Activity Introduction

Critically evaluate the needs of people affected by bushfires

Quick summary: Before designing solutions to the impact of bushfires on people and communities, students must first understand in-depth and in detail how bushfires affect people, communities and property.

This set of resources challenges teachers and educators to expand their practice by utilising the design process methodology – an engaging, self-directed learning structure that guides students towards becoming experts so that they can ultimately design solutions that have a positive impact on people and communities.

This lesson guides students through the many and varied factors that contribute to the liveability of a place. They critically evaluate the differing opinions of people who contribute to the design of rural communities and homes. They consider exactly how bushfires impact these things. Students then narrow down these concerns into workable problem statements – questions that make potential solutions manageable and focus student thinking in order to adequately address the needs of the people.

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 the impact of bushfires on the lives, property and possessions of individuals and communities
  • Students understand the challenges involved in constructing bushfire resistant housing.

21st century skills: 

CommunicatingCommunity EngagementCritical ThinkingEmpathyProblem FindingProblem Solving

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions: 

Years 7 and 8 Design and Technologies

  • Investigate the ways in which products, services and environments evolve locally, regionally and globally and how competing factors including social, ethical and sustainability considerations are prioritised in the development of technologies and designed solutions for preferred futures (ACTDEK029)

Year 7 English

  • Identify and explore ideas and viewpoints about events, issues and characters represented in texts drawn from different historical, social and cultural contexts (ACELT1619)
  • Use comprehension strategies to interpret, analyse and synthesise ideas and information, critiquing ideas and issues from a variety of textual sources (ACELY1723)

Year 8 English

  • Understand and explain how combinations of words and images in texts are used to represent particular groups in society, and how texts position readers in relation to those groups (ACELT1628)
  • Create literary texts that draw upon text structures and language features of other texts for particular purposes and effects (ACELT1632)
  • Use comprehension strategies to interpret and evaluate texts by reflecting on the validity of content and the credibility of sources, including finding evidence in the text for the author’s point of view (ACELY1734)

Year 7 Geography

  • Factors that influence the decisions people make about where to live and their perceptions of the liveability of places (ACHGK043)
  • The influence of accessibility to services and facilities on the liveability of places (ACHGK044)
  • The influence of environmental quality on the liveability of places (ACHGK045)
  • The influence of social connectedness and community identity on the liveability of place (ACHGK046)
  • Strategies used to enhance the liveability of places, especially for young people, including examples from Australia and Europe (ACHGK047)

Syllabus outcomes: T4.1.2, T4.1.3, T4.4.1, T4.6.2, EN4-8D, EN4-2A, EN4-8D, EN4-4B, EN4-2A, GE4-1, GE4-4, GE4-6, GE4-2, GE4-3, GE4-5

General capabilities: Critical and Creative Thinking, Personal and Social Capability

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability.

Relevant parts of Years 7 and 8 Design and Technologies achievement standards: Students explain how social, ethical, technical and sustainability considerations influence the design of innovative and enterprising solutions to meet a range of present and future needs. Students explain a range of needs, opportunities or problems and define them in terms of functional requirements and constraints. They collect, authenticate and interpret data from a range of sources to assist in making informed judgements.

Relevant parts of Years 7 English achievement standards: Students understand how text structures can influence the complexity of a text and are dependent on audience, purpose and context. They demonstrate understanding of how the choice of language features, images and vocabulary affects meaning. Students explain issues and ideas from a variety of sources, analysing supporting evidence and implied meaning. They select specific details from texts to develop their own response, recognising that texts reflect different viewpoints. They listen for and explain different perspectives in texts.

Relevant parts of Year 8 English achievement standards: Students understand how the selection of text structures is influenced by the selection of language mode and how this varies for different purposes and audiences. Students explain how language features, images and vocabulary are used to represent different ideas and issues in texts. Students interpret texts, questioning the reliability of sources of ideas and information. They select evidence from the text to show how events, situations and people can be represented from different viewpoints.

Relevant parts of Year 7 Geography achievement standards: Students describe geographical processes that influence the characteristics of places and how the characteristics of places are perceived and valued differently. They explain interconnections between people and places and environments and describe how these interconnections change places and environments. They describe alternative strategies to a geographical challenge referring to environmental, economic and social factors.

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

This lesson is part of the wider unit of work Beyond the Bushfires: Bushfire Resistant Housing.

Time required: 60 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – Facilitate class discussion, support student thinking, scaffold students through tasks and resources.

Be aware that the Design Process challenges the traditional roles in learning of instructors as the main disseminator of information and students having reduced agency. In this model, the instructor’s task is to challenge students’ pre-conceived ideas, foster their curiosity, pose challenging questions, and provide support and guidance to students as they are self-directed in pursuing knowledge.

Resources required:

Keywords: earthships, conversation, ian potter, design, research, mudbrick, bushfires, creative, community, rebuild, empathy

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...

  • ... the impact of bushfires on the lives, property and possessions of individuals and communities
  • ... the challenges involved in constructing bushfire-resistant housing.

Success criteria: Students can…

  • ... critically evaluate the persuasive elements of a text, including structure and language choice
  • ... prioritise liveability standards based on a set of criteria
  • ... explain specifically how bushfires affect property.

Teacher content information:

The design process
The design process is an approach for creating solutions to practical, real-world problems by breaking down the project into manageable chunks and thoroughly working through the challenges framed by each unique phase to arrive at a refined idea.

These phases are:

  • The empathise phase
  • The define phase
  • The research phase
  • The ideate and prototype phase
  • The evaluation phase

Architects, engineers, scientists and other thinkers u

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