Activity Introduction

Quick summary: In this flipped classroom lesson, students are introduced to mangrove and salt marsh ecosystems, and explore values and attitudes toward conservation research by focusing on these tidal ecosystems in the context of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (or another local nearshore environment). Students explore human relationships with these ecosystems, and the flow of energy within and through these ecosystems through the use of food chains and webs. Students will also have the chance to learn about citizen science and the opportunities available through programs such as MangroveWatch, Earthwatch and ClimateWatch.

This lesson is designed for a flipped classroom, where students learn new content in their own time. This strategy provides the opportunity for students to build their knowledge, attitudes and values by themselves, thereby freeing up class time for hands-on work. This lesson can be used to develop prior knowledge in preparation for the other lessons in this unit.

This lesson is part of a six-lesson unit of work. This unit can be used in sequence to prepare your students to participate in an investigation of mangroves in your local area as part of the MangroveWatch citizen science program.

The lessons in this unit have been developed in partnership with Earthwatch and MangroveWatch. Earthwatch is a global not-for-profit organisation that uses citizen science to empower people to save the natural world, and works with all sectors to create a society that lives in balance with nature. MangroveWatch is a not-for-profit organisation that focuses on the research, education and conservation of mangrove and tidal wetland environments globally.

Learning intention:

  • Students will know some of the features of salt marsh and mangrove ecosystems
  • Students will understand the purpose and work of MangroveWatch
  • Students will understand human impacts on mangrove and salt marsh ecosystems
  • Students will understand mangrove and salt marsh food webs and food chains.

21st century skills:

CommunicatingCommunity EngagementCreative ThinkingCritical ThinkingCultural UnderstandingEmpathy

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions:

Year 9 Science

  • Ecosystems consist of communities of interdependent organisms and abiotic components of the environment; matter and energy flow through these systems (ACSSU176)

Year 10 Science

  • The theory of evolution by natural selection explains the diversity of living things and is supported by a range of scientific evidence (ACSSU185)

Year 9 Geography

  • Distribution and characteristics of biomes as regions with distinctive climates, soils, vegetation and productivity (ACHGK060)

Year 10 Geography

  • 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)

Year 11 and 12 Science – Biology

  • Scientific knowledge can enable scientists to offer valid explanations and make reliable predictions (ACSBL013)
  • Scientific knowledge can be used to develop and evaluate projected economic, social and environmental impacts and to design action for sustainability (ACSBL014)
  • Biodiversity includes the diversity of species and ecosystems; measures of biodiversity rely on classification and are used to make comparisons across spatial and temporal scales (ACSBL015)
  • Ecosystems are diverse, composed of varied habitats and can be described in terms of their component species, species interactions and the abiotic factors that make up the environment (ACSBL019)
  • Models of ecosystem interactions (for example, food webs, successional models) can be used to predict the impact of change and are based on interpretation of and extrapolation from sample data (for example, data derived from ecosystem surveying techniques); the reliability of the model is determined by the representativeness of the sampling (ACSBL029)

Syllabus outcomes: SC5-14LW, GE5-1, GE5-2, GE5-3, GE5-4, GE5-5.

General capabilities: Critical and Creative Thinking, Literacy, Intercultural Understanding.

Cross-curriculum priority:

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.

Relevant parts of Year 10 Science achievement standards: Students describe and analyse interactions and cycles within and between Earth’s spheres.

Relevant parts of Year 9 Geography achievement standards: Students analyse interconnections between people, places and environments and explain how these interconnections influence people, and change places and environments.

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.

Year 11 and 12 Science students:

  • understand that ecosystem diversity and dynamics can be described and compared with reference to biotic and abiotic components and their interactions.
  • understand how theories and models have developed based on evidence from multiple disciplines; and the uses and limitations of biological knowledge in a range of contexts.
  • evaluate, with reference to empirical evidence, claims about relationships between and within species, diversity of and within ecosystems, and energy and matter flows.

Topic: Biodiversity.

Unit of work: MangroveWatch – Years 9 to 12.

Time required: 120 minutes.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Low – This lesson should be completed in students’ own time. 

Resources required: 

  • Device capable of creating maps and satellite images using Google Maps.
  • Devices capable of presenting YouTube, interactive Google Maps, enlarged ecosystem flow charts, food webs and photographs to the class.
  • Student Worksheets – one copy per student. 
  • About Mangrove and Salt Marsh Ecosystems.

Keywords: Citizen science, MangroveWatch, mangroves, salt marsh, food webs, food chains, abiotic factors, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, human impacts.

Cool Australia, MangroveWatch and Earthwatch would like to acknowledge the generous contributions of The Protecting Wetlands for the Future Project in the development of these teaching resources. The Protecting Wetlands for the Future Project is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher Preparation

Learning intentions: Students will…

  • … know some of the features of salt marsh and mangrove ecosystems
  • … understand the purpose and work of Earthwatch and MangroveWatch
  • … understand human impacts on mangrove and salt marsh ecosystems
  • ... understand mangrove and salt marsh food webs and food chains.

Success criteria: Students can…

  • … use an ecosystem model to explain the interaction of organisms and abiotic factors through processes of matter cycling and energy flow
  • … describe change within mangroves and salt marshes using examples of how this may influence the process of natural selection and diversity of living things
  • … analyse values of scientists, other students, teachers and community to clarify their own values toward MangroveWatch, a citizen science project
  • … access secondary sourced information about mangrove and salt marsh processes and components as preparation for questioning and predicting
  • … work independently to complete tasks in
- or - to view worksheets

Student Worksheet

Thought Starter: How might MangroveWatch benefit the environment and students?

This worksheet has been broken down into four parts that you can work through at your own pace. Each section has an introductory inquiry question in its title to tune you into the content.

Part A. What are the features of mangrove and salt marsh ecosystems?

In this section you will:

  • understand the features of mangrove and salt marsh ecosystems

1. Read the following factsheet - About Mangrove and Salt Marsh Ecosystems - and make notes recording important or interesting information about mangrove and salt marsh ecosystems. List three of these ideas below:





2. Now answer the following questions:

What is a mangrove ecosystem? What are the features of a mangrove ecosystem?

What is a salt marsh ecosystem?

Why are mangrove and salt marsh ecosystems important to our environment, and particularly to places like the Great Barrier Reef?

3. Find one clip about Australian mangr

- or - to view worksheets

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