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Exploring grassland ecosystems

Ecolinc
Full Day
Book Program
Year Levels
Field Trip

Background

In June 2008, the Australian Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Arts listed the natural temperate Grassland of the Victorian Volcanic Plain as a critically endangered ecological community under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation act 1999 (EPBC Act).
 
Characteristically, grassland communities are dominated by grasses with trees either sparse or absent.  The soil of grasslands is often quite fertile and is generally volcanically derived or alluvial.  There are many rare or threatened plant and animal species occurring in grassland ecosystems, and as communities, grasslands are classified as threatened.  Grasslands exist throughout the world in temperate areas and in Australia, particularly on the plains of eastern Australia.  In Victoria, grasslands have been reduced by such an extent that threat of extinction is real and imminent unless they are managed correctly.  Less than 5% of the Western Volcanic Plains grassland’s original remain occurring in mostly small, highly fragmented remnants.  Many animals and plants that inhabit these grasslands are now listed as critically endangered or extinct in the wild.

Learning Intentions

In this activity students will:

  • Define ecosystem, community, biotic/abiotic and biodiversity.
  • Investigate the characteristics of a grassland and a grassy woodland ecosystem.
  • Identify grassland and grassy woodland organisms and discuss how they are interdependent on each other and the ecosystem.
  • Outline abiotic components that influence the ecosystem.

Activities

There are two options available for students to experience grassland ecosystems:

Option 1: Ecolinc visit

At Ecolinc, students will participate in three workshops:

  1. The Roo Keepers Wildlife Zoo - An up close and personal encounter with animals from The Roo Keepers Wildlife Zoo.
  2. Grassland ‘Amazing Race’ – students will participate in an interactive ‘Amazing Race’, exploring grassland and grassy woodland plants and animals, adaptations, environmental factors and feeding relationships. 
  3. Testing abiotic factors – in the laboratory, students discuss abiotic factors that influence grassland plants and animals and conduct experiments to determine how soil type and climatic conditions impact the community.
Note: Maximum number of students is 50 per day.

Option 2: Ecolinc and Mount Rothwell visit, with a dusk walk

At Ecolinc, students will undertake two workshops
  1. Grassland ‘Amazing Race’ – an interactive ‘Amazing Race’ exploring grassland and grassy woodland plants and animals.
  2. Testing abiotic factors – in the laboratory, students discuss abiotic factors that influence grassland plants and animals and conduct experiments to determine how soil type and climatic conditions impact the community.
Students will then travel to Mount Rothwell and conduct field work by exploring the grassy woodland and undertaking a habitat survey to determine its suitability as a habitat for the endangered Rufous Bettong.

Option 2 - The day is outlined below:

2pm Arrive at Ecolinc
2pm - 3.30pm Workshops:
  1. Grassland ‘Amazing Race’
  2. Abiotic Factors - Soil Testing
3.45pm - 4.15pm Travel to Mount Rothwell
4.15pm - 5.15pm Field work:
  1. Grassy woodland scavenger hunt
  2. Habitat Survey
5.15pm - 5.45pm Optional: You may bring dinner to be cooked on the BBQ facilities (supplied by Mount Rothwell) or BYO dinner
5.45pm Undertake a guided walk at dusk* through the reserve and view a range of nocturnal animal species

Note:

  • *Dusk times may change depending on time of year.
  • Maximum number of students is 50 per day.
  • Additional cost per student applies for entrance to Mount Rothwell.
  • Teachers need to be aware that if the temperature is above 35 degrees and/or the weather conditions are extreme, Mount Rothwell will not accept students on site.  In this situation, students undertaking this program will participate in the alternative program on site at Ecolinc.
  • Students will need to bring appropriate clothing according to the time of year and forecast.  This includes solid footwear as well as sunscreen and hat (spring/summer), waterproof coat and hat (autumn & winter).
  • Students will also need to bring a torch for the nightwalk.

Learn Online

Ecolinc Learn Online is a virtual outreach learning management system (LMS) offering interactive online courses for students and teachers. These courses can be undertaken either as a pre-visit, post-visit or stand-alone.

Students are encouraged to do the pre-learning course on Ecolinc Learn Online called Eco Explorers prior to coming to Ecolinc.  Students will engage in a number of interactive, video and quiz activities designed to prepare them for their selected on-site program and to enhance the experience and learning.


Victorian Curriculum

  • Ecosystems consist of communities of interdependent organisms and abiotic components of the environment; matter and energy flow through these systems (VCSSU121).

Achievement Standard:

  • Students can explain that a grassland community consists of interdependent plants and animals and abiotic factors that influence them, and how energy flows through the system.