Backyard Species Discovery
Bush Blitz is Australia’s largest species discovery program - a partnership between the Australian Government, BHP and Earthwatch Australia. Bush Blitz documents Australia’s vast biodiversity through expeditions to remote locations. With many of us looking for fun things to do at home, Bush Blitz coordinates this virtual expedition that everyone can join! Although we can’t promise you’ll find a new species, this citizen science project will enable you to discover some amazing plants and animals living in your own backyard, whilst contributing valuable data to Australia’s official biodiversity databases.
Teachers will find useful information here including some quick-start guides, suggested resources to help with identification of species, a summary of how this project links with the Australian Curriculum, related lesson plans and activities, as well as many other great education resources .
For more about Bush Blitz visit bushblitz.org.au
How it works (for teachers)
We want you to search for organisms in your local area and upload images or sound recordings of them to our Backyard Species Discovery project on iNaturalist. When you add observations to iNaturalist, experts help identify them. Your record will also be added to the Atlas of Living Australia, so researchers and land managers can find and use your data. We will be highlighting the best records on social media and the Bush Blitz website. We’ll also post videos and fact sheets to help you discover more plants and animals, attract more wildlife to your garden and much more.
Register for this project by filling out this brief form: https://forms.gle/X9zXKrVpaaYYwCTL6 . It's really important teachers register, as it flags when a school has started adding to the project (as there are many other participants in the project who are not teachers/schools).
Create an account for your class on iNaturalist Australia. You will need to use a selected email, but we suggest creating a username to reflect your school and class name (e.g. Reservoir_HS_7A), and a password you can share (if you want your students to upload using the account - see step 4 below). Join the Backyard Species Discovery project on iNaturalist by searching for the project (under Community > Projects), and clicking "join this project" on the top right hand corner of the project page. For further information, check out our video below about How to create a class account on iNaturalist.
Get your class to explore their backyards (or house or balcony) for species they'd like to record - perhaps they want to know the name, they think it's special, or just want to share what they've found. A nearby nature reserve or nature strip might OK too (just be careful of your local COVID-19 restrictions). Species can be anything that is/was living. For example: insects, spiders, fungi, lichen, plants, birds, reptiles, mammals etc. However, it must be living in the wild (not a pet or something you planted) but it can be an introduced species like a fox or a weed. Therefore, most plants (except weeds) in our backyards will be unsuitable, as they would have been planted. Ensure your students take a photo, video or sound recording of the organism, noting the date, time and location (this is often automatically recorded by their devices). Please note: due to copyright laws, accounts may be suspended if images from the web are used instead of your own photos.
Check out the factsheet in the introduction for some great tips on making sure your observation counts!
Choose how you will like your class to submit sightings :
a) Have your class email their photos of sightings to you, and you control what is uploaded to iNaturalist; or,
b) Give your students the username and password for your class iNaturalist account and they upload their sightings. We suggest students add a "tag" for their first name (or a nickname), so you can identify who uploaded it.
For more information, check out our video below about How to upload an observation on iNaturalist.
Keep adding new observations and check back on iNaturalist to see what the experts say about your discovery.
Watch our supporting videos and use our supporting lesson plans (below). Some teachers may prefer to just use the species discovery as a fun activity in itself. However, if you would like to incorporate further learning into your class, we have a list of great related lesson plans and fun videos to watch; as well as some other great online education resources.
Bush Blitz will also be sharing some of your interesting finds on their social media accounts.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
How to create a class account on iNaturalist
How to upload an observation on iNaturalist
Australian Curriculum Links
Students develop a broader literacy capability as they explore and investigate their world. They are required to compose texts including those that provide information, describe events and phenomena, recount experiments, present and evaluate data, give explanations and present opinions or claims. Language structures are used to give descriptions and explanations. Scientific vocabulary is often technical and includes specific terms for concepts, classifying species and features of the environment. This provides opportunity to discuss etymology and morphemes making up a name.
Students have opportunities to transfer their mathematical knowledge and skills to contexts outside the mathematics classroom. These opportunities help students recognise the interconnected nature of mathematical knowledge, other learning areas and the wider world, and encourage them to use their mathematical skills broadly. It provides students opportunity to determine abundance within a species using sampling methods, record measurements of species and interpret map referencing etc.
Digital technology can play a part in collection of samples eg. sound recording frog calls, digital photography and videography of species. Collaborating, sharing and exchanging information and using computer mediated communications is also key.
Critical and Creative Thinking
When preparing to explore and collect, students imagine possibilities and connect ideas through considering alternatives, seeking solutions and putting ideas into action. Scientific inquiry promotes critical and creative thinking by encouraging flexibility and open-mindedness as students speculate about their observations of what they have found and where they have found it.
Students explore ethical concepts in context during Backyard Species Discovery. Students develop the capacity to form and make ethical judgements in relation to experimental science, codes of practice, and the use of scientific information and science applications. They explore what integrity means in science and explore and apply ethical guidelines in their investigations. They consider the implications of their investigations on others, the environment and living organisms.
F-6 relevant Science Understanding
Year 1: Living things have a variety of external features (ACSSU017), Living things live in different places where their needs are met (ACSSU211)
Year 3: Living things can be grouped on the basis of observable features and can be distinguished from non-living things (ACSSU044)
Year 4: Living things depend on each other and the environment to survive (ACSSU073)
Year 5: Living things have structural features and adaptations that help them to survive in their environment (ACSSU043)
Year 6: The growth and survival of living things are affected by physical conditions of their environment (ACSSU094)
Year 7-10 relevant Science Understanding
Year 7: Classification helps organise the diverse group of organisms (ACSSU111)
Year 9: Ecosystems consist of communities of interdependent organisms and abiotic components of the environment; matter and energy flow through these systems (ACSSU176)
Year 10: The theory of evolution by natural selection explains the diversity of living things and is supported by a range of scientific evidence (ACSSU185)
Science as a Human Endeavour and Science Inquiry Skills curriculum links F-10
Backyard Species Discovery can be an authentic means to incorporate all content descriptors for these two Science strands across the whole Foundation to Year 10 curriculum.
©Mich Allen – Bush Blitz Teacher’s Workshop Curriculum Document Dec email@example.com
Identification of Your Discovery
There will be experts on iNaturalist (as well as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) who will help identify what you have found.
However, it can sometimes be a fun activity to try and identify your discoveries first; as the research can be an interesting process in itself! Some good online identification tools include:
Museums around Australia have digital field guides available for your devices. A link to the Victorian Field Guide page here, also includes links to the other state museums and their Field Guide apps.
The Australian Government has a great weed identification toolkit available here
Birds in Backyards have a very simple tool to help you identify any birds you may have observed in your backyard, available here
Invertebrates can be particularly difficult to identify. The Australian National Insect Collection has a page (available here) with suggested tools and web pages to help you identify any invertebrate you may have found.
Related Lessons and Activities
General Activities and Lesson Plans
STEAM activity - watch "The art of science, and the science of art" Ted talk by Ikumi Kayama, and draw species found.
Schoolyard Safari Bug Study (adapt to backyard) (F-2)
Lesson plans adapted from the Atlas of Living Australia
Foundation - Year 2
6. Beak feet 2
Years 3 & 4
4. Venn diagram
Years 5 & 6
1. Bird numbers
Years 7 & 8
4. Food Chains
5. Food Webs
Years 9 & 10
Years 11 & 12 Biology
Other Great Resources and Lesson Plans for Online Learning
ClimateWatch is a citizen science program focussed on collecting phenological data (behaviour changes in plants and animals due to climate). The app is free and there are loads of free lesson plans to accompany use of the app. ClimateWatch have put together some great resources adapted to home and online learning during COVID-19 restrictions, available at https://www.climatewatch.org.au/for-educators .
Each weekday they have a 20 minute presentation by a scientist or STEM expert, followed by questions and a little bit of homework to consolidate students' learning and keep them occupied afterwards! These talks are 100% online, hosted in Zoom and streamed live to our Facebook Page, so you can attend from anywhere in the world. They record every session and make the replays available in a Vimeo playlist.
Birds in Backyards
Birds in Backyards is a research, education and conservation program of BirdLife Australia focused on the birds that live where people live. They conduct seasonal surveys where you can help submit bird data from your backyard at any time; and they have also developed some fun educational resources for kids.
Colouring sheets (younger ages) http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/Colouring-Sheets
Backyard Bird Bingo (younger ages https://www.birdsinbackyards.net/sites/www.birdsinbackyards.net/files/page/attachments/Backyard%20Bird%20Bingo.pdf
Croaks, whistles, bleats and barks - every frog species makes a different sound! By recording a frog call with the app, FrogID, you can discover which frogs live around you and help us count Australia's frogs. If you have frogs in your backyard, YOU can help contribute important citizen science data by recording and submitting these calls. Experts will then help identify the species of your frog by their unique sound! Free lesson plans also available on their website.