Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students investigate the biophysical changes that have caused the land degradation of the tropical savanna of Australia. They work independently to explore topics relating to cool burning in Australia’s tropical savanna. They then undertake the research necessary to explore the causes and measurement of land degradation due to changes in burning regimes. Students will produce a report to communicate their findings. 

Learning intentions:

  • Students understand the features of the savanna region of northern Australia 
  • Students recognise the social and environmental impacts of cool burning.

21st century skills:

CommunicatingCritical ThinkingCultural Understanding

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions:

Year 10 Geography

  • The human-induced environmental changes that challenge sustainability (ACHGK070)
  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ approaches to custodial responsibility and environmental management in different regions of Australia (ACHGK072)
  • The application of geographical concepts and methods to the management of the environmental change being investigated (ACHGK074)
  • Develop geographically significant questions and plan an inquiry that identifies and applies appropriate geographical methodologies and concepts (ACHGS072)
  • Collect, select, record and organise relevant data and geographical information, using ethical protocols, from a range of appropriate primary and secondary sources (ACHGS073)
  • Evaluate multi-variable data and other geographical information using qualitative and quantitative methods and digital and spatial technologies as appropriate to make generalisations and inferences, propose explanations for patterns, trends, relationships and anomalies, and predict outcomes (ACHGS076)
  • Apply geographical concepts to synthesise information from various sources and draw conclusions based on the analysis of data and information, taking into account alternative points of view (ACHGS077)
  • Identify how geographical information systems (GIS) might be used to analyse geographical data and make predictions (ACHGS078)
  • Present findings, arguments and explanations in a range of appropriate communication forms selected for their effectiveness and to suit audience and purpose, using relevant geographical terminology and digital technologies as appropriate (ACHGS079)

Syllabus outcomesGE5-2, GE5-3, GE5-4, GE5-5, GE5-7, GE5-8

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking, intercultural understanding.

Cross-curriculum priority:

Relevant parts of Year 10 Geography achievement standards: Students identify, analyse and explain significant interconnections between people, places and environments and explain changes that result from these interconnections and their consequences. They critically evaluate a range of primary and secondary sources to select and collect relevant, reliable and unbiased geographical information and data. They analyse and synthesise data and other information to draw reasoned conclusions, taking into account alternative perspectives. Students present findings, arguments and explanations using relevant geographical terminology and graphic representations and digital technologies in a range of selected and appropriate communication forms. 

Topic: Cool Burning, Indigenous Education.

Unit of work: Cool Burning – Secondary.

Time required: 180+ mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Low – support students through independent tasks.

Resources required:

  • Each student requires a device with internet access
  • Report Assessment Rubric
  • Student Worksheet – one copy per student.

Related professional development: 

Keywords: Savanna, tropical, Australia. climate, weather, fire, conservation, species.

Special thanks to:

Fish River Station, John Daly, Dr Jeremy Russell-Smith, Peter Jacklyn, Peter McConchie, Dr Tommy George, David Claudie, Dale Musgrave, Carolyn George and Victor Steffensen.

Cool Australia would like to acknowledge the support of the Bennelong Foundation in updating these lessons.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum. There is great diversity in histories and cultures among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples throughout Australia. This resource includes investigations into and information about some of them. It has an emphasis, but not an exclusive one, on the histories and cultural practices of the Aboriginal peoples of the Northern Territory. It is underpinned by consultation with Aboriginal communities in various parts of Australia. 


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher Preparation

Learning intentions: Students will...

  • ... understand the features of the savanna region of northern Australia 
  • ... recognise the social and environmental impacts of cool burning.

Success criteria: Students can…

  • … work independently to complete tasks in their own time
  • … respond to video and written information
  • … undertake independent online research
  • ... produce a report to communicate the findings of their research.

Teacher content information: In Australia, 23-25% of the land is covered in tropical savanna. Each year in the late dry season, hot fires sweep through a large proportion of this area. Hot burns result in about 25% of the landscape being burnt, which contributes between 1% and 3% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions (Note: this figure just accounts for nitrous oxide and methane rather than the total emissions that includes any carbon dioxide not absorbed by new growth.). Before European contact, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Isl

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Student Worksheet

Thought Starter: Australian landscapes have adapted to fire.

In this activity, you are going to explore the causes and measurement of land degradation due to changes in burning regimes.

Thinking About Cool Burning

You have 30 minutes to skim read the references below and answer the inquiry questions.

Inquiry questions



1. What is a tropical savanna?

2. What are the main biophysical features of the world’s tropical savannas?

3. How do people use the tropical

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