30% of the city's output (Queensland Government, DPI Integrated Catchment Management).
  11. Ballast Water: The Scourge of the Oceans. At least 14 exotic species have arrived in Australia in ballast water and other micro-organisms such as viruses, protozoans and various bacteria are yet to be tested for but may very well be present in ballast water discharged into Australian waters (Bonny, B. Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, 1994) .
  12. Stricken Carrier in Oil Spill Crisis. The Iron Baron ore carrier breaking up off the coast of Tasmania is among our worst marine disasters as her fuel oil pours into the sea (Australian, 12 July 1995, p.1).
  13. State Pollution Shame. Well-site sewage plants being run outside licensing requirements are discharging waste into Queensland's rivers and estuaries. Fish kills were becoming regular events (Courier Mail, 25 March 1995, p.1).
  14. Koala Habitat Threatened by Tree-felling say Locals. Bulldozers were knocking down trees within 50 metres of koalas to provide property blocks for 35 homes on land approved by the Redland Shire Council (Courier Mail, 15 August 1991, p.12).
  15. Toxic Dumps Bribe Probe. This is the first major investigation into organised environmental crime in Australia and involves the dumping of toxic waste down storm water and sewage drains in south-east Queensland. It is reported that truck loads of up to 17 000 litres of waste materials are dumped into the drainage systems (Sunday Mail, 21 February 1993, pp. 1 and 4).
  16. Forest Project Turns Tide on Sea-bound Sewage. A woodland on Adelaide's dry northern plain is surviving on water that has been reclaimed from city sewage. The project is being assessed to decide if thousands more hectares should be planted. It is an attempt to reduce the nutrient-spurred algal destruction of the sea grass habitat due to effluent discharge (Australian, 25 July 1992, p.l0).
  17. Death of a Lifeline. Pollution, overuse and poor management are killing Australian rivers (Australian Weekend Review, 21 May 1994, p. 3)
  18. Norman Creek Pollution. A bright orange liquid with a strong chemical smell was witnessed flowing from a drain outlet into Norman Creek for an hour and a half. The drain runs under an industrial area in East Brisbane (South Eastern Advertiser, 12 July 1995, p.1).
  19. Dirty Surf: Fecal coliforms are present on Sydney's beaches from the city's sewage that receives primary treatment only. Both the fish and oysters show heavy metal contamination (New Internationalist, No. 136, 1992, p. 25).
  20. Fisherman Concerned for their Catch. A plan for a $60 million ocean outfall pipeline that would pump a projected 3000 tonnes of organo-chloride pulp mill effluent off the north coast of New South Wales is meeting stiff resistance from the fishing industry.

Resource 6

Questions About the Pollution Events

Source: Fien, J. and Paden, M. (1997) The Australian Teacher's Guide to World Resources, Griffith University, Brisbane, Module 9.

Part I: Use the following table to analyse each of the events shown on the map in Resource 3.

Event Number

Question 1
Area Affected?

Question 2
Effect on Environmental Quality?

Question 3
Degree of Impact?


Part II: Synthesising the Data

  1. How many different kinds of pollution are entering the sea?
  2. How many different sources of pollution can you identify?
  3. Which instances of water pollution are accidental?
  4. Which events might have the most effect (i) on the catchment, and (ii) on the coast and sea?
  5. Which upstream events affect downstream and coastal environments?
  6. How do upstream events affect downstream and coastal environments?
  7. What can be done to protect water quality at the wetlands? At the beach?

Resource 7

The Process Strand in SOSE

Source: Australian Education Council (1994) Studies of Society and Environment: A Curriculum Profile for Australian Schools, Curriculum Corporation, Carlton, Victoria, pp. 9, 11-12.

Investigation, Communication and Participation

In studies of society and environment, students investigate human relationships and the way humans interact with environments, constructed and natural, in different places and times. They learn that these investigations involve points of view and assumptions about human nature and environments, all created and modified by personal experience, and that these are always present in both the investigator and the investigated. Students learn the techniques of inquiry used in various disciplines to conduct reliable investigations. They come to understand, use and respect the skills of critical and creative thinking and of decision-making and problem-solving. These understandings and skills are applicable beyond the classroom.

Students come to use a variety of learning styles and choose from an expanding range of ways to think and act. As they learn more and think about what they have learnt, their perceptions are refined and reappraised through the use of the central ideas and methodologies of social science disciplines.

Students are encouraged to develop the attitudes and habits on which effective investigation, decision-making, problem-solving and participation depend. These include: independence of mind; willingness to suspend judgement and to tolerate uncertainty; fairmindedness and integrity; respect for differences and alternatives; habitual consideration of personal motivations, assumptions and points of view and an acceptance of their fallibility.

The values, attitudes, skills and knowledge described in this strand develop students' ability to plan and implement appropriate social action.


Students gradually build up the skills involved in research, processing data and in interpreting or applying findings. In the early years of school, planning an investigation includes reviewing and reflecting on what is known, identifying and describing the problem or focus of investigation, devising questions and considering various perspectives and value positions on the problem, issue or study.

This is a foundation for predicting possible solutions to the problem, constructing hypotheses, considering other approaches to inquiry, and designing suitable methods for gathering and organising information. Sources of information are assessed for their authenticity and credibility.

Since their investigations may be carried out in groups, students should be able to negotiate roles and responsibilities, clarify goals and resource needs, and identify time-management issues and organisational requirements.

In the early years, students gather and interpret data by listening and responding to stories, oral histories and accounts, and by using all the senses to observe. As they progress, they learn to compare and classify information and to interpret sources such as surveys, maps, charts, diagrams. They weigh information by distinguishing between fact and opinion, seeking corroboration, judging the credibility and relevance of information, and identifying the values, biases and points of view it contains.


Communication skills using spoken, written, graphic and statistical forms are essential in this learning area. Students become skilful in interpreting, using, producing and conveying messages. They learn about the workings of the media in modern societies and use a range of communication tools and genres typical of the learning area, understanding the power and potential of each.

Students learn to interpret and present ideas and information in forms particular to the field of study. Examples are artefacts, documents, models, tables, charts, maps and essays. They learn to use information technology and the media both as sources of information and means of communication. They also explore the value of literature and the visual and performing arts as a means of communicating ideas and understanding the viewpoints of others. Skills in speaking and writing about public or civic matters and the skills of democratic social action are also developed.


Students' approaches to investigation include participatory and collaborative efforts. They come to recognise that these approaches are necessary for effective learning and are vital in democratic decision-making. Students need to see the relevance of these skills to their own lives and futures and become confident participants in making decisions and solving problems in their groups. Students analyse their personal responsibilities, identifying their roles in collaborative work in school. They practise ways to identify and overcome problems and resolve conflicts.

Resource 8

Evaluation Matrix

SOSE Process Strand

Four Enquiry Questions

Five Step Process for Exploring Issues







Four Enquiry Questions

  1. Description: What and Where?
  2. Evaluation: How and Why?
  3. Reflection: What Effects?
  4. Action: What can be done?

Five Step Process for Exploring Issues

  1. Choose an issue
  2. Define a problem or issue
  3. Search for a solution
  4. Evaluate options
  5. Take action

Resource 9

Opportunities and Constraints

  1. In small groups brainstorm a list of opportunities and constraints for teaching enquiry based coastal and marine studies.



  2. Now select for your group the three most important opportunities and constraints from your brainstormed list.









Resource 10

Enquiry Unit Planning

Enquiry Question or Topic: __________________________

Enquiry Questions




Reading 1

A Process for Addressing Environmental Issues

Source: Adapted from Pennock, M.T. and Bardwell, L.V. (1994) Approaching Environmental Issues in the Classroom, National Consortium for Environmental Education and Training, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, pp. 6-10.

To incorporate environmental issues in our classrooms we need to recognise some basic characteristics of environmental issues.

Of the many ways for teachers to approach environmental issues with their students all are reflected in the simple, fundamental problem-solving process described in the next section. By following this process, teachers are less likely to be subjected to accusations of bias and indoctrination, because their students will have explored several dimensions and discovered how to make careful decisions.

Five Step Process for Problem Solving

Most complex problems are solved with the same basic steps. Once learners have selected an issue for focus (Step 1) they must define the problem if they are to understand it fully (Step 2). When they have in-depth understanding of the nature of the problem and different viewpoints, they can consider a variety of solutions (Step 3). They need to analyse and evaluate those options (Step 4); this sometimes creates an interplay between creating solutions, evaluating them and recreating them. The final step, Step 5, is to put that idea into practice to contribute to some type of actual change.

These steps are shown in OHT 7.

Teachers need not start at the beginning of the process and stop at the end. Good programs and solid educational opportunities may involve fewer than five steps or may jump and skip among them. The following examples illustrate this flexibility:

Using the entire five-step process can also be appropriate to current trends in education reform, which emphasise problem solving and critical thinking. This emphasis reflects the growing awareness that students need to be able to assess and manage information to more creatively handle and solve actual problems they will encounter. These skills are built into the five-step model.

Step 1: Choosing the Issue

The first step in addressing an issue is choosing an appropriate one to investigate. Students often need guidance on how to best choose an issue to investigate. The list below offers some options.

Generating Ideas to Pursue

Choosing an Issue

Issues often present themselves, as well. For example, three students from one primary class may have seen a television show on the depletion of the dugong. They shared their concerns with their teacher, and that issue become the focus of a group project. In another case, a teacher who was teaching a class on environmental issues learned about an upcoming plan to limit highrise development on the foreshore. She offered the topic as a possibility for the class to study. Together, they discussed the reasons for and against choosing that issue and identified what it would take to study the issue in depth. The students voted to go ahead, and they ended up making presentations. Even though the teacher presented the idea, the decision was left up to the students.

The process for deciding upon an issue can set the tone for the entire experience. If the teacher selects the issue, students might not be very interested in it unless it is relevant to them or they see why it is important. When students pick the issue, the teacher needs to help them choose one they can take on with some measure of success: one that coincides with their capabilities and resources. In either case, students need to make an investment in their problem. Ultimately, they will realise insights to contribute to addressing the problem.

Step 2: Defining the Problem

Although the ultimate aim of problem solving is coming up with a solution, the problem-definition phase is extremely important; good solutions require a solid understanding of the problem. Until students have experience, they may have trouble focusing on the problem definition. Instead, they will want to get to work on a solution. They may find it frustrating not knowing what to do next and being told "Don't worry about solutions, yet!" in order to pursue a more systematic analysis. Stress that this step is necessary and should not be slighted for the more glamorous steps of choosing a solution and taking action.

Teachers will know the problem is well-defined and understood if the students can:

The process of defining the problem will ultimately require gathering information from several resources, clarifying biases, challenging assumptions and thinking critically about the consequences.

Step 3: Searching for Solutions

Searching for solutions involves understanding alternative views and the range of alternative solutions. It requires time to understand the scope of a problem and to experiment with several solutions. It means encouraging great creativity and then going back to the definition stage to learn more about what that solution might entail. This often happens by giving examples and exchanging ideas.

Additional Criteria Teachers May Want to Consider

We often become 'stuck' when we cannot see other solutions. Examples, analogies, and practice can help build the skills for creative thinking. Teachers may encourage students to move from searching to defining several times as more information leads students to consider new potential solutions. Students may also develop a personal vision of how the issue can be resolved and negotiate a consensus view of the future with classmates. This provides students with an opportunity to imagine what kind of future they would like with regard to this issue, and how they can work toward it. This can also be a powerful way to work at the problem definition.

Searching for solutions can occur at two levels: identifying broad solutions to an issue (such as international agreements to protect whales and identifying solutions to which the class can contribute (publicising brand that are 'dolphin friendly' way. In both cases, students can gather and generate ideas from things they have read, people they have talked with, and their own good thinking.

Step 4: Evaluating Options

Once students identify a range of solutions, teachers can help them consider the constraints and possibilities of each and the values and interests they serve. Here are some questions you can use to direct this process.

At this point the role of the teacher is to support students in the evaluation process. One method is to provide a structure for evaluating the options. For instance, the teacher's questions can guide written work, small group discussions, and oral reports. Another form of support is encouragement. Answering these questions can be hard work even many adults have not learned how to evaluate solutions well, Imagery through examples is also helpful. Finally, teachers should give students adequate time and explain that it takes practice to learn to evaluate solutions.

Step 5: Taking Action

Taking action has to do with understanding what types of changes are possible to resolve the problem, how one can contribute to these changes, and, if appropriate, doing so. The five steps each involve different skills. For instance, the problem-definition step requires critical reflection and analysis; identifying and evaluating solutions involves looking at possible outcomes; taking action involves students in bringing certain possibilities to life.

Teachers and students can be involved in the action-taking step in personal, educational, or political ways. You can increase students' understanding of the breadth of possibilities by using these examples to give them some imagery:

The following guidelines are especially useful for teachers involved in community-based action projects.

What if the personal, educational or direct-action approaches do not seem appropriate for a particular group? The teacher can still use other strategies: providing imagery about how students could take action, sharing information about adult and youth groups, that have taken action to effect change, or having the class offer support to established groups working to effect change.

However teachers choose to accomplish it, the action step is a powerful way to move students' feelings about critical environmental issues from hopelessness to despair to hope and possibility. Young people can be influenced by simply knowing there are adults and other youth working to solve problems and create positive change. Teaching have a responsibility not to leave young people in despair about their future. The action step also lends itself to the ultimate goal of environmental education: learning how to participate in resolving environmental issues.