Australian Curriculum links
- Ecosystems consist of communities of interdependent organisms and abiotic components of the environment; matter and energy flow through these systems (ACSSU176)
- The values and needs of contemporary society can influence the focus of scientific research (ACSHE228)
- Formulate questions or hypotheses that can be investigated scientifically (ACSIS164)
- Plan, select and use appropriate investigation methods, including field work and laboratory experimentation, to collect reliable data; assess risk and address ethical issues associated with these methods (ACSIS165)
- The transmission of heritable characteristics from one generation to the next involves DNA and genes (ACSSU184)
- The theory of evolution by natural selection explains the diversity of living things and is supported by a range of scientific evidence (ACSSU185)
- Advances in scientific understanding often rely on developments in technology and technological advances are often linked to scientific discoveries (ACSHE192)
- The values and needs of contemporary society can influence the focus of scientific research (ACSHE230)
- Advances in science and emerging sciences and technologies can significantly affect people's lives, including generating new career opportunities (ACSHE195)
Students engage with the importance of biodiversity in plants and their growing conditions to provide food security.
Locate Bangladesh, Kenya, Peru, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Zimbabwe on a globe or map.
Click on the photos and read how Practical Action is working with people in these countries to use science and technology.
Examine, in a small group, the plant images and their descriptions to discuss the following:
- How are the plants being used?
- How is scientific understanding being applied to support or improve this use?
- Sort the images into two groups:
- where particular genetic varieties of plants are being selected to suit the local climate
- where growing conditions are being altered to suit the particular variety of plant available.
- Can you think of other applications for the knowledge and experience that has been gained in these examples?
Select one image and note questions for each quadrant of the development compass rose (see below) about possible benefits or issues arising from the science application you have identified:
Table 1 Development compass rose
These are questions about the natural and built environment – the land, the sea, living things, infrastructure and their relationship to each other.
These are questions about money, trading and ownership, buying and selling.
|Who decides (political)|
These are questions about power, who makes choices and decides what is to happen; who benefits or loses as a result of these decisions; and at what cost.
These are questions about people, their relationships, their traditions, culture and the way they live. They include questions about how gender, race, disability, class and age affect social relations.
Share your questions.
Make a summary statement about the benefits and issues of plant diversity and food security.
Students explore the biodiversity of the planet and positive and negative impacts of human behaviour.
Rank the following 11 groups of living things from those with the greatest number of known species to the group with the least number of species.
- Viruses and bacteria
Compare your ranking with the numbers in the table below.
|Viruses and bacteria||66,307|
Data obtained from the National Geographic biodiversity game
Discuss: Were you surprised by any of the results? Why?
Think of three examples of how biodiversity in one group assists the survival of another group.
Share with the class.
Brainstorm as a class the ways human activity could threaten biodiversity.
Investigate how the following human activities positively and negatively impact biodiversity and food security: monoculture, fertilisers, pesticides, non-native species, removal of wildlife corridors
Explore information on the BioEthics Education Project website to check your answers.
Explain some of the ways 'genetic erosion' (the loss of genetic diversity due to agricultural expansion) has benefited people, some of the ways it may have caused harm and methods that could be used to minimise harm.
Students explore the practical application of biodiversity in sweet potatoes for food security and choices made by subsistence farmers.
Read the case study Sweet potato diversity in Papua New Guinea and note your answers to the following questions before discussing as a class:
- What are the characteristics of the sweet potato plant?
- What is the significance of this crop in Papua New Guinea (PNG)?
- How has collaboration between scientific bodies from different countries been important in improving the sweet potato diversity in PNG?
- What were the main aims of this collaboration?
- Were some varieties of sweet potato better than others and in what ways were they better?
- What are potential issues that could arise from selecting only the highest yielding varieties for ongoing use?
- Why were so many of the different varieties tested adopted for ongoing use in agriculture in PNG?
What are some of the challenges subsistence farmers face in growing enough food to feed their families?
Create a PMQ for monoculture and biodiversity.
Students investigate the impact of selecting a single variety of plant with diverse varieties in differing environments.
- Seeds or seedlings (such as herbs, snowpeas, broad beans, tomatoes or geraniums) that can be grown over a term
- Garden area large enough for plants to have different treatments
Plan an investigation to compare the choice of the PNG community to grow only one variety (monoculture) with the choice to grow a genetically diverse set of crops.
Use the steps of the 'Global science investigation planner' to help plan your experiment.
Global science investigation planner
- What is the aim of your investigation? Consider and discuss the possible local and global applications for any knowledge and understanding gained from this investigation.
- What variable(s) will you change? What variable(s) will you measure? What is your hypothesis?
- What resources will you need to carry out any experiments?
- What steps will you carry out to perform your experiments?
- What observations and measurements will you need to make?
- How will you collect your data?
- How will you present your findings?
- Did your findings support your hypothesis?
- What conclusions can you draw from this data?
- Consider further experiments that could be carried out and the potential positive and negative impacts of applying these findings.
Half the class could grow one variety of plants while the other half grows a range of different genetic varieties of the same plant under the same growing conditions.
As an extension you may decide to grow plants in different conditions that mimic changing environments such as temperature change, sea inundation and reduced rainfall.
Record the growth, yield and other relevant characteristics of the plants.
Examine the data for the two groups and discuss and draw conclusions about the suitability of the genetic varieties.
Gather the whole group's data and prepare a report that includes:
- aim, including discussion of the local and global significance of the experiment
- equipment and procedure
- conclusion, including possible future directions for investigation and potential applications for these findings.
Discuss the decision of the community in Papua New Guinea to grow a genetically diverse set of crops rather than a single variety (monoculture). Use your findings to support your opinion.
Discuss what varieties you might make if there were:
- a need to produce food quickly after a flood
- a limited budget
- a need to produce a reliable income
- environment protection (for example, limited use of water).