Science Week – Energy Revolution 11th-19th August

Australian Science Teacher’s Association Science Week Booklet

Next week is Science Week across Australia and ASTA have produced an excellent, free resource with information and activities on the theme “Energy Revolution”. It includes sections on types of renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable homes, schools, transport and buildings. There are plenty of links to resources and practical activities for your classroom.

We have a few things happening at Hawkesdale to celebrate Science Week:

Monday 13th August (11.30am – 12.30pm): Games and Game Design: Skills needed for a career in games Quantum Victoria present “The Young Scientist and Engineer series” with Paul Taylor, a game designer, educator and software engineer. Click on this link for the Blackboard Collaborate session.

Tuesday 14th August (9.00 – 10.00am) Mags Lum (@ScientistMags on Twitter) is a chemist, metallurgist, photographer and writer. She writes a blog, “Philosophically Disturbed” and will be Skyping into our classroom to talk about “Science is a journey” with our year 9 class.

Wednesday 15th August (11.15am to 12.05pm) Catherine Anderson (@genegeek) is a molecular genetics specialist who writes at “Musings of a gene geek”  about science, DNA, genetics and more. She will be Skyping in to our Year 7 class with “Genetics 101, Why I love it and science career paths”. Catherine has written a great post about DNA on her blog, “What is DNA?”. Please leave a comment on her blog about what you found interesting about today’s session, if you might be considering science as a career and thanking her for her time today.

After our Skype sessions, please follow the links to Mags’ and Catherine’s blogs and add a comment – What did you find interesting, amusing, difficult to understand or strange? Did their talk make you think about a career in science?

On Monday 27th August (11.30am to 12.30pm): Quantum Victoria present “The Young Scientist and Engineer series” with Matt Bliss, a geologist studying the chemistry of volcanoes, who will be speaking about “The Earth as a Dynamic System”.


Western Volcanic Plains – an ancient landscape

Image Source: Google Earth

Although Australia is located in the centre of a continental plate, we still experience earthquakes and volcanoes from time to time and our landscape is shaped by these forces. Mt. Eccles, Mt. Rouse, Mt. Napier and Tower Hill are all local examples of extinct volcanoes. 

Mount Eccles is an inactive volcano near Macarthur. It is composed of scoria hill, formed from a series of volcanic vents. The Gunditjmara name for the mountain is Budj Bim meaning High Head. The roughly conical shaped peak rises 178 metres. You can re-create a cinder-cone, like Mt. Eccles, at “Volcano Explorer” by choosing medium viscosity lava and low gas.

Mount Napier is one of the youngest volcanoes in Australia, last erupting in 3290BC. It has a composite lava shield with a superimposed scoria cone. The cone rises 150m above the surrounding plains to an elevation of 440 m, making it the highest point on the Western District Plains of Victoria. The flow also created lava blisters or tumuli along the flow, creating mounds of basalt rocks. The blisters are unique in Australia and a rare occurrence in the rest of the world. They are formed by gas and heat from the lava pushing up against the crust. You can re-create a shield volcano by choosing low viscosity and low gas at the “Volcano Explorer“.

All of these volcanoes erupted in the last 25,000 years, when indigenous tribes lived here. You can see the remains of stone huts, fireplaces, fish and eel traps and middens in many parts of the western district, including Lake Condah and the Mt Eccles State Park. Catalyst produced an interesting program about the aboriginal villages at Lake Condah, which described ancient eel farms, where indigenous farmers bred, caught and smoked eels for trading purposes. You can read more about the aboriginals and the lava flows at Mt Eccles and Lake Condah here.

Your task is to write a 300-500 word story about a day in the life of an indigenous child when one of these volcanoes was actively erupting. Include information about food, family life, shelter and the local flora and fauna. Please check the Google Docs assessment rubric to see what is important about your work. When you have finished, create a matching image in Paint, or find an appropriate creative commons image to share, and add your story and image to your blog. Make sure you send me an email with a link to your blog post, so I can comment on your work, or leave a comment below with your blog address so we can access your post.  Here are some links to assist your research:

Time, Tides and Seasons.

Image Source

Did you know that tens of thousands of years before the first telescope was invented, Australian aboriginals were using the stars, planets and constellations to tell the time and predict the seasons? Arnhem Land’s Yolngu people have ancestral narratives about tides, eclipses, the rising and setting of the Sun, Moon and planets.

Australian Aboriginal Astronomy

Aboriginal Astronomy from ThinkQuest

Aboriginal astronomers: world’s oldest? from Australian Geographic

Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Image Source

Learning Intention: Students will understand that the earth is composed of several layers, including a solid iron/nickel core, molten outer core, upper and lower mantle (magma) and crust. Students will also be able to use a compass to draw concentric circles.

Success Criteria: Students will draw a labelled diagram showing the cross section of the earth. 

  1.  How thick is the earth’s crust?
  2. What minerals are the different layers composed of?
  3. How does the temperature change inside the earth?
  4. What is the deepest hole in the earth?
  5. What makes the earth shake?
  6. What causes volcanoes and tsunamis?
  7. What causes the seasons?
  8. What is the greenhouse effect?
  9. Where is the ozone layer?
  10. How can volcanoes appear from nowhere?

What caused the recent earthquakes in Australia, given that we are not located on the edge of a continental plate?

Dynamic Earth

Learning Intention: Students will understand that the theory of plate tectonics explains global patterns of geological activity and continental movement. They will recognise the major plates on a world map, model sea-floor spreading and relate fold mountains, volcanic and earthquake activity to plate boundaries. They will relate the extreme age and stability of a large part of the Australian continent to it’s plate tectonic history.

Success Criteria: Students will produce a poster, slideshow, video or other digital product that explains the evidence that supports the theory of plate tectonics. Their work will include annotated world maps, diagrams of the structure of the earth and use scientific terminology (synclines, anticlines, tectonics, continental drift, convergent, divergent, subduction etc).

Today we watched a Clickview video “Global Tectonics: Competing Theories” that discussed the work of Copernicus, Galileo, Ortelius, Wegener and Hess and how their discoveries have changed human understanding of the way the earth works.

  • Copernicus believed that the earth was at the centre, with the other stars and planets orbiting around it.
  • Galileo’s theory, supported by many nights with a telescope,  was that the sun was in the centre, with the earth orbiting around it. He also discovered mountains in the moon, the moons of Venus and that the milky way was made up of starts.
  • The Dutch mapmaker, Abraham Ortelius, noticed that the shapes of Africa and South America fitted together like a jigsaw.
  • Alfred Wegener, a German meteorologist, was the first to suggest that continents were once joined together. Evidence for this is in the form of similar plants, animals and fossils that exist on once-joined land masses (eg. South America, Australia and Antarctica once formed Gondwana.)
  • Hess’s underwater exploration in the deep ocean led to the discovery of sea-floor spreading.
  • Some scientists believe in the ‘global expansion theory’ that states the earth was once 60% of it’s present size.

Check out this You Tube video from National Geographic, “The Early Earth and Plate Tectonics”. If the continents are still moving, where will they be in 250 million years?  The New York Times reported on some recent research that changes our understanding of heat conduction in the “Earth’s Core – the enigma 1,800 miles below“.

Year 8 “Changing Earth” Project


Limestone Pinnacles at Nambung National Park, near Cervantes, Western Australia.

Learning Intention: To work individually or in a small group to demonstrate your understanding of the formation of different rock types and fossils.

Success Criteria: Each student will create, or assist to create, a project that demonstrates a good understanding of the formation of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks and fossils.

Some of the options for your project include:

  • A 60-second science video for the competition. Read the rules carefully – each contestant must effectively explain the science, not just demonstrate a phenomena. So you will need to explain the processes of erosion and weathering, volcanic action and plate subduction, formation of sediments and how heat and pressure changes the appearance and properties of rocks. You could use a Common-Craft style or convert a slideshow to a video by saving as jpeg files and importing them into Windows MovieMaker.
  • A poster, brochure or booklet that shows the rock cycle and gives examples of different rock types from around the world.
  • A “Rock Around the World” wiki that gives examples of famous geological landmarks, where they are located, how they are formed and what type of rocks they consist of.
  • Please check the Assessment Rubric and make sure you fulfill the criteria to the best of your ability.

Fossils in South West Victoria


Image Source

Learning Intention: Students will investigate how fossils are formed and understand how the fossil record can be used to make inferences about changing environmental conditions on earth.

Success Criteria: Students will be able to describe how fossils are formed are how they are used to provide evidence for changes on earth over time.  

We have learnt about the rock cycle and how different types of rocks are formed. We have also learnt about the different ways that geologists test and identify rocks. Although much of our geology in the western district is dominated by volcanic (igneous) rocks, there is also examples of sedimentary rock formations. Think about the layers of sandstone at Tower Hill (on the right as you drive down into the crater) and the Grampians Sandstone quarry at Dunkeld, where building blocks are cut. Next week we will learn more about how fossils are formed and how we can use fossils to learn about the changes on earth over millions of years.

There are even some local examples of fossils! At Spring Creek, in Minhamite, paleontologists have discovered fossils of ancient megafauna and cetaceans (marine mammals like dolphins). Recently, near the Cape Otway Lighthouse, a vertebrae from the first Australian spinosaur was found. The Warrnambool Standard reported on the finding this week; “When Spinosaurs walked the South West”. The following article, from the ABC “Walking with Dinosaurs” site explains why Australia has very few dinosaur fossils compared to other parts of the world.

“In the dinosaur stakes, Australia was dealt a poor hand for a number of reasons. Firstly, when dinosaurs were roamed the earth, there were few places where the right kinds of rocks were being deposited. Dinosaurs tend to be preserved in sediments laid down by rivers and lakes. During the reign of the dinosaurs most of Australia was covered by a shallow sea.

Secondly, since the age of dinosaurs, there has not been much mountain-building in Australia. If land is lifted up and eroded back, it’s possible to see into the rock beds and find the fossils inside. This has happened in a number of the worlds famous dinosaur deposits elsewhere in the world but not here in Australia.

Lastly, compared to many other places in the world, Australia has very few palaeontologists looking for fossils and a very large area to cover. This is slowly changing and the recent increase in dinosaur fossil finds is a result of more palaeontologists getting out and digging around.”

Year 8 Earth Science

Nature's Window, Western Australia

Learning Intention: Students will understand the properties of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks and how they are formed. They will relate chnages in landscape formations over time with processes such as weathering, erosion, fossilisation and movement of continental plates.

Success Criteria: At the completion of this unit each student will be able to distinguish between igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks and give common examples of each. They will be able to describe the way our earth changes over geological time.

This photograph was taken at Nature’s Window, near Kalbarri, in Western Australia. You can see the layers of different coloured rock, which indicates that this is sedimentary rock. In the western district, we see a lot of igneous rocks, formed from lava flows of volcanoes. Metamorphic rocks are those that have changes over time due to heat and pressure.

The Water Cycle


Image Source

Your task in Year 7 Science this week is to create a digital representation of the water cycle that demonstrates your understanding of the following terms:

  • Evaporation
  • Condensation
  • Precipitation
  • Percolation
  • Transpiration

There are a variety of tools you can use to achieve this. You could draw a poster, photograph it and upload it to Voicethread or Capzles, then use narration or the text tools to describe the processes you have drawn. You could use Photostory, Kahootz or Pivot to create a video animation of the water cycle. You could also use Comic Life or ToonDo to create a cartoon about the water cycle from the perspective of a water molecule – “My Life as a Water Molecule”. Make sure your digital product clearly shows your understanding of the five processes listed above and that it is uploaded to your blog by next Wednesday 16th March.

Mrs Smethurst’s class produced some “Common Craft” style videos about the Water Cycle here:

“The Water Cycle” by Josh, Jarrod and Clayton

“A Different Water Cycle” by Olivia, Tahlia and Courtney

Sophie’s Blog post about the Water Cycle

Emalee’s Blog post and Voki about the Water Cycle