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Lesson Plans

Our future scientists!

Posted on: November 29, 2017

Albany SHS Marine Science students presented the results of their on-going research projects to Fisheries staff at Hillarys today. Students from years 8 – 10 presented on a range of topics including:

  • The abundance and distribution of surf clams in the Albany Region.
  • A comparison of coastal saltmarsh flora in Princess Royal and Oyster harbours.
  • The settlement of native flat oysters and other invertebrates in Princess Royal and Oyster harbours.
  • Five years of investigating the erosion and deposition of sand at Middleton beach.
  • The abundance and distribution of stingrays, stingarees, fiddler rays and shovelnose rays in Princess Royal and Oyster harbours.

The students’ research assists Fisheries staff as well as other government agencies (such as Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions) with data collection and provides the students with experience in scientific methodology.

Check out the Intertidal Investigation and Getting to Know Your Reef Lesson Plans for some ideas on conducting your own field investigations with your students.

Celebrate Book Week under the sea!

Posted on: August 24, 2017

This week is Children’s Book Week, with the theme ‘Escape to Everywhere’. Join one of our favourite fish in the sea, the Rainbow Fish, on a journey to discover the deep sea in our Lesson Plan: Rainbow Fish – Ocean Zones.

In Activity 1, students share in a reading of the Marcus Pfister book Rainbow Fish Discovers the Deep Sea. Students then engage in a discussion about the various creatures they encounter in the story and the adaptations that they have that enable them to inhabit the deep ocean.

In the second activity, students get to create a tasty model of the different zones of the ocean. Using jellies of various flavours (and colours), they will create a model to show the deep ocean zones – the mesopelagic zone and epipelagic zones of the ocean, and the creatures that exists in these zones. Want to create a different marine habitat instead? Try our suggestions for creating an edible coral reef or seagrass habitat and share them with us on Facebook!

Heading to the beach for the holidays?

Posted on: April 13, 2017

Whelk egg caseSchool holidays are imminent and many families head off to the beach during this time. Have you ever visited the beach and wondered about the things you find washed up?

You may be familiar with our Beachcombers Education Kit website, but have you seen the Species List?

Over the past few years, we’ve developed quite a library of photos of species we find washed up. These have been added to the Species List on the Beachcombers Education Kit website to provide you with additional images of species you may already be familiar with. In addition to this, we’re tagging the images with the bioregion you are most likely to find them in and are planning to add to our list with a variety of species from around the state, from our far north to the great south. Not all of these images have been added to the app however, so you will have to check out the website to see them.

The app has had an update with some introduced pests being added to it also. Keep a look out for these whenever you are in the aquatic environment and be sure to report any potential pests to FishWatch.

Looking for some beachcombing lessons to run in your classroom post holidays? Check this list out!

Plastic Free July

Posted on: June 28, 2013

Happy volunteers cleaning up between Lefthanders and Ellensbrook Photo: Lauren Scanlon

Happy volunteers cleaning up between Lefthanders and Ellensbrook.
Photo: Lauren Scanlon.

In case you haven’t heard, during the month of July there is a campaign to go plastic free. Plastic Free July is a great way to demonstrate with your students our society’s reliance on plastic products, while at the same time highlighting the damaging effects of plastics in our waterways and oceans. Let’s hear the four R’s of Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle during July and beyond!

In readiness, we have given our Marine WATERs Un-Fantastic Plastic lesson plan a polish up by repairing a few dead links. It’s also good timing to promote another great learning resource produced by our good friends at Tangaroa Blue Foundation. They have recently released a brand new Tangaroa Blue Education Kit, examining one of the greatest threats facing the world’s oceans – marine debris.

Using an inquiry-based teaching and learning model, concepts of consumption, pollution and resolution are investigated with students. This develops an understanding that there is an interrelationship between the Earth’s environment and human activities.

Just like Marine WATERs, the materials are aligned with the Australian Curriculum Science learning area. They also go further into the cross-curricular priorities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and culture, Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia, and sustainability.

Let’s all contribute to solutions for marine debris and become Clean Marine. Look out for registration details soon for the official 2013 WA Beach Cleanup Event on the 12-13th October and consider Adopting a Spot. If you and your students need some inspiration, why not check out Tangaroa Blues’s new YouTube video here.


Commercial Crayfish

Posted on: June 21, 2013

Rock lobster crate

Rock lobster batten pot

As prices for some grades of Western rock lobster tip over the $60 per kilo mark, we are proud to a release a brand new lesson plan investigating the management of this iconic commercial fishery in Western Australia.

The Western Rock Lobster Managed Fishery is historically Australia’s largest single species fishery and is the only fishery in the world that has been accredited by the Marine Stewardship Council as sustainable three times running – learn more here. Despite demonstrating world best practice, the fishery has experienced a tumultuous period of record low recruitment of young lobsters since 2007 while the management of the fishery has also been transformed from gear-based to a quota-based.

The Commercial Crayfish lesson plan has been designed for year 11–12 students and focuses on the current quota management regime and the research program undertaken that helps predict future lobster catches. The lesson plans comes with an added bonus of a Western rock lobster life cycle poster that students can use to gain a better understanding of lobster biology in Activity 1, along with our existing fact sheet.

In Activity 2, students assume the role of a Managed Fishery Licence holder and complete a Catch Disposal Record just like a real fishing operation! In Activity 3, students will the learn about the research program used to predict future catches and work with a data set obtained from our sampling station at Seven-Mile Beach near Dongara.

Like a plated dish of half-shell crayfish mornay… Bon appetite! (Click here)

Australian Curriculum Outcomes: ACSIS145, ACSHE136, ACSIS234, ACSSU176, ACSHE157, ACSHE160, ACSIS169, ACSHE194, ACSIS199, ACSIS203.

What’s My Age Again?

Posted on: April 12, 2013

Cake - Chelseas Culinary Creations

Cake made by Chelseas Culinary Creations

Guess who just had a birthday? We are proud to announce that Marine WATERs (Western Australian Teacher Education Resources) turned two years old last week, so we thought it was a good opportunity to say thanks to everyone for their support and positive feedback. We have been truly amazed with the response from teachers and educators – with over 2,500 registered users accessing our resources, including people from all over Australia and around the world. Of course, this initiative would not have been possible without the support of Woodside Energy.

In two years we have been able to develop 47 comprehensive curriculum-linked lesson plans for primary and secondary levels, plus an array of fact sheets, presentations and other resource materials. In fact, things got a little cluttered towards the end of last year so we hope you have been enjoying our website upgrade to help you locate resources quickly and easily. Being able to search for the Australian Curriculum code specific to the outcomes for the year level you teach was just one of the clever features rolled out with the facelift.

For our Western Australian registered users we have developed Teacher Guides on Marine WATERs. These guides assist those teachers taking advantage of our Department of Fisheries school excursions at Hillarys or incursions with some of our regional programs. The teacher guides demonstrate how Marine WATERs resources should be incorporated into your teaching-learning program prior to and after a Department of Fisheries led activity.

It wouldn’t be a Marine WATERs blog without profiling one of our favourite lesson plans and it’s very obvious this time round – What’s My Age Again? In this lesson plan students learn how fisheries management agencies monitor the health of fish stock using fish otoliths, also known as ear stones. Similar to the growth rings of a tree, these otoliths are used to help age fish. We have developed two presentations that can be used with your students to ‘age’ fish without even leaving the classroom! The Department of Fisheries also runs a community campaign called Send Us Your Skeletons, asking fishers to donate the fish frames of particular species to our research division so that they can extract otoliths, age fish and monitor the health of some of Western Australia’s favourite fish species. What’s My Again? not only deals with real science, students can also assume the role of a ‘citizen scientist’ next time they head out fishing.

Thanks again everyone and we always like to hear how you are using our Marine WATERs resources and how they benefit you and your students, so please don’t be shy and drop us a line at

Australian Curriculum Outcomes: ACELY1725, ACELY1736, ACELY1746, ACELY1756, ACMSP169, ACMSP206, ACMSP284, ACSHE120, ACSHE227, ACSHE228, ACSHE230, ACSIS103, ACSIS107,ACSIS129, ACSIS139, ACSIS145, ACSIS169, ACSIS221, ACSIS232


Make the most of your incursion or excursion

Posted on: February 19, 2013

excursion-If you’ve booked a Department of Fisheries activity for 2013 already and are looking for additional resources to complement your incursion or excursion, our latest Marine WATERs release, teacher guides, are just for you.

Teacher guides are available for our most popular activities and WACE courses of study.  The activity teacher guides provide you with suggestions for pre and post-excursion learning opportunities. WACE courses of study teacher guides offer suggested lesson plans and a range of additional resources.

Free Professional Learning Session

Posted on: February 8, 2013

Plankton collector net in Shark Bay.

Plankton collector net in Shark Bay.

Welcome back to term 1.  We hope you all had an enjoyable break and have returned to school feeling fresh and ready to implement some new ideas.  This year we hope to inspire you with some great new ideas in our professional learning sessions.  Our first session kicks off on Thursday 21st February at 3.45pm at the Naturaliste Marine Discovery Centre.

In this session we’ll be covering the excursion activity Science of Sampling.  In this activity, students learn about a range of sampling techniques used by Department of Fisheries research scientists to collect information about various fisheries in Western Australia.

Follow this activity up in the classroom with the Marine WATERs Lesson Plans: How Many Fish in the Sea? and Manage a Fishery.  Learn how managing a jaffafish fishery relates to managing fisheries in the real world.

As always, light refreshments will be served at 3.45pm and hard copy resources will be provided on the day also.

To register your interest in this professional learning session, click here.

To find out about our future planned sessions this year, click here.

If you’re finding the day or time prohibitive to attending, remember you can pull together a group of 10 or more teachers and we will come to your school and complete a professional learning session with you, and it’s still free!  To organise a Professional Learning session at your school, send us an email.


What do you do in a heat wave?

Posted on: December 28, 2012

Goose barnacles

Goose barnacles. Photo by Gilbert Stokman.

We’ve had a few rather warm days this week so no doubt you’ve either been seeking comfort in air conditioning, or hitting the beach. The mornings have been great for getting out on the water and snorkelling (plus they have the added bonus of not being quite so hot, and the UV rating is a little lower). If you’ve stuck your mask in the water recently, or intend to in the coming days/weeks, our latest lesson plan release may assist you with identifying what you observe.

Our latest release is Meet the Cast and is a sequel to the Lesson Plan: Who Lives Where? which looked at the variety of marine habitats in WA. In Meet the Cast, we look at the invertebrate inhabitants of the marine environment. You may also like to check out the Beachcombers Field Guide to assist in your identification of species also. If you have a camera at the beach, or better yet, underwater with you, and come across anything really cool that you’re happy to share with us (and happy for us to use in future resources), email it to us. Don’t forget to log any unusual sightings on the Redmap website also (refer to the 14 December 2012 blog).

If you’re planning your teaching and learning program for term 1 next year, there are a variety of invertebrate posters available for use with the Lesson Plan: Meet the Cast. You can request hard copies of the posters here.

Happy snorkelling, stay cool and remember to always be sunsmart!     


Tied Up in Knots

Posted on: December 21, 2012

hookIt’s that awkward time of the year, the kids are over Christmas shopping, they’re bored, and Christmas is another 4 days away! 

If you’re planning a holiday fishing trip, or just planning to send the kids to the beach to go fishing in January, keep them occupied this weekend by getting them to practice their knot tying.

In the background information of the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: Hook, Line and Sinker, there are step by step instructions for tying a locked half blood knot and a uni knot.  To save your furniture (and your kids fingers) from hooks, give them a paperclip to practice with to being with.

Download the Get Hooked on Fishing brochure and the kids can read up on making up rigs to target specific species including whiting, tailor, skippy, herring and Australian salmon.

We wish you all the best for the festive season, and enjoy the fishing (sustainably) this holiday period.

Spot the Sea Monkey!

Posted on: December 10, 2012


It’s that time of the year where you’re either planning for next year, thinking about planning for next year, and/or looking for new and exciting resources to use in your teaching and learning programme. As a result, we’re still releasing new lesson plans to help inspire you!

Our latest lesson plan release is Amazing Artemia. You can use the information provided in the Teacher Background Information to teach your students about Artemia and Appendix 1 to set up your own Artemia hatcheries in your own classroom.

In Activity 3: Speedy Shrimps, students will attempt to race their Artemia to determine if one sex is faster than the other.  You could also try changing variables to see if they affect the speed of the Artemia – e.g. using cold water or putting a light at one end of the test tube. Conduct a discussion with your students to brainstorm other variables.

Australian Curriculum outcomes: ACELA1430, ACELA1453, ACELA1470, ACELA1484,  ACELA1498, ACELA1512, ACELA1786, ACELY1648, ACELY1658, ACELY1668, ACELY1688, ACELY1784, ACELY1788, ACELY1789, ACELY1792, ACELY1796, ACSIS053, ACSIS064, ACSIS124, ACSIS215, ACSIS216, ACSIS218, ACSIS221, ACSIS231, ACSIS232, ACSSU017, ACSSU030, ACSSU043, ACSSU072

The Rainbow Fish Discovers the Deep Sea

Posted on: November 23, 2012

Looking through the layers (jelly) activity.

Looking for something fun yet educational to do with your class in the last few weeks of school? Try our latest lesson plan release, Rainbow Fish: Ocean Zones.

In this lesson plan, you will engage your students in a shared reading of the Marcus Pfister book, Rainbow Fish Discovers the Deep Sea.  After the reading, engage students in a discussion about the organisms encountered in the story and their adaptations to survive the deep sea environment.  You could find other books about the deep sea to discover more about some of those animals.

In Activity 2, Looking through the layers, you will build a jelly model of the ocean with your students.  To build the deep ocean model, you’ll require three varieties of blue/purple jelly, as well as a variety of ‘organisms’ that inhabit the three layers of the ocean – these may include hundreds and thousands of plankton, mini M&M® ostracods, jelly snake squid and Chico deep sea fish.

Alternatively, you might like to try some of our suggestions to make a coral reef, sandy seabed or seagrass jelly model.

Whilst this lesson plan is aimed at K-2 students, I’m sure even the older years will enjoy Activity 2 and can relate it to their learning if you’ve been learning about a particular habitat or adaptations.

Australian Curriculum: ACELA1437, ACELY1646, ACELY1784, ACSSU002, ACELY1656, ACELY1788, ACELA1463, ACELY1666, ACELY1789, ACSSU017, ACSSU211

What a Pest!

Posted on: November 19, 2012

Asian paddle crab.

Recently, an Asian paddle crab was captured in the Swan River by a recreational fisherman.  This species is not native to Western Australia however has the potential to establish itself here and become a pest.  It has the potential to spread disease and out-compete native species like the iconic blue swimmer crab.  To find out more about this species, click here.

Did you know… in Western Australian waters, there are 60 known non-native marine species that have become established.  However not all marine species introduced to a new area become pests.  Some are unable to survive the conditions of their new environment, whilst others are unable to reproduce and establish a viable population.

Check out the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: Pest Control to learn more about marine pests found in Western Australia.  In Activity 1, students will learn the difference between native and introduced species and will investigate the problems associated with introduced species in the marine environment.  You may wish to use the Fisheries Fact Sheet: Introduced Marine Species to learn more about introduced species in the marine environment.

In Activity 4, students will use their knowledge of a specific introduced species to design a wanted poster to inform the community to look out for and report any sightings of the species.  You may wish to discuss the Asian paddle crab example used by the Department of Fisheries with your students to assists them in their design.  If you would like to investigate introduced marine species in more detail with your students, you may request a copy of the Department of Fisheries publication, Introduced Marine Species in Western Australia here.

Once your students are well versed on marine pests, challenge them to complete our Pest Line-Up game.  In each frame, students will be presented with three possible suspects, of which, one is a marine pest.  Using the information provided, students will need to determine which suspect is the pest to move on.         

Sustainable shores

Posted on: November 9, 2012

Hillarys Boat Harbour

The weather is warming up, holidays are imminent and we’re starting to head to the coast again.  It’s time to consider the wider implications that our day-to-day activities have on the marine environment.  Have a look at our Sustainable Shores Lesson Plan to learn about the variety of interactions we have with the marine environment, the impact they have and how they can be managed.

In Activity 1 of this lesson plan, students will define the term sustainability and what it means to them.  They will also brainstorm the ways that we, humans, interact with the marine and coastal environment.  You could use the Marine WATERs Poster: A Balancing Act to stimulate discussion on this topic (click here to request a hard copy of this poster).  To extend your students thinking, ask them to create a T-chart of the interactions (or activities) that are likely to have a positive or neutral impact on the marine and coastal environment.  On the other side of their chart, ask them to list the interactions that will negatively impact on the marine and coastal environment.

In Activity 2, students will role play the position of a stakeholder in the marine and coastal environment in relation to a scenario involving the expansion of a marina.  You could of course, develop your own scenario with an issue pertinent to your local area also.

After students have discussed the pros and cons for the development (or other issue that you chose) in their stakeholder groups, you might ask them to write an exposition to further develop their point of view.  This piece of writing could then be used in their ‘stakeholder meeting’ role play.           

Marine WATERs has had a facelift!

Posted on: November 2, 2012

Are you an avid follower of Maine WATERs, or maybe it’s one of those resources on your ‘to-do’ list to check out.  In the last few weeks, Marine WATERs has been undergoing some changes and we’re extremely proud of the result that went live this week!  The web address is still the same –, so have a look at today.

On the homepage, you’ll notice a few things have moved around.  The general keyword search has moved to the left hand column with the other search filters.  We’ve almost finished linking the Australian Curriculum content descriptor codes to each of the lesson plans too so very soon you’ll be able to search for resources simply by inputting the code specific to the outcomes for the year level you teach … watch this space for updates on this search feature.  The blog now takes centre stage on the homepage, and we now have a feedback function on the bottom left hand corner.  We’d love to hear your thoughts on the functionality of the site.

One of the biggest improvements (we think) is found when you select one of the learning modules.  The resource types found in that module are listed across the top, and if you select one, e.g. presentations, you’ll be taken to the presentations found in that module.  You’ll also notice a fish hovering off to the right hand side of the page.  Click on it at any point and you’ll return to the top of that page.

We hope you find Marine WATERs even easier to use now and remember we’d love to hear your feedback!

Last Professional Learning Opportunity this year!

Posted on: October 29, 2012

Fishing for sustainability activity.

Our last Marine WATERs – Naturaliste Marine Discovery Centre Professional Learning session is happening next Thursday, 1st November 2012 from 4.00pm – 6.00pm.  The theme is this terms session is human impacts and fisheries management.

Try out our school friendly version of fishing (no hooks or water required!) in our Fishing for Sustainability activity.  We’ll also be delving into the Marine WATERs Lesson Plans: Fishing for the Future, Hook, Line and Sinker, Planning a Safe Fishing Trip and Manage a Fishery.

Aimed at teachers of Year 2 – 10 students, this session will involve hands on activity sessions and take away resources.

To register your interest in this session, click here.

Who lives where?

Posted on: October 15, 2012

Yallingup Lagoon

We know that come term four, you’re tired and your students are tired – so in an attempt to keep you inspired for at least another week, we’ve released a new lesson plan entitled ‘Who Lives Where?’ This lesson plan also has an associated Powerpoint Presentation: Who Lives There?  

The main activity within the lesson plan does involve a fair amount of reading and writing, however you could adapt it to suit even year 1’s simply by using the Powerpoint Presentation and engaging them in a class discussion – you’ll be amazed how much they can tell you about the different habitats and organisms found in the marine environment.

If you’re teaching older primary students, they will use a range of posters and articles to investigate some of the habitats that exist in the marine environment in WA. (To request a physical copy of the posters required for this lesson, click here.)  You could engage your students in discussions about the types of organisms each habitat supports and the adaptations those organisms might have to survive that environment.

You could then link this into a discussion about food chains that might exist in that habitat type also. Check out the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: Marine Connections for some background information on food chains and webs!

ACSSU211, ACSSU043, ACSSU094, ACSSU112, ACELY1702, ACELY1712

Fish or not?

Posted on: October 8, 2012

Last week we promoted Marine WATERs to the rest of the country at the biennial Australian Association for Environmental Education Conference. In a workshop entitled ‘Marine WATERs: Dive into the underwater world without leaving the classroom’ educators were asked to think of types of fish – i.e. those organisms technically classified as fish – and then separate them from those things that are colloquially termed ‘fish’ that may not be fish at all … as is the case with silverfish, an answer from one quick educator!

You could conduct a similar activity with your students.  Brainstorm as a class what characteristics make a fish, a fish! You could use the Teacher Background Information in the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: What’s a Fish to assist in your discussion. Then brainstorm with your students, organisms that are colloquially termed ‘fish’. These may include organisms both in and out of the marine environment (as I discovered last week!). Finally, ask students to research each of the organisms to discover why they are not technically classified as fish – what characteristics of fish are they missing?


Save our Seagrasses

Posted on: September 21, 2012

Seagrass meadow.

As we continue our study of Western Australia’s extraordinary biodiversity, this week we look at seagrasses and the ecosystems that they play a role in.  You could begin your study by comparing seaweeds and seagrasses – are they different and how?  The Fisheries Fact Sheets: Seagrasses and Algae will assist you with this.  Put simply, seagrasses are a flowering plant (angiosperm) adapted for survival in salt water.  Algae, are not plants at all!

Following this introduction, work your way through one of the newest additions to Marine WATERs – Habitat Protectors.  In this lesson plan, students will investigate the role seagrass meadows play in providing an important nearshore habitat for marine organisms.  This lesson plan also has an associated Powerpoint Presentation.  In activity 1, students will consider the value of seagrasses to the ecosystem and explore the threats towards them.  They will use this information to develop an advertising campaign to educate and inform people of the threats to seagrasses and what they can do to minimise these threats.

Did you know? The largest and most diverse seagrass meadows in the world are found in Western Australia.  There are an astounding 27 species found in WA, covering an area estimated to be 20,000 square kilometres.

You may like to then look at an ecosystem involving seagrasses in more detail.  In the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: Marine Connections, students will study food chains and food webs and investigate in detail a Shark Bay food web.  Shark Bay has the second highest diversity of seagrasses in WA with 12 species, following the south west of the state with 27 species! 

Discovering Biodiversity

Posted on: September 17, 2012

As you may already be aware, September is biodiversity month, in which we promote the importance of protecting, conserving and improving biodiversity both within Australia and across the world. 

This week, why not investigate the myriad of living habitats that exist in Western Australia. You can download posters on mangroves (and check out last month’s blog), coral reefs, seagrasses and limestone reefs from Marine WATERs to assist with your studies. A limited number of hard copies of these posters are available – email us at to request copies. 

Now you may think that limestone is not a living habitat, and technically you would be right, but it does support an amazing diversity of life on top of, and around it. Check out the Marine WATERs Lesson Plans: Inhabiting Intertidal Rocky Shores and Excursion: Intertidal Investigation to find out more.

September is Biodiversity month!

Posted on: September 8, 2012

Biodiversity month is held in September every year and is an initiative of the Australian government. It aims to promote the importance of protecting, conserving and improving biodiversity both within Australia and across the world.

Biodiversity is described as ‘the variety of living things’.

Did you know? … Australia is one of only seventeen countries  described as being ‘megadiverse’. These countries have less than 10% of the global surface but support more than 70% of the biological diversity on earth.

The marine environment is home to thousands of marine species, some of which are unique to Australia and all of which contribute to making Australia the most biodiversity-rich developed country in the world.

To find out more about biodiversity month, visit

Begin your studies of biodiversity in the marine environment in Western Australia by studying the fish species found in each of the bioregions of WA using the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: Fishing for the Future. A ‘bioregion’ refers to a region defined by common oceanographic characteristics in its marine environment. The Department of Fisheries has divided the vast Western Australian coastline into four bioregions – the North Coast, Gascoyne Coast, West Coast and South Coast.

Stop the plastic tide

Posted on: September 3, 2012

Turtle eating plastic

Turtles confuse plastic bags for sea jellies. Flickr: Jong Cortez.

Have you used the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: Un-fantastic Plastic?  In this series of activities, students will research and define the term marine debris, understand the consequences associated with plastics in the marine environment and develop practical solutions for their school to address the problem.

Why not take these activities a little bit further and ask students to develop a community advertising campaign that includes some easy, yet practical ways the community can reduce their plastic use also.  Show your students the YouTube Video: The Majestic Plastic Bag – A Mockumentary and ask them to write an exposition on why plastic is bad for the marine environment.  Students can then use this writing to assist in the development of their advertising campaign.  Their advertising campaign may be as simple as creating a poster for the local newspaper, or at the other end of the spectrum, developing a radio advertisement, a short movie or holding a community awareness event.

ACELY1796, ACELY1736, ACELY1746, ACELY1750, ACSHE035, ACSSU074, ACSHE062, ACSHE120, ACSHE121

The shape of fish

Posted on: August 24, 2012

Fish body shape comparison graphic

Fish body shapes give clues to how it moves through the water.

Did you know that the shape of a fish depicts where in the ocean it lives? Some fish are built for speed, others for manoeuvrability and some are built to travel long distances.

Demersal, or bottom-dwelling species, such as flounder and wobbegongs, are generally flat in shape. They do not have to be streamlined as they don’t tend to swim continuously, and being quite flat in shape allows them to stay close to the bottom and close to their food source.

Fish that live around reef areas (e.g. butterfly fish) have deep, flat bodies and are highly agile so they can move around easily.  Long, slender fish (e.g. moray eels) have the ability to hide under rocks and amongst coral.

Slow-moving fish with rounded bodies tend to have spines or armour plating, and many have poisonous flesh (e.g. blowfish) as forms of protection.  Fish with more elongated bodies (e.g. Australian herring) have the ability to swim relatively fast for long periods of time and thus don’t have the need for any special body protection.

The internal anatomy of a fish may also play a role in the fish’s survival.  Pelagic, or open water, fish such as tailor have a small swim bladder.  The swim bladder is an organ that the fish controls the amount of oxygen in, that enables the fish to control its ability to ‘float’ and ‘sink’ in the water column. Demersal species such as Western Australian dhufish have relatively large swim bladders to cope with large changes in pressure.  If you were to conduct a fish dissection with your students (see the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: Dissect a Fish), the swim bladder, assuming it hasn’t been perforated, will be the air filled sac under the intestine. You can be assured it is quite safe to ‘pop’, in fact it is a bit of an anticlimax – no noise, no smell, no gooey stuff spurting out.

To find out more about fish shapes and how they aid a fish’s survival, check out the Marine WATERs Poster: Fish ‘Fiziks’.

Masters of Adaptation

Posted on: August 17, 2012

Mangrove roots half in water with foreground water and some leaves above.

Mangroves in the Broome region.

Are you studying adaptations with your students?  Have you considered mangroves as a focal point?

About 11,000 kilometres (or over a million hectares) of Australia’s coastline is covered with mangrove forests making them one of Australia’s most geographically widespread ecosystems. This area represents the third largest area of mangroves in the world.  

In Western Australia, mangroves occur naturally in most coastal areas from Shark Bay northwards. There are also small mangrove communities at the Abrolhos Islands, and in the Leschenault Inlet in the state’s south west.

In Activity 1 of the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: Life in the Mangroves, students will study what mangroves are. You may wish to use our new Fisheries Fact Sheet: Mangroves, the Poster: The Mysteries of Mangroves and Article: Masters of Adaptation to help facilitate your class discussion.   Then, in Activity 3, students will investigate mangroves as a habitat using a story about a barramundi life cycle. Our Poster: Barramundi Life Cycle will help you to explain the different stages of the life cycle as you work through the story – your students will particularly like the part where the barramundi changes sex from male to female!  In Activity 4, students will use the mangrove ecosystem they created in Activity 3 to develop their knowledge of food webs (for more information on food chains and food webs, check out the Marine WATERs Lesson Plans: SEE Food & Marine Connections).


The Bare Bones Professional Learning

Posted on: July 27, 2012

Fish dissection cut below and parallel to the lateral line up to the gill cover.

Have you been on an excursion to the Naturaliste Marine Discovery Centre? Come along to our FREE Professional Learning session on Thursday 9 August to find out about the excursion opportunities available to you, and how they can be complemented with resources from Marine WATERs.

Suitable for Year 6-12 teachers, this session will focus on Fisheries Science. Try your hand at a fish dissection, learn what an otolith is and how to ‘read’ one too.

If you haven’t used Marine WATERs yet, or don’t know where to start, we’ll give you a crash course in navigating your way around the site. We’ll also look at both pre-excursion and post excursion resources including Designer Fish and What’s My Age Again?, so you can carry on your fisheries science studies in the classroom. This session does include take-away hard copy resources.

To register your interest in this Professional Learning session, please contact Aleesha Meuleners on 9203 0341 or email

Where: Naturaliste Marine Discovery Centre, 39 Northside Drive, Hillarys WA 6025

Date: Thursday 9 August 2012 (Week 3 Term 3)

Time: 4.00 pm – 6.00 pm.  Registration from 3.45 pm.

Fishing for the Future

Posted on: June 22, 2012

Fishing rules are complex, there’s no doubt about it.  Some of the regulations you may need to be aware of include (but are not limited to):

  • Daily bag limits
  • Possession limits
  • Minimum size limits
  • Totally protected species
  • Closed seasons
  • Gear restrictions, and
  • Licences.

Kids love to go a throw a line in the water, but how many of your students are aware of the myriad of rules that need to adhere to?

In Activity 3 from our Fishing for the Future lesson plan, students will use the ‘real’ rules and regulations to analyse a ‘catch’.  Using the Recreational Fishing Guides, students will work out whether fish in their ‘catch’ are of legal minimum size and within their bag limit, therefore complying with the regulations. 

Of course, before students can do this, they first need to identify their catch!  In Activity 2, students use the Species Identification Guide to create a profile on a particular species.  Why not take this a step further and use the students’ findings to develop a Species Identification poster for your region.  You may also like to ask students to research the juvenile of the species they complete their profile on.  Many juveniles are quite different to the adult of the species and may even be confused with adults of a totally different species, such as juvenile Australian salmon and adult Herring!

World Oceans Day

Posted on: June 8, 2012

It’s World Oceans Day today!

Did you know that oceans occupy 71 percent of the world’s surface?  There are five main bodies of seawater that are designated as oceans, namely, the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Southern Ocean, Arctic Ocean and our very own Indian Ocean.

Check out the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: Oceans Divided to learn more about out oceans, seas, gulfs, bays and bights!  The characteristics of a body of water determine whether it is a bay, bight or sea.

In Activities 1 and 2 of Oceans Divided students will map the bodies of water, covering that 71 percent of our planet.  As an extension to this activity, why not ask students to research how and why the these bodies of water are so named. 

Similarly to the land masses around the world, the ocean floor is not one vast, flat expanse.  The highest peak on land, Mount Everest, stretches 8,850 metres above sea level.  Contrast, the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana Trench, is 10,912 metres below sea level.  You can use the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: Getting Deeper to learn about the bathymetry of the world’s oceans and add this information to the map created in Activities 1 and 2 of Oceans Divided.

Phase 2 goes live!

Posted on: May 22, 2012

Case Study: Monitoring coral bleaching on Christmas Island. Photo: Justin Gilligan.

The Department of Fisheries and Woodside Energy, are excited to announce that Phase 2 of Marine WATERs (Western Australian Teacher Education Resources), is now live!

We have just launched a range of new resources for years K–10.  These resources include new lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations, a poster, and also two completely new resource types in the ‘Case Study’ and ‘In Depth’ series. 

The ‘In Depth’ series aim to provide supplementary information for the lesson plans and draw together a range of facts, research and current issues.  The first of these is on the Leeuwin Current, the driving force of the marine environment in WA. 

The ‘Case Study’ series will look at a specific issue, usually fishery related, in detail.  The first Case Study explores a coral monitoring project undertaken on Christmas Island.

Resources will continue to be added to the Marine WATERs website throughout 2012, with further lesson plans, posters, In Depths, Fact Sheets and another Case Study to come.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Posted on: May 18, 2012

Jan St Quintin operates the diamond cutter to prepare the otolith slice.

An astronaut? A ballerina? … An osteo-chronologist?

You can just see other people’s reaction during a casual conversation at a party can’t you?  “You’re a what?!”

So exactly what does the work of an osteo-chronologist entail?  You may be aware that the Department of Fisheries collects fish frames (the skeletal remains of a fish after it has been filleted) from recreational fishers.  Bony fish have tiny bones (or more correctly otoliths) located in their heads.  The bones are critical for hearing, balance and perception of depth for fish.  The bones are removed from the fish frame and then our osteo-chronologists step in. 

They set each otolith in a resin block that helps to protect the bone from chipping and keeps them stable when they are cut with diamond cutters to a thickness of less than a third of a millimetre.  Once the otoliths are cut, that very fine slice of the otolith is placed under a microscope … and then the fishes age secrets are revealed.  Otoliths display growth rings, similar to a tree trunk, which allow scientists to determine the age of the fish.  Find out more about the work of our brilliant osteo-chronologists in the Western Fisheries article, A Day in the Life of …

Want to try this out for yourself?  Try Activity 3: Counting Bands from the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: What’s My Age Again? You can download the sectioned slides in a Powerpoint Presentation: Black Bream Sectioned Otoliths and challenge your class … the answers are included for you too!

Classifying in the Classroom

Posted on: May 11, 2012

The first of the combined Naturaliste Marine Discovery Centre (NMDC) and Marine WATERs Professional Learning sessions kicked off last night with a focus on classifying marine organisms.  Our keen participants got their hands dirty (or at least sandy) as they carried out the simple sorting exercise with a bucket of beach ‘stuff’, just as their students would on an excursion to the NMDC.

The It’s Classified! Lesson Plan is a great introduction to classifying.  Classification in the scientific world is used for the scientific naming, identifying and describing of individuals, and determining relationships between groups and their evolutionary links.  Scientists classify organisms to genus and species level, which then become the scientific name of the organism.  This name is written in italics.

In Activity 1, students begin by attempting to classify everyone in the class.  All students are obviously of the same genus and species, but the idea behind the activity is to get students to think about the characteristics that make them different to everyone else.  Engage your students in a discussion about what characteristics would be useful, and those that wouldn’t be so useful.  E.g. short sleeves and long sleeves are likely to change on a daily basis and therefore wouldn’t be very useful.

Appendix 2 of the lesson plan provides you with a playing card template of a variety of different marine organisms.  Each card has the phylum that the organism belongs to listed at the top.  As a challenge for your students, when you make your set of cards, why not cut that label off? Provide students with the photo cards and ask them to group the organisms by what they can see from the picture or from what they have already learnt about that phyla.

The Perth Beachcomber’s Education Kit also has some great resources for classification.  You can also book an excursion to the NMDC and participate in our classifying activity, Bringing the Beach to You.

FREE Professional Learning Opportunities

Posted on: May 4, 2012

Bringing the beach to you activity.

New to Marine WATERs, or just need a bit of guidance as to where to start?  We have free Professional Learning opportunities in a variety of locations around the state this month!

The first of these sessions is Thursday, 10 May at the Naturaliste Marine Discovery Centre (NMDC) from 4.00pm – 6.00pm.  This session is the first of an ongoing series that will explore a specific NMDC excursion activity in detail, and the Marine WATERs resources that can be used pre- and post-excursion.  This session will explore our marine classification activities and a variety of lesson plans from Marine WATERs including I’ve Got the Key and Designer Fish.  To register for this session, contact Aleesha Meuleners – or 9203 0341.

On Saturday 26 May, we will be presenting at CONSTAWA, the annual conference of the Science Teacher’s Association of Western Australia.  In this session, participants will have the opportunity to try a range of hands on Marine WATERs activities, experience a Department of Fisheries incursion/excursion activity and discover the resources available in Marine WATERs to supplement this activity.

If you are in Esperance, the Department’s Marine Education Officers from Albany will be conducting an Introduction to Marine WATERs session at Lotteries House from 4.00 pm – 5.00 pm.  To register for this session, contact Kylie Outhwaite or Tahryn Thompson – or 9845 7400.

Lastly, we head north to Broome.  On Thursday 31 May we’ll be presenting an Introduction to Marine WATERs at the Department of Fisheries office from 3.15 pm – 4.45 pm.  To register for this session, contact Kara Dew – or 9193 8600.

These introductory sessions will include:

  • How to find resources on Marine WATERs,
  • Information about local fisheries education programs,
  • Opportunities to try some of the activities “hands on” and
  • An opportunity to take away hard copy resources.

We look forward to seeing you at one of our sessions soon!

Coral Reef Communities

Posted on: April 27, 2012

Sweet treat - coral polyp creation!

The Science Network WA this week reported on marine biologist Dr Barry Wilson’s findings from a study he completed in 2010 of the fringing coral reefs along the Kimberley coast. See the full post here:’s-platform-reefs-reveal-unique-formations.

Coral reefs have a fairly large range in Western Australia owing to the warm Leeuwin Current that flows south along the WA coastline. Ningaloo Reef in the north-west of the state is the most iconic, however coral reefs are also found at the Abrolhos Islands, and Rottnest Island just 20 kilometres into the Indian Ocean from Perth.  Soft corals are also found as far south as Busselton!

You and your class can learn more about coral reefs of WA in our article ‘Rainforests of the Sea’.  Also, discover the different types of coral reefs in our Coral Reef Communities Poster, and try the ‘Grow Your Own Coral’ Activity.

In addition to this, teach your students about the structure of a coral polyp by building your own marshmallow coral polyps. The best part is, you can eat it at the end of the lesson!  Each student will require a small patty case. Melt some white chocolate and put a teaspoon in the bottom of each patty case. This represents the limestone skeleton. Use the diagram on the Coral Reef Communities poster, to assist in explaining the various components to your class. Next, push a marshmallow into the white chocolate.  This represents the coral polyps stomach. Cut jelly snakes into quarters (width-wise) and then into short lengths and push into the marshmallow.  These are the tentacles of the coral polyp. Last but not least, sprinkle hundreds and thousands over your marshmallow polyp to represent the zooxanthellae, the tiny algae that enhance the corals’ ability to synthesise calcium carbonate from carbon and calcium dissolved in the water.  These algae give the corals their colours, or leave them bleached during periods of extreme environmental stress when the corals expel the algae, also known as coral bleaching.

Feeling peckish?

Posted on: April 23, 2012

Imagine your life if you were a fish – your main concerns on a daily basis would be finding food, not becoming food yourself, rest, finding food, not becoming food, find a mate, rest, finding food …

Luckily for us, finding food usually extends as far as visiting the supermarket and ‘catching’ our dinner into a shopping basket.  Our next challenge is then cooking, but at least we don’t have to concern ourselves with being eaten by someone else!

Use the SEE Food Lesson Plan to investigate who eats what in the marine environment.  It begins with plankton, the microscopic plants and animals that form the basis of the food chain (see The Plankton Challenge) and ends with a top level predator – us!  This lesson plan is based on the fantastic book See Food (Windy Hollow books), written by Guundie Kuchling who lives here in Western Australia! 

In Activity 3, students build a food pyramid using organisms from the story and investigate what happens when parts of the pyramid are removed.  Another way to conduct this activity is to write each of the organisms in the food pyramid on cards (in the same ratios as they are in Activity 3).  Give each student a labeled card and a piece of string.  Ask students to hold opposite end of the string with those that they either consume, or are consumed by.  One by one, remove organisms from the group (ask them to let go of the string, and sit down).  As each organism is removed, there will be a domino effect of others who no longer have a food source.  This is a really simple but very visual way of explaining food webs to students.  As an extension on this, try the Tied up in a Marine Food Web activity in the Marine Connections lesson plan.     

There’s a Full Moon on the Rise

Posted on: April 13, 2012

King Sound – Google maps image

You’ve hopefully all enjoyed Easter, indulged in some sustainable Western Australian fish … and maybe a little chocolate. Some of you may remember that we had a particularly long weekend at Easter in 2011. This was because Easter Sunday fell on April 24th – the day before Anzac Day. This year, Easter Sunday was April 8th, whilst next year it will fall on March 31st!

How is the date of Easter then determined? Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the full moon, following the Autumn equinox. Check out a moon phase calendar – and you’ll find that the full moon does not occur on the same date each month. As a result, Easter Sunday can actually occur anywhere from March 22nd through to April 25th.

What else does the moon dictate then? In ‘The Tide is High’ Lesson Plan, you’ll find out about the significance of the moon to the tide changes we experience. Tides are the rhythmic rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the rotation of the Earth and the gravitational forces exerted by the moon and the sun. Thus, the change in the tide is responsible for your sandcastle being washed away, or not as the case may be, on the beach!

Here in Western Australia, King Sound near Derby, experiences the second largest tidal range in the world (after the Bay of Fundy in Canada). The Department of Transport have Western Australian tide times available on their website –

In Activity 2 of The Tide is High, students will experiment with cups or buckets of water to experience the gravitational pull and centrifugal forces between the Earth and the moon, in a similar manner to how high and low tides work.

As an extension to the activities in The Tide is High, if your school is located close to, or if students live nearby a beach, ask them to photograph it at the same time each day over a period of a week. Create a time series with the photos and ask students to predict whether it was high or low tide (or heading towards high or low tide). Use the tide charts available on the internet to confirm your results and if necessary, engage students in a discussion as to why their predictions may have been different from the tide chart. Follow us on Facebook Fisheries Division Woodside Energy