Connections to the Land: Teaching Ecological Science using Narrative

Here is a description of the first lesson in our year 9 Ecology topic. It uses the technique of teaching with narrative. The lesson was split over two learning sessions. The first described here took the students on a journey into the national park that adjoins our school.

A note about context: Our school is on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia. Although there are a handful of students with aboriginal heritage the majority are representative of the area, being made up mostly of both recent and early immigrants with European cultural backgrounds. Most have had little exposure to indigenous cultures.

The journey into the national park started with an acknowledgement of the traditional indigenous custodians both past and present. Students were painted up with ochre on their foreheads and hands to acknowledge respect for the people and land we were entering. They were informed that it indicated we come with in peace and with respect,  we would not travel to places we were not meant to go or touch anything we were not meant to touch. This was reinforced with a reminder that we were entering a national park and we take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints.

The group then made its way to a rock platform that has a permanent small creek flowing over the surface and off an overhang as a small waterfall.  Students invited to have sit on the rock and encouraged to scrunch up and role a gumleaf in their hands to release the eucalyptus oil, taking deep inhales of the oil and thus stimulate their sense of smell, an activity carried out by indigenous children to help retain memory of stories and lessons taught.  Axe grinding groves where pointed out in the creek and a description of aboriginal connection to place and the significance of fresh waters sources was explained. This was linked to our study of ecology and the interconnectedness of life.

Students were then invited to climb around and under the overhang where there are a group of ancient aboriginal stencils of hands and tools at the back of the cave. While these were being pointed out and examined by students again a further explanation of aboriginal’s connection to the land and place where emphasised as was the need for deep respect for such ancient artwork.

Finally as we returned up the hill to the school, aboriginal recognition of the significance of observational science was discussed, such as the use of plants for food and medicine and an understanding of approaching weather and rain that can be gained from observing ant behaviour.


  1. […] the technique of teaching with narrative. A description of the first part of this lesson is found here and an overview of the inspiration for using narrative teaching is found […]

  2. Yes Time to Listen to Those who have Cared and Continue to Care for the Land and all life on and in it. – we are All Connected With All around us.

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