Droughts and flooding rains

Curriculum overview

The Australian Curriculum: Geography content description addressed in the illustration is:

  • The quantity and variability of Australia’s water resources compared with those in other continents (ACHGK039)

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA)

Learning goals

In this illustration students will use climatic data to develop their understanding of the spatial pattern of rainfall in Australia and (as a consequence) the availability of water resources.

The illustration-specific learning goals are:

  • describing patterns of rainfall in Australia and observing that rainfall distribution across the continent is very uneven
  • using geographic terminology (such as climate, precipitation, average rainfall, evaporation, rainfall variability, drought)
  • identifying the effects of rainfall variability and evaporation on Australia's water resources
  • analysing patterns on maps and making connections between different types of data
  • considering evaporation rates as a contributing factor to the limits and variability of Australia's water resources
  • accessing climate data from the Bureau of Meteorology website
  • collating and analysing climatic data in selected locations across Australia.

Geographical understanding and context

Australia is a land of climatic contrasts. In this illustration students will focus on understanding the pattern of rainfall distribution, the variability of rainfall, and the amount of effective rainfall resulting from evaporation. 

Geographic terminology for the measurement and mapping of climatic data is used. Students will access data and analyse the patterns that are evident on maps showing rainfall distribution, rainfall variability and evaporation rates. 

The illustration progresses from simple to more complex concepts and allows the development of analytical skills. There is an opportunity for extension work for more able students.

Teaching approaches

1. Introducing climate patterns

At a time when our climate patterns appear to be changing, ask your students to consider average rainfall conditions and develop the skill of accessing data from the Bureau of Meteorology.

You could introduce this topic with a reading of Dorothea Mackellar's poem My country and discuss the climate variability that she identified. Alternatively, you could ask students to share stories or to bring pictures of droughts or floods. 

Another introductory activity could be to set out a shallow bowl of water a few days before you begin the topic and ask students to observe how long it takes to evaporate. You could ask students to consider why things such as puddles, wet playground equipment, wet hair or wet clothes eventually dry out.

2. Introducing terminology

Terminology could now be introduced so that students will understand the data that is being used in this illustration. The essential geographic language is: 

  • weather
  • climate
  • precipitation
  • average rainfall
  • evaporation
  • rainfall variability
  • drought. 

These terms are on the attached Climate terminology sheet (PDF, 158 KB). 

Students could be asked to find their own definitions or play games of pairing words with definitions. Flash cards, geography bingo and a range of illustrations could be used here. 

3. Describing climate patterns

Use Climate data (PDF, 403 KB) to explore climate patterns of Australia. This document contains maps featuring:

  • average rainfall – annual
  • rainfall variability – annual
  • average pan evaporation – annual.

These maps are also available on the Bureau of Meteorology website, and similar maps are available in most classroom atlases.

Ask students to clearly describe the pattern that is evident on each of the maps. Students then consider what connections are evident and what conclusions can be drawn from these maps.

4. Exploring climate details

Students could then complete a task in which they use data collection and mapping presentation skills.

A suggested task is provided in Droughts and flooding rains task sheet (PDF, 176 KB).

5. Extension activities

There are a number of activities that can be undertaken to build on previous work, for example:

  • find additional types of climate data for the three places on the map (hours of sunshine, days of rain or other data)
  • add more places to the map
  • draw climate graphs using Excel
  • find other features for the chosen places using Google Earth to obtain an impression of the effects of rainfall.

What you need

Poem, images, newspaper articles or other stimulus material to illustrate the uneven distribution of rainfall in Australia.

Definitions of the terminology used in this illustration. The definitions are listed on the Climate terminology sheet (PDF, 158 KB).

Access to the Bureau of Meteorology website. It would be desirable for you to read further explanations and access additional data related to the maps of rainfall, evaporation and rainfall variability. 

Most Australian classroom atlases have some of the data that is required.

Students also need access to the Internet to access the Bureau of Meteorology website (or other sites) to obtain climate data.

Droughts and flooding rains task sheet (PDF, 176 KB) shows a suggested outline of a mapping task.

Materials for presenting a map of Australia. 

Time allocation: A minimum of two lessons would be required for this illustration but additional time could be allocated for more thorough investigation and more precise map work, or extension activities.

Curriculum connections

This illustration links with the content descriptions of the following Phase 1 Australian Curriculum.

English

  • Plan, draft and publish imaginative, informative and persuasive texts, selecting aspects of subject matter and particular language, visual, and audio features to convey information and ideas (ACELY1725)
  • Use a range of software, including word processing programs, to confidently create, edit and publish written and multimodal texts (ACELY1728)
     

Mathematics

  • Calculate mean, median, mode and range for sets of data. Interpret these statistics in the context of data (ACMSP171)
  • Describe and interpret data displays using median, mean and range (ACMSP172)
     

Science 

  • Predictable phenomena on Earth, including seasons and eclipses, are caused by the relative positions of the sun, Earth and the moon (ACSSU115)
  • Water is an important resource that cycles through the environment (ACSSU222)
  • Science understanding influences the development of practices in areas of human activity such as industry, agriculture and marine and terrestrial resource management (ACSHE121)
  • Construct and use a range of representations, including graphs, keys and models to represent and analyse patterns or relationships, including using digital technologies as appropriate (ACSIS129)
     

History

  • The physical features of ancient Egypt (such as the River Nile) and how they influenced the civilisation that developed there (ACDSEH002)
  • The physical features of India (such as fertile river plains) and how they influenced the civilisation that developed there (ACDSEH006)
  • The physical features of China (such as the Yellow River) and how they influenced the civilisation that developed there (ACDSEH005)
     

Source: Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

Resources

Video:

YouTube. How to draw climate graphs (duration, 02:15). A demonstration of the use of Excel to produce a climate graph is available at a number of sites including this YouTube video. Retrieved October 2012, from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RK_0gnG2El8

Websites:

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). Australian Curriculum: Geography. Retrieved May 2013, from: www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Geography/Rationale

Dorothea Mackellar's poem, My country, is available at the Official Dorothea Mackellar website. Retrieved October 2012, from: http://www.dorotheamackellar.com.au/archive/mycountry.htm.

The Bureau of Meteorology website is particularly useful as there are explanations of maps as well as a designated education section. Retrieved October 2012, from: http://www.bom.gov.au/.

All other required resources are listed above in the 'What you need' section above.