Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students critically analyse image data sets to consider the changes taking place in a recovering ecosystem. Using satellite images students will record observations about changes in plant species and make predictions about changes in a range of abiotic factors. Based on the provided data students, will make a hypothesis about the recovery of populations well after a bushfire event.

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 will identify biotic and abiotic elements of an ecosystem and how they change due to bushfires
  • Students will analyse data sets to determine current changes, and predict future changes, in an ecosystem recovering from bushfires
  • Students will develop a hypothesis about future ecosystem recovery based on these data sets
  • Students will develop their observation and questioning skills.

21st century skills:

Creative ThinkingCritical ThinkingProblem FindingProblem Solving

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions: 

Year 9 Science

  • Ecosystems consist of communities of interdependent organisms and abiotic components of the environment; matter and energy flow through these systems (ACSSU176)
  • Formulate questions or hypotheses that can be investigated scientifically (ACSIS164)
  • Analyse patterns and trends in data, including describing relationships between variables and identifying inconsistencies (ACSIS169)

Syllabus outcomes: SC5-14LW, SC5-4WS, SC5-7WS.

General capabilities: Critical and Creative Thinking, ICT Capability

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability OI.2, OI.3.

Relevant parts of Year 9 Science achievement standards: Students analyse how biological systems function and respond to external changes with reference to interdependencies, energy transfers and flows of matter. They analyse trends in data, identify relationships between variables and reveal inconsistencies in results. Students design questions that can be investigated using a range of inquiry skills. 

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

This lesson is part of the wider unit of work Beyond the Bushfires – Secondary.

Time required: 60 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Low – Supervise student completion of the activity and facilitate discussion and reflection at the end of the lesson.

Resources required: 

  • Laptops or personal computer access
  • Projector or Smart Board
  • Printout of Student Worksheet – one copy for each student.

Keywords: ecosystem recovery, bushfires.

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 will...

  • ... identify biotic and abiotic elements of an ecosystem and how they change due to bushfires.
  • ... analyse data sets to determine current changes over time and predict future changes in an ecosystem recovering from bushfires.
  • ... develop a hypothesis about future ecosystem recovery based on these data sets.
  • ... develop their observation and questioning skills.

Success criteria: Students can …

  • … interpret and explain changes between satellite images.
  • … interpret data in a plot graph.
  • … identify and discuss changes in a variety of abiotic factors.
  • … create a hypothesis based on their interpretation of data.
  • ... identify data that would help them investigate this hypothesis.

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

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Student Worksheet

Thought Starter: How can humans reduce the threat and impact of bushfires?

Read Before and after: 4 new graphics show the recovery from last summer’s bushfire devastation by Jorg Michael Hacker on The Conversation.

Part A: Article Analysis Activities

1. Select one species mentioned in the article, then select one of the abiotic factors from the list provided.

Focus Biotic Factor

Select a species mentioned in the article

Focus Abiotic Factor

Soil Quality, Ground Cover, Shade, Wind, Rainfall

2. Navigate to the interactive part of the article under the heading 'Devastation and recovery after the Kangaroo Island bushfires'.

Using the table below and the images from the three time periods (before the fires, February 6 2020, and October 9 2020), record how your selected abiotic and biotic factors have changed over this period.

Before Fires

February 2020

October 2020

Describe the condition of your chosen biotic factor (
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