Activity Introduction

Quick summary:

Rain is a crucial element to the lifecycle of many species living in the Australian desert.  In this wide-ranging lesson, students explore how desert species flourish in the advantageous conditions present after a rainfall, and, conversely, how they have adapted to survive long periods of dry weather. Older students explore the interconnectedness of desert species through a food chain, and how rain can indirectly impact predators that live on the top of the food chain.

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 how the survival of some native Australian desert species is linked to the cycle of rainfall
  • Students understand how the survival of some native Australian desert species is linked to the lifecycles of other desert species.

21st century skills: 

CommunicatingCreative ThinkingCritical Thinking

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Core Content descriptions: 

Year 4 Science

  • Living things have life cycles (ACSSU072)
  • Living things depend on each other and the environment to survive (ACSSU073)

Year 6 Science

  • The growth and survival of living things are affected by physical conditions of their environment (ACSSU094)

Years 3 & 4 Visual Arts:

  • Present artworks and describe how they have used visual conventions to represent their ideas (ACAVAM112)

Extended Content descriptions: 

Year 7 Science

  • Interactions between organisms, including the effects of human activities, can be represented by food chains and food webs (ACSSU112)

Syllabus outcomes: ST2-10LW, ST2-11LW, ST3-11LW, SC4-15LW, VAS2.1, VAS2.2

General capabilities: Literacy, Critical and Creative Thinking

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability.

Relevant parts of Year 4 Science achievement standards: Students describe relationships that assist the survival of living things and sequence key stages in the life cycle of a plant or animal.

Relevant parts of Year 3 & 4 Visual Arts achievement standards: Students use visual conventions, techniques and processes to communicate their ideas.

Relevant parts of Year 6 Science achievement standards: Students describe and predict the effect of environmental changes on individual living things.

Relevant parts of Year 7 Science achievement standards: Students predict the effect of human and environmental changes on interactions between organisms and classify and organise diverse organisms based on observable differences.

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: 50 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Low – facilitate class discussion, support students in their independent research and artwork

Resources required:

  • Art supplies – coloured pencils and textas
  • A device capable of presenting a video to the class
  • Student Worksheets – one copy per student
  • Whiteboard
  • White Paper.

Keywords: flora, fauna, desert, drought, climate, hawk, marsupials, birds, honeyeater, rat, budgerigar, grasshopper

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...

  • ... how the survival of some native Australian desert species is linked to the cycle of rainfall
  • ... how the survival of some native Australian desert species is linked to the lifecycles of other desert species.

Success criteria: Students can…

  • ... communicate through artwork the impact of rain on the habitat and fauna of the desert.

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 t

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Student Worksheet

Have you ever heard the expression “When it rains, it pours”?

This is a good way to describe the Australian desert. When rain falls, the bush comes alive with many creatures and flowering plants. But there can be very long, very dry times in between rainfalls. Those conditions are hard to survive in, and even harder to raise young in!

Over time, native Australian animals have adapted to the boom and bust cycle of the desert weather. Read on to discover some of the impressive methods of survival.

Pied Honeyeaters

Pied Honeyeaters require rain to cause the Eremophila plant to blossom, so they can drink the nectar. They can take advantage and breed quite quickly when conditions are right, when there will be enough food and water around for them to stay for the time they need to raise their young. When the flowers die, the birds will move on and may not return to the same spot for several seasons. They have developed slender, pointed wings to effortlessly fly long distances in order to

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