Holiday Study Camps – July and September

Bush food fibre and medicine walk

Over the past five years I have taken students to Apollo Bay and the Grampians for two-night study camps that allow our online students to meet and study together and undertake field work. The following dates for 2014 are proposed:

Both YHA’s demonstrate ecologically sustainable design, with passive heating and cooling, solar hot water and recycling of waste. Both camps are self catered (food provided, but you make your own breakfast, lunch and dinner). Accommodation is in single gender, four bed rooms with shared bathrooms. Linen is provided, but you need to bring your own towels, soap and toiletries. Some of the activities we have participated in past trips include:

  • Bush food, fibre and medicine discovery walk (HG)
  • Indigenous cultural heritage tour with guide (HG)
  • Ranger talk about fox baiting in the Grampians National Park (HG)
  • Biodiversity assessment with Peter Austin (HG)
  • Glow worms at Melba Gully (AB)
  • Otway Tree Top Walk (AB)
  • Walk to Paradise and Aire River (AB)
  • Canoeing on Lake Elizabeth (spotting wild platypus) (AB)
  • Cape Otway Ecology Conservation Centre (Spot-tailed quoll research) (AB)

The cost for transport from Hawkesdale P12 College ($25), food ($30) and accommodation ($70) for both these trips will be $125, plus an extra charge ($25 to $50) for activities, depending on how many students attend. If you are a teacher who would like to join us with your group of students, please leave a comment on this blog or contact me by email at brittgow(at)

Unit 3: Area of study 2: Biodiversity

Biodiversity can be considered at different levels – at the smallest scale, genetic diversity refers to the variety of genes in a population, which provide opportunities for species to adapt to changing conditions. Most people think about biodiversity at the prices level – the variety of different types of organisms that exist on earth, including all plants, animals, fungi, bacteria and protists. At the largest scale, ecosystem biodiversity refers to the range of different ecosystems – for example, coral reefs, freshwater lakes, temperate grasslands, tropical rainforests or alpine heathlands. All three levels (genetic, species and ecosystem) are important for conservation because each species needs a variety of genetics in their populations to adapt to changing conditions and they also need an ecosystem to sustain that population.

Why is it important to conserve biodiversity? Biodiversity has many benefits to humans as well as the intrinsic value of life on earth. Human rely on biological products such as wood (for furniture and shelter), fibers (cotton, wool, silk, flax), food (meat, fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, seeds) and medicines. We also depend on many ecosystem services such as pollination (by bats, birds, bees and other insects) , air and water filtering, production of oxygen (during photosynthesis by green plants), erosion prevention (tree roots that hold the soil together), shade and shelter. There are also social benefits of biodiversity, such as the companionship of pets for the elderly and wellbeing from recreational activities in natural environments. Create a table with four columns (Taxon, Biological Products, Ecosystem services and Social benefits) and five rows (Plants, Bacteria, Fungi, Vertebrates, Invertebrates). See if you can fill in each cell with a few examples. Social benefits of bacteria and fungi might be a bit difficult!

Week 7: Strategies & Policies to Reduce the Impacts of Climate Change.


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In preparation for Part B of Outcome 1, we are looking at the various local, state, federal and international policies that impact on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

At an international level, the main body for climate change information is the International Panel for Climate Change, made up of scientists from across the globe. Their role is to review the scientific research and provide the most reliable information to governments for decision making and policy development. Many countries, including trading parties significant to Australia, already have carbon-reduction policies and climate change adaption strategies in place, including China, USA, Japan, Korea and Singapore (Countries acting now.) The IPCC have recently produced their Fifth Assessment Report, which is due to be released to the public soon.

At the federal level, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has good information about the observed changes, likely causes and likely future impacts of climate change at their “Climate Change in Australia” site. With changes in federal government, there follows changes in policy and the liberal government have made a decision to abolish the carbon tax, introduced by the labour government, on the 1st of July. For information about the Australian Government’s climate change policy, including the Direct Action Plan and Emissions Reduction Fund, visit Instead of having a website dedicated to climate change, the new government have decided to move all the information to

At the state level, the Victorian Government is regularly required to publish a report on Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Victoria“. The Victorian Climate Change Adaption Plan was released in March, 2013 and sets out six key strategies to build Victoria’s climate resilience.

At the local government level, the Municipal Association of Victoria study found that there is growing consideration of climate change as a high priority issue across Victorian local government with a marked increase in the number of councils adopting strategies and programs to address this. Locally, the Moyne Shire joined the Cities for Climate Change Protection and have identified properties at risk from rising sea levels. They have a tree-planting (carbon offset) program to reduce net emissions from council operations. They also encourage recycling by providing recycling bins at public events and having no fees for recyclable materials at local land fills. What are your local council plans to adapt to, manage and reduce the impacts of climate change?

Your task this week is to investigate the policies and strategies of international, national, state and local government that can mitigate the impacts of climate change. Collect, read and summarize a folio of media articles about such policies and strategies. Here is one from the Sydney Morning Herald – “Food Security, economy to be hit by climate change, leaked IPCC draft report shows.”



Week 6: Effects of Climate Change

Trend in Maximum Temperature since 1970


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There is an enormous amount of information about climate change available – not all from reliable sources. If you read the Warrnambool Standard and other newspapers, each week there are letters with conflicting opinions about the existence, causes and effects of climate change. The overwhelming majority of scientists agree that “climate change is real and it is caused by us.” The most reliable information comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) who produced their fourth report in 2007. The Synthesis Report (SYR) of the Fifth Assessment Report will be considered in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 27-31 October this year.

Other reliable sources are the

Over the next few weeks we will discuss the impacts of climate change locally and globally as well as the strategies that may assist humans to adapt to and hopefully reduce the impacts of climate change.


Week 5: The Blue Marble and the Greenhouse Effect

This week I would like you to start reading Chapter 4: The atmosphere and answering the Chapter review questions. If you have ever flown in a plane, you may have noticed the clouds below you in a layer like a beautiful, white doona. Scientists divide the atmosphere into four main layers based on their composition and temperature – the the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere and thermosphere. All our weather occurs in the troposphere, closest to the earth’s surface. Planes try to fly above this level, in the stratosphere, to avoid turbulence and save fuel. The middle layer is the mesosphere and the hottest layer, closest to the sun, is the thermosphere.
Each of these layers consist of different concentrations of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, water vapour and other gases. Nitrogen (N2) makes up about 70% of our atmosphere and is inert. However, nitrous oxides (NOx) are potent greenhouse gases that absorb and re-radiate electromagnetic radiation. Oxygen occurs as O2 and in lesser quantities as ozone (O3). Oxygen is not a greenhouse gas, but ozone is. However, ozone also has benefits, because there is a region of the stratosphere that has relatively high concentrations of ozone, where ultra-violet radiation emitted from the sun is absorbed. There is another benefit of greenhouse gases – they help to keep our planet at a comfortable temperature – about 15 degrees warmer, on average, than it would be without those gases. At present, our planet has global average temperatures that allows water to exist as a solid (ice at the poles and peaks), liquid (in lakes, rivers and oceans) and a gas (in the air). Without greenhouse gases, much of the water would be frozen solid and the earth would be a very inhospitable place. So, the natural greenhouse effect is a good thing for our planet.
You might notice that all the so-called greenhouse gases (CO2, H2O, CH4, NOx, SO2, CFC’s) have at least three atoms in each molecule. These molecules absorb and re-radiate electromagnetic radiation, causing the atmosphere to warm. In the past two to three centuries, humans have greatly increased the rate at which these greenhouse gases are emitted into our atmosphere. Burning fossil fuels for electricity and transport and agricultural activities are just a few of the ways that we add carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. The greater concentrations of these gases has resulted in climate change, sometimes referred to as ‘global warming’. However, the warming does not occur at an even rate across the globe – some areas have increased temperatures, but other areas have floods, storms and other impacts. These extra gases emitted by human activities have resulted in the enhanced greenhouse effect, which scientists predict will have devastating effects on life on earth.

Week 4: Renewable and Non-renewable Energy Sources.

At Ecolinc last week we did several practical activities related to energy, including the following:
- demonstration of hydroelectric power using a model turbine
- demonstration of solar power using photovoltaic cells
- demonstration of hydrogen power using a model hydrogen car
- comparison of incandescent and fluorescent light globes
- energy transformations in household appliances
- variables in wind power (height of turbine, number of blades, length of blades, angle of blades)

During these experiments we discussed some of the advantages and disadvantages of different energy sources. In general, the advantages of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) are that they are relatively cheap, accessible and available on-demand. Fossil fuels are energy-dense and able to produce base-load power – power can be produced on demand. Thermal power stations using fossil fuels take up little space (compared to a wind farm, for example) and can be located almost anywhere. However, fossil fuels are non-renewable, because they take many millions of years to be formed and are a finite resource, which means they will eventually be used up. Experts predict that we have a few hundred years supply of fossil fuels, although as the price increases, more sources become economical to extract. The other disadvantage of fossil fuels is that they all release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, which contribute to the enhanced greenhouse effect.

Renewable energy sources (such as wind power and solar power) are generally very expensive to construct initially, but do not have ongoing fuel costs. They cannot usually provide base-load power, because they are intermittent or unreliable. Geothermal power and hydroelectricity are exceptions, because they can produce power on demand, but are location specific (you cannot build a hydroelectric plant or geothermal plant anywhere; you need specific geographical features). Although wind farms take up a large area, other industries can co-exist, such as grazing and cropping. So, the farmer who owns the land where a wind farm is built is able to have two income streams, from agriculture and electricity production.

Some people claim that wind farms are “ugly”, but these aesthetic concerns are subjective and would apply equally to fossil fuel power plants. There are also concerns about the impact on land prices on adjacent properties, noise from wind turbines and disturbance to flying birds, mammals and other wildlife. There are claims that wind power is inefficient and not viable without government subsidies.

The advantages of wind farms include that they are a renewable form of energy – there is an infinite supply of wind; it will not run out – and that no greenhouse gases are produced during operations, so there are no emissions that contribute to the enhanced greenhouse effect.

Today I sent out to my online students copies of the documentary “Switch”, together with question sheets. In this documentary, Professor Scott Tinker visits various locations across the globe where fuel is extracted or electricity is produced. He discusses the pros and cons of fossil fuels and renewable energy resources. For each energy source mentioned in the video, list the advantages and disadvantages.

Week 3: Energy Transformations



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Concept maps are great ways to study and revise topics – and there are lots of different ways to draw them! Make sure you use colour (colour and movement help to stimulate the brain and therefor may assist you to remember terms and concepts). From our first two Blackboard Collaborate sessions, you should understand the following concepts:

  • Laws of Thermodynamics – “Law of Conservation of Energy” and “Law of Increasing Entropy”.
  • Different types of energy – Potential and Kinetic.
  • Energy is the capacity to do work and is measured in joules.
  • Power is the amount of energy used per unit time and is measured in watts.
  • Energy Efficiency is calculated by dividing the useful energy output by the total energy input, expressed as a percentage.
  • Renewable and non-renewable energy.
  • Fossil and non-fossil energy sources.

This week I would like you to complete the following:

  • Finish reading Chapter 2 and start the Chapter 2 review questions.
  • Complete the Energy worksheet (attached to previous email), referring to the slideshow from our Blackboard Collaborate session.
  • Complete the “Exothermic and Endothermic” practical experiment (if possible) and write up report. (see video below)
  • Complete the “Heat of Combustion of candle wax” practical experiment (if possible) and write up the report. (see video below)
  • Watch “CRUDE – the incredible journey of oil”, available to download on the ABC website and on YouTube. (Optional – there are some questions about the documentary here: “CRUDE – the incredible journey of oil – Guided Worksheet” and here: “Crude – the Power of Oil”.

Week 2: Measuring Energy

The work you need to have completed by the end of this week is as follows:

  • Chapter 1 Review questions (if finished, start reading Chapter 2.)
  • “The Weathermakers” questions and chapter summary
  • A glossary of the terms and definitions for Unit 3 – Area of Study 1 (attached to the email sent to you)
  • “Student Power” – practical exercise on page 11 of your text book. You can watch a video clip of this practical experiment on YouTube (embedded above). The only equipment you need is a ruler, a stop watch and a flight of stairs. Oh, and some energy too!

Global Youth Summit Airport Scavenger Hunt



Please remember these three points over this week:

1. No Expectations, No disappointments

Things don’t always go to plan when travelling – accept that you have very little control over what happens and go with the flow.

2. We are a Team

Travelling and living together in an unfamiliar environment can be stressful and people manage it in different ways. You might go through a roller-coaster of emotions, from home-sickness and anxiety to excitement and surprise. Let each other know if you need some space or if you would like to talk.

3. Respect for other cultures

The further you get from home, the more different ways that you find people living their lives. Although their appearance, habits and culture may be strange to you, that doesn’t mean you and your way of living are any better or worse than theirs.

During our wait at Tullamarine airport I would like you to work in teams to complete this scavenger hunt, posting your images to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #hawksfly. Make sure you record your start and finish time, so if two teams score the same amount of points, the team with the shortest time wins.

  • Group A – Rachel E. , Georgia  and Indi
  • Group B – Kiri, Leah and Chloe
  • Group C – James, Nick and Aaron
  • Group D – Sarah, Emma and Rachael C.
  1. Decide on a group name (1)
  2. Take a photo of a surfboard/boogie board (1)
  3. Take a photo of a musical instrument (1)
  4. Take pictures of five electrical appliances. Using Skitch (or a similar annotation app) describe the energy transformations occurring when this appliance is switched on. (5) – as above
  5. Find a local souvenir costing less than $10 and take a photo showing where it was made. (1)
  6. Find a recycling bin and take a photo of the contents (1)
  7. Take a photo of a drinking fountain (1)
  8. Take a photo of a live animal – bonus point if you get it’s name. (1+1)
  9. Buy a sweet treat (eg. chocolate bar or chewing gum) for the lucky dip (winners get first choice)
  10. Find out what a Singapore electrical plug adapter looks like – make sure at least one person in your group has one. (1)
  11. Make sure someone in your group has a power board – so you can charge several electrical appliances overnight.(1)
  12. Take a photo of your group in the mirror (1)
  13. Photo-bomb someone eating a meal (1)
  14. Take a group selfie in front of the gate number that our flight boards from. (1)
  15. Take a photo of a currency exchange board and compare this with an online currency exchange. Which would you prefer? (1)
  16. Take a photo of someone wearing a hat (1)
  17. Take a photo of someone in uniform (1 point for each different uniform)
  18. Use an online carbon emissions calculator to work out the amount of greenhouse gas produced by your return flights to Singapore. (show working and references of websites used) (2)
  19. How many trees would you need to plant to offset this amount of carbon dioxide emissions? (show working and references of websites used) (2)
  20. The earth’s atmosphere consists of several layers. Our weather occurs in the layer closest to the earth’s surface and planes fly just above this level, at what height? (1)
  21. Take three photos of the changes in air temperature as the plane ascends. (3)

Week 1: An Introduction to Energy


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Each week during the course I will post the work that needs to be completed here, in addition to our weekly Blackboard Collaborate classes. There are three students completing the course online (Welcome Stewy G., Stewart M. and Carl), in addition to the seventeen students taking the class at Hawkesdale P12 College.

What do you know about ‘energy’? Defined as the capacity to do work, energy is measured in joules and according to the “Law of Conservation of Energy”…

Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed from one form to another ~ Albert Einstein

E = mc^2

The famous physicist, Albert Einstein, also devised the equation that allows the conversion between E (energy) and m (matter) by multiplying by c = speed of light (squared). The image above shows how chemical energy can be converted to light energy, although the photograph was taken with a 14 hour exposure, as the light produced is very dim (the wires are connected to a small globe inside the orange).

Your tasks this week are as follows:

1. Familiarise yourselves with the vocabulary of this area of study by accessing the Quizlet flashcards at Unit 3.1 – VCE Env Sci – Energy

2. Make sure you have read “Issues of Sustainability” Chapter 1 and answered the Chapter review questions.