Edition 10 - March 2014

Education Centre Updates is Geoscience Australia's newsletter for teachers in Australian schools. It is designed to keep you informed of recent developments in geoscience, teacher resources, upcoming events, and competitions for school pupils.


Welcome to our first newsletter of 2014. We are looking forward to a busy year in the Education Centre, including developing new resources addressing the Australian Curriculum and making them available to teachers.

With 2014 marking the 10th anniversary of the devastating Great Sumatran earthquake and resulting Boxing Day tsunami this issue of Education Centre Updates focuses on the science of tsunami and how such disasters affect society. This topic is relevant within both the Science and Geography curriculums.

In March, Geoscience Australia in Canberra will be hosting TESEP, the Teacher Earth Science Education Program, for their professional development workshops. The topics will be "PD 1: Round and Round with Rocks"and "PD9: Plate Tectonics (the reason for the Challenging Earth)". Dates are 24 and 25 March 2014 respectively. For more information, contact the ACT TESEP Coordinator, Rebecca Cashmere.

This edition also contains the first of a series of articles that spotlight minerals from the National Mineral Collection held at Geoscience Australia.

News from Geoscience Australia

Students from the
National Youth
Science Forum

The Education Centre at Geoscience Australia is continually evolving and growing. Last year we reached a milestone with largest number of people visiting the centre since it opened. A total of 9000 students received tailored hands-on workshops and this year is looking to be even busier with bookings flooding in already, so we recommend you make your booking as soon as possible through the Education Centre's online booking service.

In January the Education Centre hosted 64 inspirational young people from the National Youth Science Forum. Students preparing to enter year 12 spent an afternoon exploring the diverse range of sciences involved in the search for an underground aquifer. About 20 staff from Geoscience Australia donated their time, laboratories, equipment, experience and, most of all, their enthusiasm to impart their knowledge and details about their scientific discipline. This sharing of expertise was followed by an entertaining and detailed presentation from the students on their newly obtained scientific knowledge with an analysis of discovering an underground aquifer. We look forward to doing it all again next year with a new group of students. More information is available in the following news story.

Geoscience Australia's Education Centre will once again play a significant role in this year's Earth Science Week. The event's theme, Earth's Connected Systems, lends itself to being linked at all levels of the geography and science curriculum. If you, or your school, organise an event to coincide with Earth Science Week, please let us know via email education@ga.gov.au.

The annual Top Geoshot photographic competition for all things geological, will again run in 2014. View our past winners. We encourage both you and your students to take photos which reflect Australia's diverse geology, whether in the students' spare time or on an organised school excursion.

2014 Top Geoshot flyer

Read more news on the Geoscience Australia website.

The Australian Tsunami Warning System

On the morning of Boxing Day 2004, a large 9.1 magnitude undersea earthquake off the coast of northern Sumatra generated a massive series of tsunami which combined to cause an estimated 228 000 deaths. The earthquake was equivalent to the energy released by millions of atomic bombs.

At the time of the tsunami, Australia relied on the Australian Tsunami Alert System which was an arrangement between Geoscience Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology and Emergency Management Australia and had a limited notification and warning capability.

In January 2005, the Australian Government agreed to fund and develop an Australian Tsunami Warning System. This involved upgrading existing seismic monitoring and analysis systems, building new seismic stations (both within Australia and overseas) and providing access to real-time digital seismic data from international seismic networks.

Geoscience Australia also established 24 hour seismic monitoring and analysis to compute and advise the Bureau of Meteorology within 15 minutes of earthquakes occurring in the Indian Ocean region whether the earthquake had the potential to cause a tsunami.

In 2006, the Australian Tsunami Warning Centre Operations Hub was introduced at Geoscience Australia with the completed Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre (JATWC) launched in October 2008. Within the JATWS, Geoscience Australia is responsible for seismic monitoring and alerts, while the Bureau of Meteorology is responsible for sea level monitoring and tsunami warning.

The JATWS is a major contributor to earthquake and tsunami science and warning systems in the Asia/Pacific region.

To find out more about the system, visit these pages

Classroom Resources
Tsunami Animations
Australian Tsunami Warning System
Recent earthquakes

Mineral Spotlight

Geoscience Australia hosts the National Mineral Collection, an impressive selection of 15 000 mineral specimens. Future issues of Education Centre Updates will feature minerals from the collection. In this edition we feature muscovite.

In a tsunami, gravel, sand and mud can be transported for several kilometres inland, leaving evidence of the event for millennia. These deposits can be studied to identify paleo-tsunami and assess their size and level of inundation.

The density of minerals that constituted the sand and mud will determine how far inland they are transported. Being a relatively low density flaky mineral, muscovite travels along with other fine material towards the upper level of the tsunami waves.

Using minerals to study paleo-tsunami is still in its infancy. Read about Heavy minerals in the 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami deposits-insights into sediment sources and hydrodynamics in this article.

This sample of muscovite from the National Mineral Collection is from the Hartz Ranges in the Northern Territory. Muscovite is usually found in granites, gneisses and schists. Sparkle in granite often comes from muscovite. With a hardness value of only 2-4, it is easily broken into very small pieces, and cleavage yields extremely thin sheets that can look like plastic.

Commercially, muscovite is used in the manufacture of fireproofing and electrical insulating materials. The pearly lustre of muscovite also results in it being used in cosmetics for blushers, eyeliners and eye shadows (truly 'mineral makeup'). In Medieval Russia it was used as a cheap alternative to window glass.


Geology Of Central Harts Range

Photo credit
Jon Clarke, Geoscience Australia

Inspirational teachers

Gary Tilley is a teacher at Seaforth Primary School in Sydney. His work was recognised in 2013 with a nomination for Prime Minister's Science Awards.

Some years ago Seaforth Public School in Sydney began to develop a series of Science Galleries based on natural history museums around the world. Collections began with donations from parents and students and some purchases when money became available. The students were encouraged to learn about Earth Sciences through news stories on volcanic eruptions, tsunami and earthquakes. They developed a strong interest in minerals and rocks and the collections soon increased dramatically. Several parents with expertise in mineralogy and geology gave short talks and made further items available for display with a cabinet housing sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks given to the school. This led to a collection of minerals and a series of samples being bought or donated; and the appearance of a Mohs Hardness Scale set. Fossil samples and core samples from around Australia were added to the collection. Soon Geoscience Australia and the Geological Society of Australia (GSA) helped out with resources and support. Students built museum quality models of volcanoes and rock strata. A series of wall murals depicting the hydrological cycle and erosion as well as cloud formations painted with assistance from parents, teachers and students have added a spectacular background to the other displays. Academics from Macquarie and Queensland Universities along with the Australian Museum gave specialist talks and provided items for display as well as ideas for the future. That momentum has continued to grow to the point at which Seaforth Public School has its own Earth Sciences Gallery alongside its Space Gallery, Dinosaur Gallery and Marine Sciences Gallery! Plans to expand are well under way.

View the video of Seaforth Public School Science Display 2012.

If you have a story from your school about teaching Earth Science that you would like to share please send it to education@ga.gov.au.

Resources for educators

Science Year 6

Curriculum Links
ACSSU096 - Sudden geological changes or extreme weather conditions can affect Earth's surface
exploring ways that scientific understanding can assist in natural disaster management to minimise both long - and short-term effects
investigating major geological events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis in Australia, the Asia region and throughout the world
ACSHE100 - Scientific understandings, discoveries and inventions are used to solve problems that directly affect people's lives
researching the scientific work involved in global disaster alerts and communication, such as cyclone, earthquake and tsunami alerts
ACSHE220 - Scientific knowledge is used to inform personal and community decisions

Tsunami: The Ultimate Guide School Kit is a comprehensive teacher's resource covering all aspects of tsunami generation and subsequent tsunami warning systems in Australia. The resource is full of videos and animations, plus text presentations that could constitute an entire lesson plan.

Tsunami are not like normal waves. They travel very fast, and have huge wavelengths. Geoscience Australia has created some animations showing the creation and propagation of different types of tsunami.

In this video Professor Iain Stewart explains the science of the megathrust earthquake that generated the 2004 tsunami. Watch Professor Iain Stewart's video on the Boxing Day tsunami.

The Bureau of Meteorology has put together a list of tsunami that have affected Australia.

Nearly ten years on, countries affected by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami have recovered remarkably well from the huge devastation as Reuters images of then and now reveal.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development has made a three minute video on Sri Lanka's recovery seven years after the tsunami.

This is a cute three minute video on Owen the hippo and Mzee the tortoise who became friends after the 2004 tsunami.


Curriculum Links - Year 6
ELBH716 - planning an investigation to identify how significant events can connect places, for example, the Olympics or a tsunami
Curriculum Links - Year 8
ACHGK053 - The causes, impacts and responses to a geomorphological hazard

Geoscience Australia has written a booklet entitled 'Tsunami - Teacher Notes and Student Activities" that is available for download from our site.

A series of articles on the role of volunteers from around the world in tsunami relief and recovery after the Boxing Day event.

The 2004 event triggered the setup of the Australian Tsunami Warning Centre, based in Canberra. Watch this 3 minute video interviewing the Director, Dan Jaksa, accompanied by footage of the event and the Centre.

The Australian Government's emergency relief effort was huge after the Boxing Day tsunami. Read more about the specifics of their work in this report from June 2005.

Watch an episode of AusAID's Changing Lives series featuring the Coffey International Development's work in Indonesia, including the reconstruction work following the 2004 tsunami.

Read about understanding the link between earthquakes and tsunami and how this allows us to build tsunami warning systems.

A carefully researched and designed cartoon (3 minutes) developed by Geoscience Australia in partnership with AusAID. This public educational effort is part of a three-year natural hazard risk reduction project in Papua New Guinea. Watch Tsunami and you - Living more safely with natural hazards.

Miscellaneous/Senior level

Devastating tsunami, like all hazards, can completely transform a society's approach to building settlements. This article describes the stories of Maori, Greeks and Pacific Islanders and their relationships with tsunami. Read more about Killer Waves: How Tsunamis Changed History.

Energy released in the earthquake 2004 Boxing Day was equivalent to 23 000 atomic bombs of the type exploded over Hiroshima in World War II. Read more on the Deadliest Tsunami in History reported by National Geographic which describes tsunami in simple language with many useful facts and figures.

A thorough article on the Boxing Day tsunami, written months after the event, discussing the geology of the region and the need for warning systems. Read our AusGeo News article on The Boxing Day 2004 Tsunami.

Historic tsunami in Japan - article and illustrations that summarise the history of tsunami in Japan.

A study of sedimentary layers can teach scientists the story of past tsunami. In this History of Geology article, an introduction is given to two large scale research projects on millennial-scale history of tsunami in Thailand and Sumatra.

A team of international researchers has developed a new global map of subduction zones to predict which ones are capable of generating giant earthquakes. Read more about the Global map to predict giant earthquakes.

The Education Centre Updates archive is available on our website.