Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students explore some of the ways that Australian plants are adapted to bushfires. They begin by reviewing their prior knowledge of how plants respond to fire, before exploring and defining the term ‘adaptation’. They then think about some of the Australian plants they are aware of and the features these plants have, before exploring some of the ways Australian plants have evolved to live with fire. Students then head outside to observe some of the particular features or traits of plants, recording their observations through rough sketches. These rough sketches can then be used as the basis for more formal scientific drawings.

In partnership with The Conversation, the Beyond the Bushfires series brings the words of scientists who are actively involved in research and science communication into classrooms throughout Australia. Students will explore evidence-based research embedded in the context of real-world practice.

Additional thanks to the Ian Potter Foundation, John T Reid Charitable Trusts and The Myer Foundation, for generously supporting the development of these lessons

Learning intentions:

  • Students understand what the term ‘adaptation’ means
  • Students recognise some of the adaptations plants have evolved to live with fire.

21st century skills: 

CommunicatingCreative ThinkingCritical ThinkingDigital LiteracyTeam Work               

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions: 

Year 5 Science

  • Living things have structural features and adaptations that help them to survive in their environment (ACSSU043)
  • Identify, plan and apply the elements of scientific investigations to answer questions and solve problems using equipment and materials safely and identifying potential risks (ACSIS086)
  • Communicate ideas, explanations and processes using scientific representations in a variety of ways, including multi-modal texts (ACSIS093)

Year 6 Science

  • The growth and survival of living things are affected by the physical conditions of their environment (ACSSU094)
  • Communicate ideas, explanations and processes using scientific representations in a variety of ways, including multi-modal texts (ACSIS110)

Syllabus outcomes: ST3-10LW, ST3-4WS, ST3-11LW.

General capabilities: Critical and Creative Thinking, Literacy.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability OI.2, OI.9.

Relevant parts of Year 5 Science achievement standards: Students analyse how the form of living things enables them to function in their environments and communicate their ideas and findings using multimodal texts.

Relevant parts of Year 6 Science achievement standards: Students describe and predict the effect of environmental changes on individual living things and construct multimodal texts to communicate ideas, methods and findings.

Topics: Climate Change, The Conversation, Beyond the Bushfires, Sustainability.

This lesson is part of the wider unit of work: Beyond the Bushfires – Primary

Time required: 120 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – lead students in class discussions, lead students in outdoor activities.

Resources required:

Keywords: plants, flora, adaptations, bushfire, features, observations, drawing.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher Preparation

Learning intentions: Students understand...

  • ... understand what the term ‘adaptation’ means
  • ... recognise some of the adaptations plants have evolved to live with fire.

Success criteria: Students can…

  • … conduct and communicate research
  • … create a scientific drawing
  • … participate in class and group discussions
  • … work independently and collaboratively.

Teacher content information:

Important: Talking about bushfires often involves addressing sensitive issues. Bushfires are innately linked to death and dying, and as such, may evoke strong emotions, opinions, or raise challenging questions about values and beliefs that have no easy answers. What students learn in class may be different to what they hear and see from home and those around them. It is important to handle these issues without reinforcing stereotypes, increasing confusion or raising tension between students.

When talking about sensitive topics, it is important to create a safe and

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Student Worksheet

Thought Starter: If some Australian plants need fire to regenerate, should we just let bushfires burn?

Activating Prior Knowledge

Take a look at the following image and answer the questions below:

What I see in this image:


What this image makes me think about:


What this image makes me wonder. What questions I have about this image:

Native Flora And Bushfires

1. Read through the following questions and use words or sketches to record your answers:

Do you know any examples of Australian flora?

What about the features of Australian flora - do any features stand out?

2. Take a look at the Flora, Fauna, Fire resource. Work in pairs or small groups to open up the resource and work through the story until you reach the page listing all the species that have been studied following the Black Saturday bushfires.

Working in pairs, select one plant species and read through the information about this plant and answer the following questions:

What is the name of this pl

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