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Old McDonald's farm

Old McDonald's farm

Unit Summary

Students investigate the effects of introduced species on the Australian flora & fauna as well as the economic effects. Students will work in groups to develop a land management plan for a rural environment. Explicit teaching will also be used throughout the unit to guide students through the process.

Curriculum-Framing Questions

  • Essential Question
    How have Europeans impacted on Australia?
  • Unit Questions
    How has the Australian environment changed because of introduced species?
    How have introduced species impacted on the economic value of our land?
  • Content Questions
    How did the introduced species get here?
    How has the introduced species adapted/adopted the Australian habitat?
    What is the effect of the introduced species on the local flora and fauna and farms?
    How do farmers estimate the financial effect of the introduced species on their income, or the value of their farms?
    What is the most effective management plan for a selected introduced species on the land?

Assessment Processes

View how assessment is used in this unit plan. These assessments help students and teachers set understandable goals, monitor student progress, provide feedback, assess thinking, performance and products and reflect on learning throughout the activities.

Prerequisite Skills
Students Prior Knowledge

  • A working knowledge of software packages: Microsoft Office*,Microsoft Excel*,Microsoft PowerPoint*,
  • publication applications. The use of digital cameras, video-conferencing, emailing, etc.

Teachers’ Professional Learning

  • This unit will provide the teacher with an authentic learning opportunity to work as a co-learner with interested students to investigate the use of blogs as a reflection tool. The teacher will set up a sample blog (http://ritae.edublogs.org/about/*) using Edublog (http://edublogs.org/*) which students can use to model their own blog. 

Teaching and Learning Strategies

  1. Teacher outlines the term’s work: students will work in groups of 4 or 5 to create a management plan to present to the “board of executors”. As the young Macs, they must report to the executors of Grandma McDonald’s will for approval, or the farm will revert to the rival cousins, known locally as the Young Jacks.
  2. Teacher poses the questions: “How has the Australian environment changed because of introduced species?” and ‘How have introduced species impacted on the economic value of our land?’
  3. The Project Based Learning may be launched with macs unit introduction (PPT), a multimedia presentation prepared by the teacher.
  4. Students in pairs use the Digital Learning Object: TLF0027 “Old Bernie’s Pond” (Australian teachers should contact The Learning Federation coordinator in their state education department for details of how to access this Learning Object).
  5. Using cards featuring introduced species, students divide into groups. Students become the “experts” for the introduced species on their cards. Students receive macs task outline (DOC) and rubrics to enable them to plan their approach to the unit.
  6. Groups develop a plan to solve the problem. They include a list of tasks required to be done to a proposed timeline, and also a learning journal which they update weekly and use to record their progress.

Teaching and Learning Activities

Introductory Activity
Teacher has students complete the Gauging Needs Assessment (DOC) to enable the teacher to personalise activities and learning during the unit. Ask students to spend 5 minutes and complete a KWL chart (DOC) what they know about introduced species to the Australian landscape. Students then pair up, discuss what they have identified and add to their chart. Show the video (10 mins.) “The story of Rosy Dock’ or read the picture story book by Australian author Jeannie Baker. Are there further notes students can add to their KWL chart?

The teacher then describes the following scenario:

  • A group of young McDonalds have inherited old Grandma McDonald’s farm, a once flourishing property which has sunk into disrepair. The farm is beset with pest animals and plants, who have virtually taken over. These include blackberries, rabbits, thistles, foxes, with a river full of carp. The young Macs must develop a management plan to control the pests and to make the farm operate, so that it can continue as an asset in the family or be sold at a large profit. 

1. Students research their particular introduced species referring to the following specific issues:

  • How the species arrived – accident or design?
  • How has the introduced species adapted/adopted the Australian habitat?
  • The life cycle of the animal or the propagation of the plant species.
  • Impact on local flora & fauna.
  • Economic impact of introduced species - farmers.
  • Authorities that have ‘control’ over this aspect of Australia’s environment.
  • Investigate management systems that have been used in the past.
  • Costs of management strategies.
  • Student support materials may be developed to guide student research eg and macs multimedia scaffold (DOC).

2. Students will be introduced to wikis as a form of online publishing through a class wiki entitled IntroducedPests*. The wiki will be created using wikispaces (http://www.wikispaces.com/*). Students are required to include some of their research on their ‘pest’ to the wiki and are also invited to present their opinion/personal view in the discussion area on the topic ‘Introduced Pests’ in general. Student wiki contributions will be assessed using the Introduced Pests Student Wiki Evaluation (DOC).

3. Class prepares for the visit of a panel of environmental experts and relevant stakeholders.

4. Teacher poses the question: “How have introduced species impacted on the environment and the economic value of the land?” Students as a class construct a KWL chart, drawing from their individual KWL chart and plan a series of questions to address areas they want to cover during the panel’s visit. Teacher and students aim to cover questions such as “What is the effect of introduced species on local flora, fauna and farms?”, “How do farmers estimate the financial effect of such species on their farms?”, and “What type of management plans successfully control the effects of particular introduced species?

5. Several weeks into the assignment, a panel of experts visit the class. They will include representatives from environmental associations and research projects, local farmers or businesses, local government officers. Panel members’ responses to students’ questions will be taped or videoed so that they can be incorporated into student presentations. Students create a PMI (Plus, Minus, Interesting) following their interviews & the interviewees response.

6. Various activities and excursions can be organized to enable students to connect with the topic and understand the issues e.g.

  • Students visit local elderly residents and interview them about their experiences of past plague conditions and/or memories of past methods of control. Such interviews may be audio or video taped.
  • Students may visit nearby land to locate and digitally photograph evidence of damage caused by introduced species. Photographs can be used in student presentations. Student support materials may be needed to guide student work e.g. Feral watch (DOC).
  • Students visit an environmental project site, or a farming project where examples of good land management practice is in evidence, and talk to the people involved in these projects.
  • Students present their long term management plans to the “board of executors”, who would include their Science and SOSE teachers, as well as an invited legal expert eg retired solicitor. Student groups will need to decide what method of presentation will be most effective at communicating their plan to the executors. See sample multimedia presentation – Old McDonald’s Farm (PPT). They will also need to decide what role each member of the group will adopt during the presentation of their information to the executors.

7. Students prepare a newsletter or information brochure/publication appropriate for presenting their information to the local population or another key stakeholder group. See example – Feral affect news (PDF).

8. Articles about aspects of the class project could be written by students and submitted to the local paper.

9. Students compile the information they have researched and developed into a website (PDF)– illustrating the effects of the introduction of the species and what they believe should occur now to prevent further species arriving in Australia.

Culminating Activity:

  • Teacher poses the question “How have Europeans impacted on Australia?” In particular students discuss their knowledge of how the environment has changed because of introduced species, and the impact on the economic value of the land. Students compare their responses now to their responses at the start of the unit, and assess the depth of their knowledge. Do they still need to know more in order to decide what is the most effective management plan for the many introduced species in the country?

Additional opportunity:

  • Maffra is developing a sister school relationship with Williamston High School. If there was agreement, a comparable investigation of introduced species could operate there, for example, Uncle John has left a fishing business, which is run-down, etc. Students from both schools could present their work to each other via Video-conferencing.

Accommodation for diverse needs

Students with Special Needs

  • The open-ended nature of the Problem Based Learning will cater for all students. Mixed ability groups will also provide an opportunity for all students to provide knowledge and expertise to the overall project. Students could be shown ‘The story of Rosy Dock’ video or read the book prior to the introductory session to be introduced to the topic and vocabulary before the unit commences.

English as a Second Language (ESL) Students

  • Use of podcasts or CDs to record the instructions and the scenario. Translate these if possible.

Gifted Students

  • Open-ended tasks. Student involvement in developing a strategy to solve the task.

Indigenous Groups

  • Indigenous students will work with the local elder to research and discuss ways in which they feel introduced species has impacted on their environment and culture. This group can use this as the focus for their multimedia presentation, brochure/newsletter and website.


Pamela Remington-Lane participated in the Intel Teach Program, which resulted in this idea for a classroom project.  A team of teachers expanded the plan into the example you see here.

© State of Victoria 2006
Pamela Remington-Lane attended an Intel® Teach Essentials Course and provided the idea for this portfolio. A team of teachers expanded the project.
Copyright is owned by the Crown in right of the State of Victoria. It may be reproduced in whole or in part for study or training purposes, subject to the inclusion of an acknowledgment of the source and no commercial usage or sale. Reproduction for the purposes other than those indicated above requires the written permission of the Department of Education and Training. Requests and enquiries concerning reproduction and copyright should be addressed to the Liability Management Manager, Department of Education and Training, 2 Treasury Place, Melbourne, VIC, 3002
The State of Victoria accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any part of this material and bears no responsibility for any modifications made.

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Old McDonald's farm

At a Glance

Year: Level 8 (Level 4 & 5, Victorian Essential learning Standards)

Subjects: Interpersonal Development, Science, Economics, Communication

Time Needed: Term 4 – SOSE, Science and English time allotments