Natural resources and waste management


In this learning sequence, students research how human needs are met, and natural resources used, on the new Australian icebreaker. Students compare their findings with their own use of natural resources and consider whether there are ways they can improve their lifestyles using criteria of their choosing.

Setting the scene: natural resources help us survive

Ask the students to imagine they are about to set out on a 90-day voyage to Antarctica with one hundred other people. What will they need to survive? Some answers include:

  • food
  • water for drinking and washing
  • shelter from rain, cold and heat
  • fuel for light, heat and refrigeration
  • clothes
  • medicine

List the resources that we use to meet these survival needs. For example:

  • food – fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, seafood, grains
  • water – fresh water from dams, rivers, bores and rain tanks
  • shelter – timber, bricks, stone, glass
  • fuel – petrol, gas, coal
  • clothes – cotton, wool, leather
  • medicine – combinations of natural and synthetic chemical compounds (this is likely to be a little sophisticated for the students)

Explain to the students that many of these resources are referred to as ‘natural resources’. They are things we take from the natural world to improve our chance of survival. Just about everything we use is made from things taken from the natural world but in many instances, it is hard to trace the elements back to their natural source.

Explore and research: Australia’s new icebreaker

Students visit Australia’s new icebreaker on the Australian Antarctic Division’s website. A lot of the information is technical but students can note that the icebreaker:

  • crosses ‘thousands of kilometres of the world’s stormiest seas’ and navigates ‘Antarctica’s formidable sea ice barrier’
  • has a ‘high standard of environmental performance’
  • handles ‘waves up to 14 metres’
  • operates in air temperatures ranging from −30 degrees to +45 degrees Celsius
  • supports voyages for up to 90 days
  • accommodates 116 people

Explain and share: preparing questions

In pairs or small groups, students choose one of the following survival requirements to focus on: food, water, shelter, or fuel.

Another aspect that some students might wish to investigate is waste: food waste, hard rubbish and human waste.

Inform students that they must come up with four questions that will direct their inquiry into their chosen resource. Some examples might be:

  • what types of food are taken on the icebreaker?
  • is a fridge necessary to keep food fresh in the Antarctic?
  • how much water is taken on board the icebreaker?
  • how is water stored?
  • how do the passengers stay safe from the Antarctic conditions?
  • what materials are used in building the icebreaker?
  • what types of fuel are used to power the icebreaker?
  • how much fuel is taken on board?
  • what happens to all of the food waste on the icebreaker?
  • what happens to the human waste?

Students consider how they are going to find answers. One option is to search the Australian Antarctic Division website. They can also use other parts of the internet.

If some questions cannot be answered, students can revise their questions or prepare new ones.

Elaborate and apply: Sharing and classifying findings

Once students have answers to their questions, they can present their findings in whatever format they choose: posters, videos, audio files, workbooks, digital displays, emails, or cartoons.

After they’ve shared their findings, students classify them according to criteria they determine. Some examples of ways the results can be sorted are:

  1. we are surprised to learn that…
  2. we are concerned that…
  3. we are pleased to know that…
  4. we are very impressed to find out…
  5. we are grossed out about…


In groups or as a class, students compare the use of natural resources in three categories, (see worksheet [PDF]).

In the ‘Icebreaker’ category, students note findings from their research.

In the ‘Us’ category, students provide the same information about food, water, shelter, fuel and waste as they did for the icebreaker, but this time as it applies to their lives. For example:

  • we eat fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, and grains
  • at home we store our food in fridges, freezers and pantries
  • we each use about 40 litres of water each day
  • our water comes from a large reservoir that is supplied with water from a river system
  • our school buildings keep us safe from the weather
  • our school buildings are made of bricks, timber and glass
  • we use electricity that is generated by burning coal
  • our school uses about 25 kWh of electricity in every day
  • we put food scraps in our school’s compost bins
  • human waste is flushed into the sewage system where it is treated until it is safe to return to the environment

In order to complete the ‘What we’ve learnt’ category, students return to their pairs or small groups and prepare written, spoken or illustrated texts about their chosen survival requirement, i.e. food, water, shelter, fuel or waste, that summarise what they’ve learnt. For example:

  • a menu for a day’s meals on board the icebreaker
  • a series of captioned images showing the best ways to save water on board the icebreaker
  • a report that outlines ways the icebreaker keeps passengers safe from the cold
  • a short video explaining the types of fuels used to power the icebreaker and the potential hazards they present
  • a series of photographs that explain the best ways to treat food waste

Assessment ideas

Things to look out for include:

  • students’ willingness to contribute to class discussions
  • students’ ability to work co-operatively in pairs or small groups
  • students’ willingness to ensure adequate information is included
  • students’ commitment to accurately researching and recording information
  • students’ ability to organise information appropriately
  • students’ capacity to draw logical conclusions using the evidence available
  • students’ ability to apply learnings to their own lives

Share your experience

Have you used this module with your class? We'd love to hear from you: email us!