BOOKS

Janine Kitson

Circle

By Jeannie Baker
Walker Books, 2016

Jeannie Baker’s latest picture book highlights the plight of the migratory bar-tailed godwits who make the longest unbroken journey of any creature on the planet.

The beautiful images and words convey a sophisticated understanding of the complex interrelationships between species survival, climate, industrial pollution, habitat loss, and what we risk if we lose this bird. Baker brilliantly captures both the inspiration and fragility of our environment despite its unrelenting degradation.

Politicians and policy makers need to read this book — particularly NSW Premier Mike Baird as he proposes the new so-called Biodiversity Conservation Bill that conservationists and scientists argue will take us back decades in protecting habitat so essential for the godwits and other species' survival.

As Baker notes, “The annual movements across the world of millions of birds, sea creatures and other animals remind us that everything in nature is interdependent and connected. The changes we make on one side of the world can have consequences in another.”

The godwit and its journey is an inspiration for us to do our utmost to live our lives without destroying the places that are crucial to the shorebirds’ ancient, wondrous Circle of Life.

A travelling Circle exhibition will be held at Newcastle Museum (August 6 to November 6) and Canberra Museum (November 26 to February 19 2017). More information can be found at Jeannie Baker's website.

Mister Cassowary

By Samantha Wheeler
University of Queensland Press, 2015

Samantha Wheeler uses the tensions and misunderstandings between fathers and sons to explore the plight of the endangered cassowaries of northern Queensland.

When Flynn and his father Steve return to the family farm near Mission Beach in north Queensland to clear up the farm for sale, Flynn is caught up in lots of dramas involving cassowaries. Flynn discovers that his grandfather, who recently passed away, was known as “Mr Cassowary” because of his dedication to helping cassowaries and establishing wildlife corridors so essential for this endangered bird’s survival. Flynn’s father, however, wants nothing to do with the cassowary. Despite this, Flynn remains curious and courageous. He soon takes up his grandfather’s passion for the cassowary and also becomes known as “Mr Cassowary”.

Killing the Koala and Poisoning the Prairie: Australia, America and the Environment

By Corey J.A. Bradshaw and Paul R. Ehrlich
The University of Chicago Press, 2015

This book, a collaboration between Australian scientist Corey Bradshaw and US biologist Paul Ehrlich who alerted the world to the population crisis back in 1968 with his seminal book, The Population Bomb, highlights “the perfect storm of problems facing civilisation” from overpopulation and overconsumption.

Bradshaw and Ehrlich argue that: “The scientific community is clear that humanity is in the midst of an unprecedented, slow-motion global emergency, yet that emergency is barely recognised by most people or the politicians who are supposed to be representing us.”

The authors warn us that unless we clean up our planet, our life-support systems, which are declining rapidly, they could ultimately fail. It also highlights the crisis of biodiversity extinction in this Anthropocene age.

What is most fascinating about this book is the similarities and differences between the environmental history of the US and Australia. This history is profoundly important in understanding why ecological knowledge has failed to be mainstreamed into the US and Australia’s economy, education and societal consciousness.

All three books are available from Federation Library.

Janine Kitson is a Federation Life Member

Classroom activities

Circle
Science & Technology K-6 Syllabus
Stage 1
Volume 1, page 52

LIVING WORLD

Outcomes
A student:

  • describes ways that different places in the environment provide for the needs of living things ST1-11LW

Content
Living things live in different places where their needs are met. (ACSSU211).

Students:

  • explore the needs of an animal in its environment
  • describes how some different places in a local land or aquatic environment provide for the needs of the animals that live there

Small group/pair discussion

  1. List the places that the godwit needs to survive.
  2. What lives in the mud and sand near the beach/shoreline? Why are they important for the godwit?
  3. Why is the tide important for the godwits?
  4. Why might godwits have homes on two sides of the Earth?
  5. What might have happened to the godwit’s four chicks?
  6. What do foxes in Alaska need to survive?
  7. How might the godwits know when the time is right to begin their journeys?
  8. What will happen to the godwit if they can no longer find places to rest or fish?
  9. What other migrating animals can you find in the book?

Suggestions for learning activities:

  1. Draw the places that the godwit needs and label it with: food, nest, rest
  2. Finish these sentence The godwit needs ............. because .....................................
  3. Make a class calendar that reminds you where the godwit is and what they are doing.
  4. Draw and describe the different life stages of the birds – juvenile, adult, male, female. What does Jeannie Baker’s other books tell us about ‘The Living World’ eg The Story of Rosy Dock, Where the Forest Meets the Sea, Window, Belonging, The Hidden Forest.
Circle
History K-6 Syllabus
STAGE 1
Volume 1, page 39

THE PAST IN THE PRESENT

Outcomes
A student:

  • identifies and describes significant people, events, places and sites in the local community over time HT1-2

Key inquiry questions:

  • What aspects of the past can you see today?
  • What do they tell us?
  • What remains of the past are important to the local community? Why?

Content
The history of a significant site or part of the natural environment in the local community and what it reveals about the past (ACHHK044)

Students:

  • identify a significant site or part of the natural environment in the local community and discuss what they reveal about the past and why they are considered important
  • develop a narrative on their chosen aspect of local history which focuses on the remains of the past.

Small group/pair discussion

  1. What birds and wildlife once lived in your local area?
  2. What sites remain important for birds and wildlife in your local area?
  3. Spot the difference between the beach at the beginning of the book that is “a place where mud and sand become sea . . “ and the beach at the end of the book where the birds return to “the place where mud and sand become sea”. How long might it have taken for these changes to happen?
  4. How and why are places changing for the godwit’s ancient journey?

Suggestions for learning activities:

Excursion. Visit a significant site near your school for wildlife. Write a poster explaining why this site is significant, why it has survived and why it is important to preserve it.

Redraw the Asian city when it once had more mud flats for the godwits.

What does Jeannie Baker’s other books tell us about ‘The Past in the Present’ eg The Story of Rosy Dock, Where the Forest Meets the Sea, Window, Belonging.

Circle
Geography K-6 Syllabus
STAGE 1
Volume 1, page 48

FEATURES OF PLACES

Outcomes
A student:

  • describes features of places and the connections people have with places GE1-1
  • identifies ways in which people interact with and care for places GE1-2
  • communicates geographical information and uses geographical tools for inquiry GE1-3

Key Inquiry Questions

  • What are the features of, and activities in, places?
  • How can we care for places?
  • How can spaces within a place be used for different purposes?

Content Focus
Students investigate the natural and human features of places. They describe the reasons places change and identify the active role of citizens in the care of places. They learn about how people describe the weather and seasons of places. Students explore activities occurring in places and how the spaces within places can be used for different purposes.

Content

Features of places
Students:
Investigate features of places and how they can be cared for, for example: (ACHGK005)

  • description of the natural and human features of places
  • consideration of how a place can be cared for eg a beach, wetland, estuary, mud flat

Weather and seasons
Students:
Investigate the weather and seasons of places for example:

  • description of the daily and seasonal weather patterns of a familiar place
  • comparison of the daily and seasonal weather patterns of places
  • discussion of how weather can affect places and activities

Small group/pair discussion

  1. What places in your community need to be cared for?
  2. How can the places that the godwit visits be cared for?
  3. Why does it matter what happens on one side of the world?
  4. What special environmental places does the godwit fly over?
  5. What are countries near the Yellow Sea doing to save their mudflats for the godwits?

Suggestions for learning activities:

  1. Excursion to a local site. Look for features that tell you about habitat for birds and wildlife.
  2. Take photos that show different habitats in your local area.
  3. Draw a map of the godwit’s flight.
  4. Make a lego city that is ‘godwit friendly’.
  5. What do Jeannie Baker’s other books tell us about ‘Features of Places’ eg The Story of Rosy Dock, Where the Forest Meets the Sea, Window, Belonging.
Circle
Mathematics K-6 Syllabus
STAGE 1
Volume 1, page 82

FRACTIONS AND DECIMALS 1

Outcomes
A student:

  • Describes mathematical situations using everyday and some mathematical language, actions, materials diagrams and symbols MA1-1WM
Use lego board or other material to attempt to explain how in the past five years, 65% of godwits' feeding habitats have been destroyed.
Circle
English K-6 Syllabus
STAGE 1
Volume 1, page 56, 58, 73

SPEAKING AND LISTENING 1

Outcome
A student:

  • communicates with a range of people in informal and guided activities demonstrating interaction skills and considers how own communication is adjusted in different situations EN1-1A

Content
Students:
Develop and apply contextual knowledge

  • understand that language varies when people take on different roles in social and classroom interactions and how the use of key interpersonal language resources varies depending on context (ACELA1461)
  • listens for specific purposes and information and extend students own and others’ ideas in discussions (ACELY1666)

Responds to and compose texts

  • engage in conversations and discussions, using active listening behaviours, showing interest, and contributing ideas, information and questions (ACELY1656)
  • use role-play and drama to represent familiar events and characters in texts
  • formulate open and closed questions appropriate to the context
  • use some persuasive language to express a point of view
  • contribute appropriately to class discussions

WRITING AND REPRESENTING 1

Outcome
A student:

  • plans, composes and reviews a small range of simple texts for a variety of purposes on familiar topics for known readers and viewers EN1-2A

Content
Students:
Develop and apply contextual knowledge

  • understand how planning, composing and reviewing contribute to effective imaginative, information and persuasive texts

Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features

  • create short imaginative, informative and persuasive texts using growing knowledge of text structures and language features for familiar and some less familiar audiences, selecting print and multimodal elements appropriate to the audience and purpose (ACELY1661, ACELY1671)

Respond to and composes texts

  • plan, composes and review simple imaginative, informative and persuasive texts on familiar topics
  • draw on personal experience and topic knowledge to express opinions in writing
  • experiment with publishing using different modes and media to enhance planned presentations

THINKING IMAGINATIVELY AND CREATIVELY

Outcomes

A student:
Thinks imaginatively and creatively about familiar topics, ideas and texts when responding to and composing texts EN1-10C

Content
Students:
Engage personally with texts

  • respond to texts, identifying favourite stories, authors and illustrations (ACELT1577)
  • share picture books and digital stories for enjoyment and pleasure

Respond to and compose texts

  • respond to a range of imaginative and creative texts, including visual media
  • Share feelings and thoughts about the events and characters in texts

Small group/pair discussion

  1. What birds have you seen in your local area?
  2. Why do cities grow and become bigger?
  3. What can we do to save the godwit?
  4. What’s more important?  Jobs, bigger cities or the godwit’s habitat?

Suggestions for learning activities:

  1. Make some binoculars and go bird watching. Record the number and different birds you see.
  2. Role play beach scene with boy falls out of his crutches trying to catch the dog and protect the godwits.
  3. Role play the conversation between the boy and the owner of the dog who has let her dog off the leash.
  4. Debate: Horse riding and dog walkers should have access to all beaches.
  5. Prepare a talk on another migratory species.
  6. Make a puppet story of the godwits talking to one another.
  7. Invite a birdwatcher to the class to talk about birds. Find out if what migrating birds fly over or visit your local area?
  8. Mantle of the expert – students are in role as ‘experts’ – scientists, ornithologists, marine biologists discussing how to save the godwit.
  9. Write a persuasive piece of writing – What we need to do to save the godwit?
  10. Outdoor drama/fitness game – run/’fly’ like the godwits . . .perhaps from northern side to the southern side of the school oval?
  11. Make different sounds of the godwit eg Awika-wika-wika- wikraaaaaa-wika-wik . . and explain their different meanings.

Small group/pair discussion

  1. Why might the title be called a ‘circle’ and not a ‘square’?
  2. How does the boy’s health change from the first page to the last page?

Suggestions for learning activities:

  1. Write a poster explaining the rules of the beach where godwits visit.
  2. Write a letter to a National Park ranger asking how natural places can be cared for.
  3. Write a poem about being a godwit.
  4. Make a powerpoint about the life of a godwit.
  5. Write a diary about how the boy feels after his time at the beach trying to save the godwits from the dog.
  6. NSW Teachers Federation’s Sam Lewis Peace competition – “What peace means to me”– use the godwits as your inspiration.
  7. Art: draw a birds-eye view of the landscape.
  8. Research about other migratory birds or animals and then write your own ‘Circle’ story. Use the websites that Jeannie Baker recommends: www.globalflywaynetwork.com.au www.awsg.org.au www.miranda-shorebird.org.nz
  9. Let ‘The Circle’ be your inspiration to enter in this year’s NSW Teachers Federation’s Sam Lewis Peace Prize. Its theme is “What peace means to me”. Entries can be in the form of pictures, poems, stories and other multimedia forms. Entries close on Friday September 23, 2016. Visit https://www.nswtf.org.au/slpp

Small group/pair discussion

  1. Write ‘lessons’ do humans need to learn from the good ‘godwit’? Suggestions for learning activities:
  2. Make a collage, using natural materials collected from a walk that builds a picture of a godwit flying above a natural area below.
  3. Imagine what the godwits feel as they fly?
Mister Cassowary
Science and Technology K-6 Syllabus
STAGE 3
Volume 1, page 78

LIVING WORLD

Outcomes
A student:

  • Describes how structural features and other adaptations of living things help them to survive in their environment ST3-10LW
  • Describes some physical conditions of the environment and how these affect the growth and survival of living things ST3-11LW

Content
Living things have structural features and adaptations that help them to survive in their environment (ACSSU043)

Students:

  • observe and describe the structural features of some native Australian animals and plants
  • present ideas and explanations about how the structural features and behaviour of some plants and animals help them to survive in their environment
  • research the conditions needed for a particular plant to grow and survive in its environment

Small group/pair discussion

  1. Why are there only few thousand cassowaries left? What happened to the original number of cassowaries?

Suggestions for learning activities:

  1. Research how the cassowaries are important for rainforest survival and restoration?
  2. List the main threats to the cassowary.
Mister Cassowary
Geography Syllabus
STAGE 3
Volume 1, page 62-63

FACTORS THAT SHAPE PLACES

Outcomes
A student:

  • describes the diverse features and characteristics of places and environments GE3-1
  • explains interactions and connections between people, places and environments GE3-2
  • compares and contrasts influences on the management of places and environments GE3-3

Key Inquiry Questions

  • How do people and environments influence one another?
  • How do people influence places and the management of spaces within them?

Content Focus
Students investigate how people change the natural environment in Australia and other places around the world. They also explore how the environment influences the human characteristics of places. Students examine ways people influence the characteristics of places, including the management of spaces.

Content

Factors that change environments
Students:
Investigate the ways people change the natural environment in Australia and another country, for example: (ACHGK026, ACHGK027)

  • examination of how people, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, have influenced each country’s environmental characteristics eg land clearing

Humans shape places
Students:
Investigate how people influence places, for example (ACHGK029)

  • identification of ways people influence places and contribute to sustainability eg roads and services, building development applications, local sustainability initiatives - examination of a local planning issue; the different views about it and a possible action in response to it

Small group/pair discussion

  1. Why did Grandad Barney want to let his farm return to rainforest?
  2. Why are wildlife corridors important for the cassowary?

Suggestions for learning activities:
Draw a map of North Queensland and Mission Beach. Identify where the major towns are and the habitat of the cassowary.

Mister Cassowary
English K-6 Syllabus
STAGE 3
Volume 1, page 104, 106, 116, 117

SPEAKING AND LISTENING

Outcome:
A student:

  • communicates effectively for a variety of audiences and purposes using increasingly challenging topics, ideas , issues and language forms and features [EN3-1A]

Content
Students:
Respond to and compose texts

  • participate in and contribute to discussions, clarifying and interrogating ideas, developing and supporting arguments, sharing and evaluating information, experiences and opinions (ACELY1709)

WRITING AND REPRESENTING

Outcome
A student:

  • composes, edits and presents well-structured and coherent texts (EN3-2A)

Content
Students:
Develop and apply contextual knowledge

  • Identify and explore underlying themes and central storylines in imaginative texts

Respond to and compose texts

  1. compose texts that include sustained and effective use of persuasive devices, eg texts dealing with environmental issues

THINKING IMAGINATIVELY, CREATIVELY, INTERPRETATIVELY AND CRITICALLY

Outcome

A student:
Thinks imaginatively, creatively, interpretively and critically about information and ideas and identifies connections between texts when responding to and composing texts (EN3-7C)

Content
Students: Engage personally with texts

  • think critically about aspects of texts such as ideas and events

Respond to and compose texts

  • Interpret a range of texts eg through role-play or drama, for pleasure and enjoyment, and express an analytical conclusion about those texts

Small group/pair discussion

  1. Why is the cassowary’s habitat disappearing?
  2. Why shouldn’t people feed the cassowary?
  3. Why can make a cassowary dangerous?

Suggestions for learning activities:

  1. Excursion. Visit a bird or wildlife sanctuary or rehabilitation centre for injured wildlife.
  2. Research rainforest communities in Northern Queensland, near Mission Beach.
  3. Act out the scene where ‘Big Blue’ nearly attacks Flynn and his father.

Suggestions for learning activities:

  1. Write the original newspaper article about Grandad Barney found dead in the rainforest.
Reminder of Federation’s Centre for Professional Learning Environmental Education Conference: “Empowering Students to Create a Better Future”, Monday, 7 November 2016, Sydney, www.cpl.asn.au Hope to see you there!