Adapted in english by Valérie Harnois
👀 The Context
In 2019 and 2020, the south of Australia faced wildfires that destroyed everything on their paths. Between September 2019 and January 11, 2020, 28 people have died in those fires and many more have gone missing. According to a study by the University of Sydney, 480 million animals have also perished in these fires. Amongst those animals are kangaroos, koalas and many reptiles. To have a better idea of the breadth of this disaster, many sources refer to the area affected by wildfires as being the size of Ireland (70 274 km²). For a representation that is closer to home, imagine a territory as big as the province of New Brunswick (72 908 km²) being wiped off the map and gone in flames. On top of that, more than 100 000 people have been evacuated. The temperatures hovering around 40°C, combined with violent winds, makes it extremely difficult for the thousands of firefighters on site who try to put out the fires.
Source : RAMMB/CIRA/CSU; Business Insider
The picture above, taken from a Japanese satellite, clearly shows the magnitude of the smoke from the bushfires and demonstrates that it goes way beyond Australia. The weather agencies of Chile and Argentina announced, on January 6, 2020, that smoke from the Australian fires had been spotted in the sky of both countries, which are located 12 000 km away from Australia. This event is clearly happening on a planetary scale and has global ramifications.
To better grasp the tragedy Australia is facing, you may watch this video with students:
Source : YouTube
Students may have seen this image on social media. It supposedly shows the breadth of the fires in Australia. This article debunks some of the false or misleading information spread on the Web on this topic, such as the picture above. Also, the following video explains the origins and intentions behind this image.
WHO SAID WHAT?
« In my experience […], in some places you see intense fires over quite large areas maybe for a week or a few weeks, but to see them for four months in one particular place … it is quite surprising. »
« WE ONLY HAVE 17 YEARS OF DATA, BUT IN THAT CONTEXT THEN, YEAH, ABSOLUTELY, IT’S UNPRECEDENTED. »-Mark Parrington, a senior scientist at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF)
« What is happening in Australia is a harbinger for other countries — a taste of what our future will look like if we don’t act now. »
« WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS IS MUCH WORSE IN THE ABSENCE OF CONCERTED ACTION ON CLIMATE. »– Michael Mann, renown climatologist, professor of atmospheric sciences at Penn State University
Researchers are analyzing whether the fires in Australia are a consequence of climate change and global warming. Do a web search for this and find arguments (facts) that testify to the links between global warming and forest fires in Australia.
Throughout this unit, students will become aware of different perspectives on the future of humanity with regard to climate changes and the interconnection between humans and the environment.
Disciplines and suggested grade levels
– Ethics (secondary cycle 2): The future of humanity
– Sciences and technology (secondary cycle 1): Climate changes
– Geography (secondary cycle 1)
– ESL (secondary cycle 2)
– ESL – ELA (secondary cycles 1 & 2)
Dimensions of the digital competency
- Developing and mobilizing technological skills
- Collaborating via digital technology
- Producing content via digital technology
- Developing and mobilizing information literacy
- Developing critical thinking with regard to the use of digital technology
Suggested digital tools
🎯 Learning Outcomes
Task 1: Create a collaborative document compiling information on the fires in Australia.
Students search the Web looking for the causes and consequences of the fires in Australia. The compilation of this information is done using a collaborative online tool such as Padlet.
Task 2: Modify an image, so it becomes interactive, by adding the necessary information for its analysis.
There are many images of those fires circulating on social media. The click-word #AustralianBushfires will allow students to find such images on Instagram and Twitter. Using an interactive platform such as Genially, students add information onto the picture which will help its analysis.
Task 3: Create an infographic.
Using a computer graphic platform such as Canva, students create a montage, using images and statistics, to demonstrate the magnitude of the tragedy in Australia.
Questions and Activation of Prior Knowledge
Using the Mentimeter platform, students react to prompts and answer various questions on the fires affecting Australia. Answers can be displayed by building a word-cloud with students’ single-word answers (e.g., identifying an emotion felt while looking at an image), or displayed differently for open-ended questions. Mentimeter offers various methods to question students and show their answers. Students connect to each question by going to menti.com and entering the 6-digit code provided by the teacher.
Possible questions include:
- What emotions do you feel when looking at the images of the fires in Australia and their consequences?
- Does this tragedy remind you of another catastrophe? (Natural disaster, earthquake, flooding, hurricanes, etc.)
- What role did climate changes play in the fires in Australia?
- How can such a situation be avoided?
☝️ ACTIVITY 1: Exploring to Increase Understanding
In teams, students search the Web and find information on the causes and consequences of the fires in Australia. To complete the task, the Padlet collaborative document supplied to students can be organized as follows:
- Spit the document in two columns, one for the causes and one for the consequences.
- Each column is then divided into subcategories such as human causes, natural causes, consequences on the wildlife, consequences on the flora (vegetation), consequences on humans, etc.
Each team is assigned one subcategory and is responsible to find a variety of information on the topic. This information can take the form of related articles, videos and images of the tragedy. Students then add their newly discovered information in their assigned subsection of the document.
At the end of this activity, as a class, summarize the causes and consequences of the Australian bushfires. The pertinent information will be reused in the transfer activity.
☝️ ACTIVITY 2: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
On Instagram and Twitter, students use the click-words #AustralianBushfires and #AustralianBushfiresDisaster to find images of the tragedy. They then choose one image that they will analyze. In their analysis, students explain what the image reveals about the fires by covering all the pertinent aspects: who, what, when, where, and why. The platform TinEye can supply information about the provenance of the chosen image.
Next, students import the image in Genially under the section Interactive image. They add interactive buttons to the image, one for each wh– question (who, what, when, where, and why), and they insert their answers, which will allow for a better understanding of the context of the image.
☝️ ACTIVITY 3: The Striking Data
Students create an infographic that summarizes the current situation in Australia. Using a platform such as Canva, students create a montage combining images with the most striking data on this unpreceded event. Here are examples of statistics that can be used:
- 28 deaths and many people are still missing;
- 480 million dead animals;
- Close to 80 000 km² of burnt land;
- 100 000 people evacuated;
- Over 1600 houses burnt;
- Temperatures hovering around 40°C and peaking at 49.5°C;
The infographic must be eye-catching. To do so, students write numbers in large print and add colourful images that are representative of the topic. Many examples are available on Canva and can be used to inspire students.
Knowledge Synthesis and Transfer Activity
As a class, look back and reflect on the causes and consequences of the fires in Australia.
- How do students foresee the future of humanity with regard to climate changes and human impacts on the environment?
- What aspect of this tragedy made the most impact on students?
- Are students more alarmist or hopeful about the future?
- Can youth such as Greta Thunberg have a real impact that leads to concrete changes?
This reflection can be done through Mentimeter, so students’ reactions are shared anonymously, or as a class discussion.
🔎 To Learn More
Aussie Smoke Plumes Crossing Oceans
Nasa Earth Observatory