Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students investigate the biophysical changes that have caused the land degradation of the tropical savanna of Australia. They identify the climatic conditions, describe the biophysical nature of the region and distinguish between the impacts of cool and hot burns. Students compare the similarities between the Australian savanna and the savanna in Africa. They use online digital mapping tools to evaluate the issues. Students start to link the use of traditional land management fire techniques to land management in the savanna.

Learning goals:

  • Students learn about specific regions of Australia. 
  • Students explore the social and environmental impacts of cool burning.
  • Students conduct in-depth research into environmental change.

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking, ethical understanding, intercultural understanding.

Australian Curriculum 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

Topic: Cool burning

Time needed: Three full lessons

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – get students to look at the introductory Fact Sheets to gain an overview of the tropical savanna and the interconnected issues leading to land degradation.

Resources needed: Access to computers and the Internet.

Digital technology opportunity: Students will use the Fire North website: to view the daily updated fire maps for northern Australia. During March the maps are changed to start a new year so there will be less information early in the calendar year.

Key words: savanna, tropical, climate, weather, distribution, monsoon, adaptation, vegetation, food chains, food webs, fire, mean, conservation, species

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. 

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.

Made possible by:



Teacher Worksheet

QldCoolburn_slowburn-BTeacher preparation

Overarching learning goals: Students collect information from a wide range of primary and secondary sources to discover the causes and measurement of land degradation due to changes in burning regimes.

Teacher content information:

The Australian tropical savanna covers northern Australia from Western Australia to Queensland. The term 'tropical savanna' refers to an environment that is predominantly grassland with scattered shrubs and trees. Some savannas are mostly grass while others are heavily wooded. They all have thick coverings of grass. Savannas in wetter climates may include areas of rainforest, while drier climate savannas are usually semi-arid. The major influences on the tropical savanna are the extremes between the wet (monsoon) and the dry seasons. Savannas tend to have poor soils. The wet season provides a lot of rain so the grasses can grow to be thick and lush. These grasses progressively dry out after the wet season and as a result tend to burn mo

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Student Worksheet

cool-burnThought starters: 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.

Part 1: 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 savannas of Australia and Africa?

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