Years 7 and 8
Starting with an open slate enables everyone to get involved. Students with particular areas of expertise can share their knowledge purposefully, but then the group owns the aggregate data.
It would not be surprising if the class can only name a fraction of the species in the local area. Share with students that we’re often only aware of the bigger vertebrates, and even then, taxonomists are still discovering new species across Australia. In 2020, 763 new species were discovered and named in Australia, and according to Bush Blitz around three-quarters of Australia’s biodiversity is still waiting to be discovered.
Explain to students that an important activity designed to help identify new species is to go on a Bush Blitz expedition. Bush Blitz is a nature discovery program developed in a partnership between the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Parks Australia, BHP and Earthwatch Australia. Learn more about the program here.
Documenting biodiversity involves a range of STEM careers, including rangers, field biologists and ecologists, taxonomists and software developers, but many girls don’t see STEM careers as creative. Bust this myth by exploring the work of Dr Barbara Baehr, Research Fellow at Queensland Museum, who works on a LUCID interactive key to Australian spiders and has described over 400 new species from Australia. She clearly enjoys bringing a creative element to naming new species, such as a peacock spider, Maratus licunxin, named after the famous ballet dancer and Jotus karllagerfeldi, a jumping spider.
Students explore the school or a local park or reserve to conduct a Bush Blitz and identify fungi, plants, insects, spiders, reptiles or mammals. Use this guide from Bush Blitz to structure the exploration.
As a class, watch this video to introduce the exploration. Each student should endeavour to observe and identify at least five species. Following the Bush Blitz, create a digital class collection of identified species.
Role models enable girls to see themselves in STEM careers. The Bush Blitz project is led by a team of passionate female ecologists with diverse experiences across their careers.View their profiles here
Challenge students to create an app prototype that will help community members identify local wildlife. The app should be both functional and appealing and show consideration of both the purpose and the audience.
In order to develop the app information architecture, students will first need to develop a dichotomous key that will enable users to key out a species from the class digital collection. They can work in pairs or small groups to develop their key on paper or digitally using a presentation tool or app.
Once students have determined the structure of their key, they can design an interactive prototype using PowerPoint or Keynote by following these steps:
Research shows that girls can be motivated by opportunities to engage in projects for the common good as well as opportunities to exercise creativity. App design requires students to consider both their audience and purpose, which includes considering inclusive design to enable engagement of diverse audiences. Watch this video from Linda Dong, a Design Evangelist at Apple, and Sam Iglesias, a Prototyper, about how to approach app design inclusively.Watch this video