Cath Battersby 

Ever since I started working for the Science Learning Hub, I wanted to create a series of articles about the marine environment. In 2009, I was lucky enough to visit Portobello Marine Laboratory and the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre on the Otago Peninsula. I met with Sally Carson, director of the education programme, and a couple of her colleagues who run activities for schools that visit the centre. As part of my visit, Sally took me on a tour of the laboratory and introduced me to some scientists who were keen to share their stories and talk about their research.

Over the next couple of days, I met with a number of these scientists again, and after many discussions with Sally and the rest of the Learning Hubs team, I started to draft a plan.

The overarching themes are how do our marine organisms interact and how do we affect them? These themes were chosen for their clear links to the curriculum, relevance to current scientific research and also to highlight the importance of the marine environment to all New Zealand students whether they live on the coast or not.

To help teachers and students understand more about these themes, the following six articles were written:

It was important to me to make these articles distinctly New Zealand and therefore all the examples of marine organisms and environments are found in New Zealand. We also chose some more unusual species to focus on. It’s not that I don’t love dolphins and whales, but New Zealand has some other fascinating and less well known marine organisms – plankton, bryozoans, cockles and sea stars.

The research

We collaborated with four scientists from Portobello Marine Laboratory (University of Otago) to produce this material. Their work is interrelated and covers both themes, but if you are particularly interested in how marine organisms interact, have a look at Dr Miles Lamare’s work on tagging sea stars and Associate Professor Steve Wing’s research into food webs. If your focus is to look more closely at human impact on the marine environment, have a look at Associate Professor Abby Smith’s internationally recognised research into bryozoans or Dr Candida Savage’s investigations into how our actions on land affect coastal environments.

Activities

I worked with a primary school teacher to create and trial a varied set of activities. The final activities are closely linked to the key themes, science ideas and concepts and reflect the research being carried out by the scientists featured. Your students might want to develop their own classification system or take part in a fisheries role-play. If you’re looking for experiments related to life in the sea, try the nutrient impact experiment or the ocean acidification and eggshells activity.

This collection of resources supports NZ Curriculum levels 3–4:

  • Nature of Science: participating and contributing. Use their growing science knowledge when considering issues of concern to them. Explore various aspects of an issue and make decisions about possible actions.
  • Living World: life processes. Recognise that there are life processes common to all living things and that these occur in different ways.
  • Living World: ecology. Explain how living things are suited to their particular habitat and how they respond to environmental changes, both natural and human-induced.
  • Living World: evolution. Begin to group plants, animals, and other living things into science-based classifications.
    Published 20 June 2011