>Students examine the impacts European settlement has had on waterways
>Students gain an appreciation of the values held by various users of a typical waterway
>Students describe some of the effects human use of the waterway have had on plants and animals previously living in the area
>River position cards (you will need to get the class to make these – see below for suggestions)
>Copy of the Catchment Action Plan available from your local Catchment Management Authority or similar body
Historic background on each river of the Murray-Darling Basin can be found by consulting the Catchment Management Authority (or Natural Resource Management Boards in South Australia) for your river system. Each of these organisations has a Catchment Action Plan available via their web sites, and these contain the information you will need to be prepared for this lesson.
Dams are one of the most fundamental ways we’ve altered the flow patterns of the rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin. Photograph: Bill Phillips
Environmental flows (see Module 3.4 in this Part)
Riparian vegetation (see Module 4.1 in Part 4)
Fish habitat (see Module 4.5 in Part 4)
1. Point out to students that rivers are constantly changing depending on the flows they receive, the activities taking place along them, and in the surrounding catchment (see Module 3.3 for more about the catchment concept).
2. Ask the students to look around the river and surrounding landscape and identify signs of change.
Focus their attention
on aspects such as
flood plains, sand bars, signs of
erosion, weirs or dams, pumps,
urban expansion, bridge or road
construction and the condition of
3. Lead the class on a hike along your local river or stream looking for these and other indicators of changing water regimes.
4. Share with students some facts concerning the hydrologic history of their reach gained from the Catchment Action Plan (see above).
5. Give students 15 minutes to sit down and observe the site. (Students should remain stationary while making their observations).
6. Give students the opportunity to orally present their observations, both of the area physically and what, if any, feelings or values they have associated with their observations.
Remind students to respect
the rights of others to
express different attitudes to
what they've seen and how
they value it.
7. Hand out the ‘River Position’ cards, one to each student and ask them to think about (and discuss) the water needs and the concerns of the plant, animal or human interest they represent.
8. Challenge students to try to decide whose needs are more important. Why? Is there a way at least some of these uses can work together? Are there some uses that rule out others? Have students speculate on the ultimate outcomes of their value judgements.
9. Ask students to consider if human needs should always have the highest priority.
10. Finish by asking students to draw some conclusions on how their river reach or stream should be managed. What are their priorities? What obstacles do they see within their class group and in the wider community to their management ideas?
Have the students interview their parents, grand parents or older members of the community in order to get some insights into what the catchment was like and how water was sourced and used “when they were a kid”.
Have the students compare and contrast the values and uses assigned to water today and compare this to ‘back then’.
Get students to collect an oral
history from older people in the
area. Talk about how water,
animals and plants used to be
in the area. Where they could
swim, fish they used to catch,
boating etc. How does this
relate to history of the area
and catchment. Is there a local
museum or historical society
they can visit? Access old