Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students model the impacts of bushfires on flora and fauna through the use of food webs. They begin by refreshing their understanding of food webs before looking at how the loss of a flora species might affect their food web. They then explore the impact of invasive species who are given the opportunity to colonise an area following a bushfire. Students will then explore what happens to the food web when a native fauna species is lost. Finally, students reflect on their learning to produce a written piece outlining suggested actions for conservation in bushfire-affected areas.

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 know what a food chain is and what a food web is
  • Students understand how bushfires can affect an Australian food web.

21st century skills: 

Critical ThinkingProblem FindingTeam Work                

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions: 

Years 7 Science:

  • Interactions between organisms, including the effects of human activities, can be represented by food chains and food webs (ACSSU112)
  • Summarise data, from students’ own investigations and secondary sources, and use scientific understanding to identify relationships and draw conclusions based on evidence (ACSIS130)
  • Communicate ideas, findings and evidence-based solutions to problems using scientific language, and representations, using digital technologies as appropriate (ACSIS133)

Year 9 Science

  • Ecosystems consist of communities of interdependent organisms and abiotic components of the environment; matter and energy flow through these systems (ACSSU176)
  • Critically analyse the validity of information in primary and secondary sources and evaluate the approaches used to solve problems (ACSIS172)
  • Communicate scientific ideas and information for a particular purpose, including constructing evidence-based arguments and using appropriate scientific language, conventions and representations (ACSIS174)

Syllabus outcomes: SC4-15LW, SC4-7WSSC5-14LW, SC5-7WS, SC5-8WS, SC5-9WS., SC4-9WS.

General capabilities: Critical and Creative Thinking, Literacy

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability OI.2.

Relevant parts of Year 7 Science achievement standards: Students predict the effect of human and environmental changes on interactions between organisms. They draw on evidence to support their conclusions and summarise data from different sources. Students communicate their ideas, methods and findings using scientific language and appropriate representations.

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 use appropriate language and representations when communicating their findings and ideas to specific audiences.

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: 90 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – facilitate discussions and lead students in food web activities. 

Resources required:

Keywords: Food webs, bushfires, invasive species, species loss.

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...

  • … know what a food chain is and what a food web is
  • … understand how bushfire can affect an Australian food web.

Success criteria: Students can…

  • … analyse and reflect on the impacts of fire on a food web
  • … conduct research
  • … work independently and collaboratively
  • … reflect on food web activities to produce a written report.

Teacher content information: This lesson uses the Flora, Fauna Fire resource from The Conversation. This resource examines and describes the impacts of the Black Summer bushfires on native flora and fauna species.

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 impo

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Student Worksheet

Thought Starter: What would a food web that includes you look like?

Activating Prior Knowledge - Think Pair Share

Work independently to answer the questions in the table below, recording your answers in Column A.

  Column A - Your initial ideas Column B - Any new ideas
What is a food chain?
What is a food web?
What do the arrows in a food chain or food web mean?

Once complete, turn to a classmate to share your answers. Following your discussion, add any new ideas to Column B of the table.


Imagine you were an ecologist or biologist who wanted to help native flora and fauna recover from a bushfire. What would be your priority actions? What actions can you take that would help the greatest number of species?

Plan and research your thoughts, using the Flora, Fauna, Fire resource to help you. For each recommendation you make, you should provide some supportive research.

Prepare a one-page document that describes your recommendation

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