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Unit Summary

Students embark on a journey of discovery about the structure and processes of planetary geology and explore the impact of human action, behaviour and perspectives. They investigate how we know about the structure of the planet; the formation of natural resources and the extraction of them from the earth and how the use of these natural resources has an impact on the environment. The unit incorporates the ethical issues surrounding the use of these resources. Students will research human impact on the planet including pollution, exhaustion of natural resources and global warming.

Curriculum-Framing Questions

  • Essential Question
    Can planet Earth survive?
  • Unit Questions
    How do geological processes change the planet?
    How have geological processes affected human interaction with the planet?
    How do the short and long term implications of human actions impact on the biotic and abiotic features of the planet?
  • Content Questions
    What is continental drift?
    What is the internal structure of the earth?
    What are the effects of mining on the environment and society?
    What are biotic and abiotic features of the planet?
    What is an ecosystem?
    How does the production of energy from renewable and non renewable sources affect the environment?
    What types of pollution exist in today’s world?
    What steps can be taken to minimise pollution?
    How will changes in global temperature affect the Earth?
    What is the Kyoto Agreement and why did Australia delay signing the agreement?
    Do the Kyoto Protocols apply to all countries or just ‘first world’ countries?
    How will the world survive if only some countries take steps to address climate change?

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

  • Multimedia presentation, wiki development, blog development and word processing software
  • Flowcharting
  • Group work skills – understanding of the different roles of members of a group.
  • What conceptual knowledge and skills do students need to begin this unit?
  • How will students’ skills be enhanced, if necessary, to enable full participation in the unit?

Teachers’ Professional Learning

  • Revision of functions available through the use of programs utilised within the unit. For example Microsoft PowerPoint*, Wikis*,Blogs*,Microsoft Word*.

Professional Learning Team

  • Professional learning teams will be established on a grade basis.

Professional Reading

Teaching and Learning Strategies

Whole class discussions involving joint constructions – creating class charts, writing and reviewing texts, and creating multimedia products.

Providing scaffolding through small group work utilising: teacher assistance, peer mentoring, planning scaffolds, guidance sheets (steps students need to take), class charts visible around the room. Whole class sessions to share information and research sources with the class.

Students work individually in pairs or small groups to research and complete independent tasks. Students utilise their planning strategies to complete their independent tasks and then conference with the teacher.

Teacher support materials include a Curriculum Framing Question Flow Chart (DOC 36.5KB)
See also the Unit Implementation Plan (DOC 43.5KB)

Teaching and Learning Activities

In small groups students complete a brainstorming activity and create a mind map or chart of their knowledge of the structure of the Earth. After researching appropriate information sites students create a multimedia presentation (PPT 241KB) to demonstrate to the class their understanding of Continental Drift, plate tectonics, mid-ocean ridges and magnetic floor striping.

Students research the biotic and abiotic features of the earth. They demonstrate their understanding of these features by creating a poster of either the carbon or nitrogen cycle.

To further their understanding of the impact of human resource use on the biosphere, students individually map the location of coal, peat, oil deposits in Australia. Using graphic organiser software, they then construct a flow chart showing the process of fractional distillation of crude oil.

Building on their knowledge from the previous activities students working in small groups, research renewable and non-renewable energy sources and then create a blog (DOC 163KB) as an interactive resource for students.

Using the knowledge they have gained students debate the topic Fossil fuels are good for society or Renewable energy is the only way to go! Students conduct independent research to validate their position. This debate can be an intra-class or cross class activity.

Each student designs a wiki (DOC 655KB) (or one wiki as a collaborative effort) to be published to students, staff and parents of the school explaining how they can help planet Earth survive by reducing pollution using alternative energy sources. This reinforces the idea “think globally, act locally” and could also be distributed to local schools, libraries and community groups.

Extensions: Teachers may choose to have groups of students undertake any or all of the following activities.

  1. Students work in small teams to create a wiki. Each team takes on the role of a specific interest group e.g. environmentalists, mining company owners; scientists and writes from their point of view. This particular wiki will look at the question: Can the planet survive? Students conduct independent research to validate their team’s position. The wikis can be used as a resource for other students or the basis for a debate or forum.
  2. Students are divided into small groups with each group assigned to investigate one of the effects caused by changes in global temperature e.g. droughts, floods, economic change and natural damage such as rising sea levels. Each group researches the predicted effects of global warming over the next century as it concerns their assigned topic. Students use charts and graphs to illustrate the information they have found and present it to the class.
  3. Students research the Kyoto Agreement to find: What is it and why was it drawn up? Who does the Agreement involve? Why did Australia delay signing the Agreement? How will the Earth survive if only some countries take steps to address climate change? Students then design a presentation of their choice (posters, multimedia presentation, wiki, blog, etc.) to present their information. This information may then be used in the debate or forum process if needed.
  4. After listening to all of the presentations, each student identifies what he or she thinks is the most significant area that global warming will affect. They will then write a letter or send an email to the Prime Minister or another world leader addressing this issue and outlining some actions the country can take to lessen the impact of global warming.

Accommodations for diverse needs

Students with special needs

  • Use of visual and tangible aids
  • Open ended questioning
  • Peer coaching and support
  • Pairing of technologically more able students with those less able – within the year group
  • Supporting adults or older students
  • Modified equipment and programs
  • Activities organised on rubrics at different levels of complexity

English as a second language (ESL) students

  • Use of visual aids to demonstrate learning put into place.
  • Strong buddy groups set up.
  • Extra help from peers.
  • Appropriate resources including Internet sites; a variety of ways available to demonstrate their learning, support personnel, help of peers
  • Put into groups of students with superior language skills

Gifted Students

  • Use of Blooms Taxonomy
  • More challenging tasks, extended investigation in related topics of the learner’s choice
  • Open-ended tasks (research into the Kyoto protocol) or projects that allow for deeper analysis and evaluation of issues.
  • Activities organised on rubrics at different levels of complexity.
  • Creation of their own rubrics will allow greater ownership of their learning.
  • The class wiki in particular could be used to showcase work from gifted students
  • Opportunities to act as mentors

Indigenous Groups

  • A wiki page dedicated to indigenous peoples survival on the planet before European settlement.
  • A deeper look into the effects of global warming on the less populated areas of Australia


Brett Loughman participated in the Intel® Teach Essentials Course, which resulted in this idea for a classroom project. A team of teachers expanded the plan into the example you see here.

© Copyright NSW Department of Education and Training 2008.

* Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.


At a Glance

Years: 9

Subjects: Science

Time Needed: approx 35 x 60 minute periods