The Coastcare Victoria Schools Kit is a new education resource to engage young people in caring for marine and coastal environments.

The kit consists of a collection of video clips supported by simple, easy-to-follow lesson plans. The schools kit is aimed for grades 5-8. Yet, the flexible nature of the resource means it can be adapted for younger and older audiences.

Our lesson plans includes quizzes, games, videos, and worksheet investigations.

Lesson 1: Sanctuaries and Sea Creatures: Ricketts Point

Take your students on a dive to view sea life at Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary.

Through this lesson, students will gain knowledge on:

  • living versus non-living factors
  • how to classify organisms
  • tools for conserving species
  • living things features used to survive their environments.

Lesson and student resources

(Gentle music plays)

SPEAKER:
Imagine yourself surrounded by nature. Plant life grows on every surface. Animals scurry about your feet and glide overhead. Are you imagining some far off place, distant from the busy life of the city? What if this was closer than you think? What if all you need to visit this place was a mask and snorkel? Right at the heart of Australia's largest urban sprawl is a small area of coast known as Ricketts Point.

Protected from fishing since 2002, it is one of only 3 marine sanctuaries in the north of Port Phillip Bay and the only one to protect the unique limestone reefs of Melbourne's eastern coastline. The soft rocks here provide perfect attachment for a myriad of algae, such as leafy Ecklonia kelps, towering strands of Sargassum, or brightly coloured Sea Lettuces. Amongst this vegetation, gentle giants can be found. Looking like a cross between a shark and a stingray, Banjo Rays come here to bask in the warm shallows during the day. Reaching 1.5m in length, they can be intimidating to those unfamiliar with them. But they have neither the barb of a stingray or the teeth of a shark, rendering them harmless to humans.

Also found swimming through the abundant foliage are Dusky Morwongs. Because of their curious disposition, these fish will often approach divers for a closer look, following or even surrounding swimmers as they explore. But the canopy of algae is not what makes this place special. Taking a closer look below the surface reveals hundreds of caves and overhangs, a complex network of negative space home to creatures of all shapes and sizes. Tiny Hulafish seek shelter here from the dangers of open water, blennies occupy any available hidey-hole, and larger animals like Sea Sweeps, Old Wives or Magpie Perch use the reef as a home base from which to forage.

The larger caves are also host to one of Australia's lesser known mass migrations, a migration of sharks. From October to January, Port Jackson sharks come here from far and wide to mate and lay their eggs. While these harmless sharks are mostly active at night, they can be found packed into the shelter of the reef during the day, stacking one on top of the other. While these aggregations can be seen elsewhere in Victoria, the shallow waters of Ricketts Point offer unparalleled ease of access to those new to snorkelling.

But reef habitats are not the only habitat found in this area. Between the rocky structures stretch seemingly endless meadows of seagrass. While it might look empty of animal life at first, closer inspection reveals an entire world of small critters. Pebble Crabs make their way through strands of vegetation, looking for scraps of food while also avoiding large schools of Smooth Toadfish that would gobble them up in a flash. Juvenile fish like Leatherjackets and Moonlighters hang around, taking advantage of the clouds of Mysid Shrimps found here. The top dog in the seagrass meadow, however, is the Flathead. Using its camouflage to stay hidden, it lies in wait until prey comes close. Ricketts Point offers us a small window into the amazing marine life of Victoria.

The plants and animals that occur along the interconnected reef systems from New South Wales to Perth are known as the Great Southern Reef, a bioregion whose species are found nowhere else in the world. For anyone who has been to Ricketts Point, it is obvious what a special place it is and why it deserves the protection it is given.

Lesson 2: Seaweed Solutions for Sustainable Futures

Learn with scientists and First Nations people about the importance of Australian Seaweed.

Through this lesson, students will gain knowledge on:

  • 3 main groups of seaweed
  • Aboriginal Australians history of seaweed use
  • international cultural use of seaweed
  • growing the Australian seaweed industry.

Lesson and student resources

(Gentle music playing)

AUNTY JUDY:

(Aunty Judy Speaks in Wadawurrung Language)

What I've just said in Wadawurrung language is G'day, hello, how are you? My name is Judy. Here is Wadawurrung country. Let us talk together and learn in peace. I grew up on Gunditjmara country Warrnambool. A lot of the knowledge was passed down from our ancestors so, you listen to them. Nan used to tell us what we could touch and what we couldn't touch. We knew when to go swimming, we're not to go swimming and what could be in amongst the seaweed. Seaweed is the cleanser of the ocean. It actually cleans the waterways. And also, it feeds the environment down there as well. Like fish feed off it as well. And then if they are healthy, we used to eat them. Being an Aboriginal person, we lived off the land and our lifestyle was healthier than anything today that anybody can give us. It's really good to see how we used the different products that non-Indigenous people didn't think was good.

ZOE BRITTAIN:

Each unique culture has a different range of species available in different abundance at different times a year, which influenced their uses.  So everything from diet, to building houses, to clothing to medicine, to very special cultural and spiritual practices.

DR. PRUE FRANCIS:

There are lots of uses that we can use seaweed. Here in Australia, we’re only just tapping in or realising their potential. So the industry at the moment, there are farmers growing seaweed to help feed cows, but there's also people growing seaweeds to put in our food, and also for pharmaceuticals as well and perhaps even for our future moisturisers. Did you know that you can make plastic from seaweeds? and if we're going to be using plastics that would normally be thrown away after they've had their end use, if we're using seaweed as part of that, and they're getting thrown away, it's biodegrading a lot quicker than a plastic product. There's been seaweed shoes, there's been seaweed dresses. I've also seen seaweed drinks on the market as well. There's also been seaweed in your moisturiser or your soap. So, I think there's going to be a growing list of where seaweed can be used in our everyday life into the future.

ZOE BRITTAIN:

Often you hear a lot of really out there claims about how seaweed can solve climate change and cure cancer and seaweed definitely has potential in both of these realms. But there's also ways to do things very, very poorly, if you jump in headfirst without thinking carefully about it, who knows what the repercussions are, that you could have. I think not only is it about asking the right questions in science to help uncover some of these mysteries, but it's also about asking the right questions to the right people who might hold some of this knowledge. Not just asking but making sure we listen very intently and very openly to the different types of answers that we might receive.

AUNTY JUDY:

I believe the respect should be given to the seaweed and to the traditional owners of the area that it's on, and to sit down and talk to them before you harvest it. So, you've got an understanding of what it means.

ZOE BRITTAIN:

I often think a part of Australia's natural identity, you can often see reflected in a lot of our tourism or resource marketing. And part of that is being beach lovers who have a beautiful, natural, clean environment. And I think it's quite funny in a way that we're so proud of the natural environment we have but we've never really seemed to expand that to include seaweed, despite having the most seaweed than anywhere in the world. So, I think seaweed definitely has a role to play in building identity around Australia. If you look at it from the Aboriginal perspective, each piece of land is unique and has a unique culture. And it can actually help people I think thinking about seaweed, where it is, the different places that forms and grows can help you connect with the place that you live on, in particular, and really appreciate and care for that land.

DR PRUE FRANCIS:

We need to form connection to seaweed. So we need to educate or raise awareness of what seaweed is here in along the Great Southern Reef and to do that, it's bringing it to the community and showcasing the wonderful diversity that we have the wonderful uses that these seaweeds can do. And it brings that nice tight connection or sense of place to then help look after it or want to know more about it.

LICHEN KELP:

I think a lot of people are like me and until they really consciously thinking about seaweed, it's something that doesn't factor into their beachgoing experience or underwater experience. But once you start learning about how incredible they are it's a mission in itself, an exploration in itself to go find them. The Seaweed Appreciation Society started because I realised that I was going down another wormhole in the internet and research on my own is one thing but research as part of a group is so much more fun. The portable seaweed library was a chance for me to get my collection of seaweed books out of my house and off my shelves and out into the world to share with people as a fun way to do seaweed research for myself and sharing out knowledge and starting up conversations around seaweed. And create opportunities for what I like to think of as like an ocean portal. So bringing the ocean to people and getting knowledge and excitement around these experiences. To get people who are separated out from the sea to still feel a connection to it. The sea is a huge part of this globe and support so much life. And we really need to be looking after it we need to start thinking about it differently, not what we can get out of it but what we can give to it.

ZOE BRITTAIN:

We can't just focus on one thing that it does, or one part of the environment, because they all interact in such a lovely way to keep everything functioning to the best of its abilities. And I think that's a really nice way to think about ourselves as well. And the different ways that we can impact the different parts of this cycle and how we can help to be a part of it in a really positive way.

Lesson 3: Ecosystem and Edible Urchins

Learn and see where you sit in a food chain. As a classroom see how your seafood choices can help or hinder the balance of the ocean ecosystem.

Through this lesson, students will gain knowledge on:

  • seafood sustainability
  • simple food chain
  • scientific sampling techniques.

Lesson and student resources

(Gentle music playing)

DR. PAUL CARNELL:

We're here today at Williamstown to have a dive out on the reef to check in on the condition.  So, this is a reef that we've been surveying over the last 12 years. We're here today to check back in, see how it's going and see the condition of the reef. I’m also going to be collecting a couple of sea urchins to have a little bit of a feast on afterwards. So, this is a standard survey technique that we've been doing for reef surveys across all of Port Phillip Bay. And that's checking in on the reef condition. So what's the kelp cover like? What kind of seaweeds are there? And then part of that is also about the sea urchin densities. The first 50 meters, you don't see as many. But once you get out that bit further, the rest of the 150 meters of this reef is covered in sea urchins. It's really important to survey these reefs and track the condition and how they change over time.  Because if we don't know what the problem is we can't then look at how we can manage that and help solve that problem. And so, if we don't actually know how many urchins are there, where the problem urchin barren spots are, then we can't actually tell managers the areas they should be going and trying to restore and to fix.

So, there's the one main species which is actually native to Port Phillip Bay. And it's the short spine sea urchin and is one name or the purple sea urchin and is another name for it. But its scientific name is Heliocidaris erythrogramma So what we think has happened over time is a combination of all of the nutrients actually coming into Port Phillip Bay, with all of the sewerage wastewater that's been coming in, in here since the 50s.And 60s, really. And that has basically driven a change in this ecosystem from the bottom up. And all of those excess nutrients in the water actually drove a whole lot of other weedy seaweed species to massively proliferate. And when you have a whole lot of food then other species will come along and make the most of that. And so, sea urchins love to sit there on a rock and catch whatever drifting bits of seaweed are coming by, and so with all this extra seaweed that was now out there and floating around it built a larger sea urchin population in the bay. But then what happened, we got to the Millennium drought, which was from the end of the 1990s, and through the 2000s.So a long period of increased temperatures, but also reduced nutrients that were actually now coming into the bay. Now all of a sudden, we had less nutrients in the bay, and less seaweed that was now growing and proliferating because of it. And that meant we had way more urchins. And the seaweed populations were down here So they switched from couch potato mode to actually active foraging kind of army mode, and instead moving around and eating and clearing all of the seaweeds and the kelps off the reef. And so, they would move from reef to reef doing that. And they're actually really good at surviving. So, you might think they've eaten all their food out, maybe they'll die off after that, But Sea urchins are particularly clever and particularly good at being able to survive when there' snot much food around and being able to kind of linger in this space. So we actually refer to them once they've eaten everything, and they're moving around this bare barren landscape as kind of zombie sea urchins. So, they've kind of eaten everything out, but they still wander around.

In these areas where the sea urchins are really over abundant, we need to find a way to be able to reduce the urchins down to a healthy level that the reefs can actually handle. We can actually go out and eat them. So, you can buy them in the fish shop or recreational fishers, which is you and me can collect our daily quota of sea urchins. So, you do need to have a recreational fishing license number one. And then number two is checking the current rules and regulations about how many sea urchins that you can collect. Now at the moment, that's collecting 40 sea urchins per person per day, and making sure that you do that below the intertidal zone.

CHEF JOHNSON:

So here we are today to dissect some of the sea urchins. So Paul has just dived in this morning and got us some short spined sea urchins. In our sea urchin factory, we have what we call the splitter. So let's just crack into it. This is the commercial way to open the sea urchin. So we have also the scooper to help our process or just scoop out the sea urchin. Golden colour roe, that's what we are looking for in a sea urchin. At home you can just use scissors to just cut open the top and scoop out the roe. and just cut it open on the top. Usually, this way would be preferred by Japanese chefs because it helps to keep the whole of the sea urchin and they will be able to use the shell for presentation. So these ones are the baby size. So, when they are mature it, it's usually August to December. And lucky for us when the seasons ends for this one, the other starts. Now is the season of the long spined sea urchin. So, we have to air flown them to Japan to different destinations in the world. We have Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore and Malaysia. Both the short spine and the long spined sea urchins could be world class. As long as we have the amount to export to everyone. Australian sea urchin is starting to get its name. Because it's not a common food for Australians. And we want to change that.

DR. PAUL CARNELL:

Sea urchins haven't been a regular part of the Australian diet over the last 150 years. But I think as we see, particularly from New Zealand and from Asia, it's a really common part of the cuisine. And so, I think through programs like this, we're trying to get the word out to everyone that he is something great, you can eat that sustainable and you're actually helping the environment by eating it.

Lesson 4: Volunteering for Threatened Flora

Bring out your class’s creative side by mixing art and science. This lesson will put a creative spin on learning your native species.

Through this lesson, students will develop an understanding on:

  • scientific names vs common names
  • importance of native species
  • botanical Illustrations
  • the impacts weeds have in Australia
  • traditional uses of native plants.

Lesson and student resources

NAOMI WELLS:

Hi, I'm Naomi Wells from Bellarine Catchment Network and I'm here today at Queenscliff in Victoria. I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of this land, the Wadawurrung and pay my respects their Elders past, present and emerging. We're here today for Summer by the Sea, a program ran by Coastcare Victoria that attracts thousands of people to the coast each January. Coastcare Victoria is a program of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. This video will be showcasing a local volunteer group who do amazing work here in the Coastal Moonah Woodland. Before we begin, I have three simple steps that anybody can follow to protect habitats like this. Firstly, always stick to the paths, that way you can reduce your disturbance if you're walking through areas like this. Secondly, leave only footprints. Please make sure you take any rubbish or litter home with you. And finally, consider joining a local Coastcare or Friends of group. Volunteering is a great way to help protect these natural environments.

A few years ago, local residents came together to form the volunteer group, The Borough Coastcarers. They really wanted to protect their local habitat, including this beautiful Coastal Moonah Woodland. Coastal Moonah Woodland is a threatened plant community and there's not much of it left on the Bellarine Peninsula. One of the biggest threats that it faces is from invasive woody weeds, including Polygala myrtifolia. This woody weed drops thousands of seeds each year, and those seedlings then grow up, to compete with our native plants for light, nutrients and space. The Borough Coastcarers work so hard every single month to protect this beautiful native habitat. Let's go meet some of them now.

So why is volunteering like this so important for conservation projects?

TIM TROTTIER:
Well especially in The Narrows, this site wouldn't be what it is today without the volunteers. So, a lot of hours go into grubbing plants and pulling them out and putting them in piles and dragging the piles out. It's really important for conservation areas to have volunteers, and it really helps build that community. And as well as the mental health side of things, coming out and laughing, you know, having a chat and you're looking down, pulling your weeds out but you're still able to have a chat with the person next to you. I think that's really beneficial.

NAOMI WELLS:
Marvyn, how does it feel, when you get to a wall of Polygala, and you remove that wall?

MARVYN:
Oh, it's very satisfying. Particularly when you start seeing the small trees and shrubs that you couldn't see before. All you could see was that wall of weeds and now you can see the little ones coming up, and you also see things like the orchids in the season and you realise how many there are and how extensive they are. But only in the areas where it’s been cared for and weeded. So, it’s important to keep those areas clear because they're Indigenous and quite rare species that live just in this area. If anybody was interested in doing this sort of work, it's not difficult, it's only a couple of hours a month and we enjoy it. You know, you're getting the fresh air, see things that you would not normally see. Learn about the plants and animals that live in the area. It's good fun.

NAOMI WELLS:
So what would you say to people who are thinking about volunteering?

MEL:
Oh, look I'd say, "Come along. Join in the fun." Basically, it's a couple of hours of rolling around in the dirt, chatting and laughing. We get a lot... A surprising amount of work done and you look back at where you've been and it’s extremely satisfying to see the area that you've cleared of weeds. You can see the areas that we've already cleared, you can already start to see baby Moonahs and other native vegetation popping up in the undergrowth and that's just extremely... Makes you feel a bit warm and fuzzy to be honest. Especially on the Bellarine, where so much land clearing is happening, it's really important that we protect the areas that are left.

NAOMI WELLS:
As we've seen, volunteering is a great way to protect our natural environment, to socialise and meet other people. To improve your physical and mental health and to connect with nature. If you want to know more about groups in your area, contact your local Coastcare Victoria Facilitator. We hope you enjoy this video and are inspired to get out there and start volunteering.

Lesson 5: Action and Innovation: Litter Stopper

Become a class of citizen scientists and protect our coastline!

Through this lesson, students will develop an understanding on:

  • threats to the coastal and marine environment from plastic
  • the importance of collecting scientific data
  • how to use a citizen science app
  • design plastic-free alternatives
  • why volunteering is important.

Lesson and student resources

(Gentle music playing)

COLLEEN HUGHSON:

Today we are filming on the traditional lands of the Peek Whurrong and Gunditjmara people of the Eastern Maar nation. We'd like to pay our respects to their elders past present and emerging. This morning we went to the Flume with the Warrnambool East Primary School students to do a little bit of a beach clean up. We will head back to the school and sort and count and then put that data into the Litter Stopper app.

SCHOOL CHILDREN:

We are trying to find the most popular plastics so then we can figure out how we can stop it. We are going to be sorting them into straws and bottles and microplastics and telling the world to use less of that.

COLLEEN HUGHSON:

Once it washes up on the beach, it sits in the sun, and it gets really, really brittle. And eventually it breaks up and then just keeps on breaking up and up. I hadn't realised that there was a problem with plastic in the ocean until 2017.  So, I was a bit of a late comer to the issue really and finding lots of plastic stems one day on the beach, so lots of cotton buds. I was quite horrified once I knew what they were and that they were coming out of the Warrnambool sewage outfall. I was like, this plastic is coming from our town. And we're polluting the ocean. So, I guess that's what started it. Once I started collecting them and then you notice all these other bits of plastic and start collecting that. I can't go to the beach now and not pick up plastic.  I think it's terrible that humans have polluted the ocean because it's the home for shore birds and migratory birds and then all your marine animals. I hate the fact that our plastics polluted their home as well. And I also think of every little bit of plastic that has the potential to harm or kill a marine animal or bird or fish.

So, I'm kind a like every little bit counts. The great thing about the Litter Stopper app is it’s super easy to use. So, it's a really quick way to record what you've found on the beach or on your local street or in your park. The other great thing about the Litter Stopper app is anyone can use it, and it's a really easy sign up process. There's two lots of groups there Beach Patrol and Love Our Street so if you don't actually live near a beach you can do a regular clean up in your street or local park.

I want you to go to Litter, start clean. Do you know how to write Flume? I can spell it out for you. It has 20 main items. This is your rubbish. What I want you to do is sort it into types of rubbish. What do you reckon the most common plastic is here at the moment?

SCHOOL CHILDREN:

So far, cigarettes.

COLLEEN HUGHSON:

So if you're littering a cigarette it's not only the plastic fibers but it's also toxic chemicals that can go into the environment. The most common plastics you are going to find on the beach are just hard remnants. So they are just broken up bits of plastic.

SCHOOL CHILDREN:

It's very solid.  Hard, red plastic. It's like from supermarkets or trolleys or baskets.

COLLEEN HUGHSON:

I knew nothing about marine debris and slowly your knowledge builds up by collecting it again and again and again you thinking what is this? And then you'll see something you go ah that's what it is like you find a whole neck yeah hang on that's the same bit of plastic here it's the same thickness it's the same colour and then you'll go oh I got all those red remnants of a finding must be from these things or the bait baskets I didn't know that was part of a rock lobster pot. Earlier on when we were collecting lots of rock lobster materials, I made a dress out of it. We did some art projects out of it. And, and it was last year that we had this really big storm event. And I just had this week, and I was just collecting so much the rock lobster materials I didn't know if I picked up 20 hats and those baskets. And there was cane, and it was everywhere. And I just thought I think I just got to a point I've got to do something about this. My cousin works for fisheries, I'd contacted him and he suggested, talk to Gary, he’s a really good bloke. When I met Gary, I said take a look. The red plastic from the rock lobster pots are washing up really, really regularly. That data is really important to be able to say well, what can be done?

GARY RYAN:

A couple months ago, I was introduced to Colleen, and she made me aware of just the amount of red plastic she was picking up off the beach. I was a little bit in denial. Only to find out I was pretty gobsmacked when I saw yes, indeed, it was red plastic from our lobster pots. I've always been a bit of a tinkerer. Always trying to find an edge or a pot that catches a bit more. I thought I can take to the next level. I reckon I can get rid of all this plastic out of my pot altogether, and still have a high catching pot. And, and it does, it catches every bit as well as the other pots. In fact, I'm starting to you know, honestly, like catch better. We're working towards a common goal. It's a cleaner environment.

COLLEEN HUGHSON:

Other fishermen, they'll see what he's doing and hopefully will follow suit. Being a steward looking after your own patch. I think it's really really important in taking care of it. Litter is such a big problem. And so, it needs more and more people to be involved in solving the issue. The great thing about collecting regular data, there's undisputable evidence that there's an issue with particular litter in that place. The other thing about Litter Stopper is it actually feeds directly into Litter Watch which is DELWP's own database. So, everything that you're collecting goes into this statewide database. And so the government can really look at what the litter issues are, and then work on policy to reduce those litter items in the environment. School students can get involved in reducing litter in the environment by using the app to go out and collect data. Then they can use that data to maybe speak to their local council about doing something about the little problem in that area. By having a cleaner environment people can be more proud of where they live and it makes it a more liveable place for everyone.

Teacher resources

Contact us

Need help or questions please contact Coastcare.victoria@delwp.vic.gov.au

Page last updated: 27/09/22