Teacher background information
Year 4 Science Content Description
Science Inquiry Skills
Questioning and predictingWith guidance, identify questions in familiar contexts that can be investigated scientifically and make predictions based on prior knowledge (ACSIS064 - Scootle )
acknowledging and using information from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to guide the formulation of investigable questions regarding life cycles
This elaboration provides students with an opportunity to develop this core Science Inquiry Skill whilst addressing intercultural science inquiry skills relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures within the context of the following content description(s) from the Science Understanding and/or Science as a Human Endeavour strand(s).
Living things have life cycles (ACSSU072)
A potential way to approach this content description is:
In the formulation of questions that can be investigated scientifically, students can acknowledge and use information from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to refine and focus their question. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have a wealth of knowledge relating to living things and their life cycles. This elaboration provides students with the opportunity to formulate scientific questions about a known life cycle derived from the many diverse and interesting Australian native species. Investigating the knowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples hold about the life cycles and migration events of certain species can provide students with valuable information that can help in the refinement of their scientific question.
For example, in learning about the life cycle of honey ants, students can look to the knowledge of Aboriginal Peoples who have long harvested the ant for a source of sugar. A key stage in the life cycle of the honey ants, tjupi in Luritja Language, is the collection of crystallised honeydew (lerp) left on tree branches by the larval form of an organism known as a lerp insect. The worker caste ants collect and take this sugary substance into their nests which can be up to two metres underground and feed the storage caste ants the honey that is subsequently stored in their distended abdomens. The storage caste ants act as a living larder that can regurgitate the honey, releasing it to the colony when required.
Aboriginal Peoples whose Country encompasses the desert environments where honey ants can be found, including the Arrernte, Luritja and Pitjantjatjara Peoples, hold detailed knowledge of the life cycles of the ants and their relationship with trees and lerp insects. Such knowledge informs the accurate identification and location of the honey ant nests. The trees under which the honey ants nest can be identified by the characteristic lerps that form on the branches, and the nests are usually found on the shady side of the tree. Aboriginal Peoples who understand the life cycles and behaviour of the honey ants know not to dig directly down from the top of the nest, rather to dig from the side to locate the underground chambers where the storage caste ants reside, and to sustainably harvest the ants for their honey filled abdomens without destroying the nest. Students can acknowledge the knowledge held by Aboriginal Peoples who have long understood honey ant behaviour, and use this information to formulate and refine scientific questions about the life cycle of this insect.
The Leichardt grasshopper represents another example of life cycle knowledge held by Aboriginal Peoples. The cultural records of the Jawoyn and Gundjeibmi Peoples of western Arnhem Land demonstrate connections between the interesting, annual life cycle of the grasshopper and seasonal events in the Northern Territory. Alyurr, the English translation of which is ‘the children of the lightning man’ (the Leichardt grasshopper), is a unique red, blue and orange-coloured grasshopper endemic to areas of the Northern Territory, where it feeds almost exclusively on three species of the shrub Pityrodia. In Aboriginal iconography in the region, the grasshopper is depicted with stone axes on its elbows, knees or head. The stone axe is a tool long used by First Nations Peoples that makes loud noises and sparks on impact. The area of Arnhem Land where the grasshopper is endemic has one of the highest incidences of lightning in Australia. The emergence of the brightly coloured adult grasshopper from its nymph stage coincides with the onset of the wet season in Arnhem Land that brings storms with thunder (noise) and lightning (sparks). By acknowledging and using the knowledge that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples hold about the life cycles of the organisms in their Country/Place, students can form and refine investigable scientific questions and make predictions.
The knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples may inform the scientific questions that students formulate, and may include: the timing of life cycles, the time of year certain life cycle events take place, and the seasons or triggers for a particular life stage or weather patterns associated with the emergence of a life stage of an organism. This elaboration provides students with the opportunity to identify questions and make predictions about organisms important to the local environment by acknowledging and using information from local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.