Illustration 2: Environmental change

Curriculum overview

The Australian Curriculum: Geography and (its various HASS-based iterations) content description addressed in the illustration is:

  • The application of human-environment systems thinking to understanding the causes and likely consequences of the environmental change being investigated

Learning goals

In this illustration of practice students undertake a virtual fieldwork tour of Lake Monger, Western Australia, and use this example to investigate an environment of their choice using a human-environment systems model.

The illustration-specific learning goals are:

  • describing the nature of environmental change and its threat to the sustainability of the source, sink, service and spiritual functions of the environment
  • analysing the causes of environmental change by identifying the human actions that produce environmental changes; the biophysical processes involved in the changes; and the underlying attitudinal, demographic, social, technological and political causes of the human actions, considering them within a human-environment system.

Geographical understanding and context

Geographers are concerned with the sustainability of the earth's environmental functions, in particular those that support human life and wellbeing. These functions can be grouped into four main types – source, sink, service and spiritual. 

While some human land uses and activities have helped to enhance these environmental functions, in many cases, the source, sink, service and spiritual functions of the environment have been placed at risk. The human-environment systems model provides a framework that enables us to analyse the environmental and human factors which lead to environmental changes. It enables us to assess the variety of responses used to remove, reduce or prevent such drivers and pressures and to also restore the state of the environment and mitigate impacts.

Teaching approaches

This illustration of practice features several resources designed to facilitate a sequence of learning activities:

Environmental change (PDF) introduces students to the functions of the environment and provides activities for understanding.
Causes of environmental change (PDF) introduces students to a variety of human land uses and activities that lead to environmental change.
Human-environment systems (PDF) describes the human actions and biophysical processes involved in environmental change. Students independently investigate some of these before applying them to the simplified human-environment systems model.
Lake Monger virtual fieldtrip (PPT) uses a PowerPoint presentation to take students on a virtual fieldtrip which applies the human-environment systems model they learnt when undertaking the activities in the Causes of environmental change (PDF) resource.

The virtual fieldtrip includes some activities for students and also provides an example that can be used for students to base their own fieldwork on.

Water quality testing (PDF) is an instruction and recording sheet for students to complete fieldwork (water quality testing using invertebrates). Students can use the Aquatic macroinvertebrate ID key1 (PDF) and Aquatic macroinvertebrate identification key 2 (PDF) to help them identify macroinvertebrates (these are also referred to in the virtual fieldtrip).

What you need

Environmental change (PDF)
Causes of environmental change (PDF)
Human-environment systems (PDF)
Lake Monger virtual fieldtrip (PPT).
Water quality testing (PDF)
Aquatic macroinvertebrate ID key1 (PDF)
Aquatic macroinvertebrate identification key 2 (PDF)

Curriculum connections

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


  • Plan, rehearse and deliver presentations, selecting and sequencing appropriate content and multimodal elements to influence a course of action
  • Use a range of software, including word processing programs, confidently, flexibly and imaginatively to create, edit and publish texts, considering the identified purpose and the characteristics of the user


  • Plan, select and use appropriate investigation methods, including field work and laboratory experimentation, to collect reliable data; assess risk and address ethical issues associated with these methods


  • The intensification of environmental effects in the twentieth century as a result of population increase, urbanisation, increasing industrial production and trade
  • Responses of governments, including the Australian government, and international organisations to environmental threats since the 1960s (including deforestation and climate change)