Teacher background information


Year 3 Science Content Description

Science Inquiry Skills

Planning and conducting

With guidance, plan and conduct scientific investigations to find answers to questions, considering the safe use of appropriate materials and equipment (ACSIS054 - Scootle )

  • consulting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to guide the planning of scientific investigations, including safety considerations for field investigations

This elaboration provides students with an opportunity to develop this core Science Inquiry Skill whilst addressing intercultural science inquiry skills relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures within the context of the following content description(s) from the Science Understanding and/or Science as a Human Endeavour strand(s).

Living things can be grouped on the basis of observable features and can be distinguished from non-living things (ACSSU044)

A potential way to approach this content description is: 

In developing the science inquiry skill of planning and conducting scientific investigations, students can plan a field investigation to identify and group living organisms in their local region. As part of the planning for such an investigation, students could consult with local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Peoples to understand potential safety risks in the area. For further information, students could consult material published by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples or information that acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ knowledges about the local environment, found in internet sources and/or library resources. In planning a scientific investigation such as a local survey for living things, students need to be aware of the safety risks of the environment and consider how to manage the risks to ensure a safe working environment. The risks differ depending on the location of the field investigation, and the potentially dangerous plants and animals that students may encounter. Many local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have a deep understanding of the environment and may be able to help students to understand the possible risks they may encounter.

Many dangerous insects in Australia, such as bees, wasps and ants, can inflict painful stings or bites or cause allergic reactions. For example, the bite of the assassin bug that is found in the open forest of Yugambeh and Bundjalung Countries can cause intense pain to humans. Consultation with local Yugambeh or Bundjalung community members may raise students’ awareness of where the bug might be found, and how bites can be prevented and treated. This information assists field trip planning by raising awareness about the protective clothing that should be worn, safe ways to catch insects using equipment such as bug catchers and first aid equipment that should be available.

Animals may also pose safety risks for students. For example, when students are investigating living things in coastal environments, they may need to be aware of the venomous stonefish. Many local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have highly localised knowledge of the presence and risk of stonefish and may be able to help students plan safe locations for field work.

Many plants also pose hazards that need to be considered prior to undertaking a field investigation. For example, the hooked spikes of the wait-a-while vine (Calamus muelleri) can catch onto and puncture exposed skin; further injury can occur if the barbs are not removed properly. The Gympie-Gympie stinging tree found in rainforest areas of Queensland is one of Australia’s most dangerous plants. The leaves have fine hairs on the serrated edge that cause extreme pain on contact that can persist for several weeks. The common name for the plant, Gympie-Gympie, is derived from the Gubbi Gubbi Language of the south-east Queensland region. Consultation with the local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community can inform students about the safety precautions that they should consider in planning their scientific investigation.

As well as considering dangerous plants and animals in the local environment, consultation with local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Peoples may also help students identify behaviours that may pose safety risks. For example, scrub typhus is a mite-borne infection that can be transmitted to humans when they sit or lie on bare ground or grass. The infection, which can cause significant health complications, is spread through the bite of infected chiggers (larval mites) found in grassland areas at the edge of dense monsoon forests or forested creeks. In Australia, infections have originated in the lands of the Larrakia, Woolner and Djowei Peoples in the Litchfield National Park region in the Northern Territory. Consultation with local Aboriginal community members in this region may provide students with safety advice, such as not sitting on bare ground or on rotting logs, that can help prevent such infections. Similarly, significant health complications or even death can be caused by the bite of the venomous Sydney funnel-web spider, found within a 100 km radius of Sydney. The Sydney funnel-web spider generally burrows in sheltered habitats with a moist, humid climate, such as under rocks, logs or borer holes in rough-barked trees. Local Aboriginal Peoples, including the Awabakal and Worimi Peoples of the Newcastle region, may be able to advise students of the risk of moving rocks when undertaking field investigations.

Safety considerations are an important aspect in developing the science inquiry skill of planning and conducting investigations. Incorporation of this elaboration can provide students with the opportunity to consult with local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community members to access knowledge about the local risk and safety issues that may need to be considered when planning a field investigation. This knowledge can be used to guide student awareness about the need for safe behaviours and safety measures, such as materials and equipment, including protective clothing and first aid kits, when working scientifically in the field.