Case study Teaching groundwater science

Published:8 December 2022

sand, gravel and clay

Teaching geoscience can be tricky, especially as scientific information is often written for other scientists.

One of the main aspects of the Exploring for the Future program’s Geoscience Knowledge Sharing project is working closely with communities, schools, teachers and educators to support science education and share geoscience knowledge in simple and accessible ways.

To make geoscience more engaging and easy to understand, Geoscience Australia, in collaboration with Teaching Indigenous Perspectives in the Australian Curriculum (TIPIAC), has developed a new teaching resource - The Groundwater Mini unit – Teacher and educator guide and student activities - for primary to secondary school students.

The resource explores important concepts about groundwater in plain English. It includes a teacher and educator’s guide with handy tips and answers, and a student workbook with hands-on activities and worksheets, including case studies of First Nations Australian perspectives on groundwater and water use.

Teachers can use the mini unit as a guide to teach students of all levels about water resources. The material can be adapted to suit the students’ comprehension of both science and the English language.

Community educators can also run activities, such as ‘building an aquifer’, in a less structured environment. While the main topics covered are geoscience related, students will learn skills needed across all Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) fields. Educators and teachers should evaluate the activities to ensure they are of appropriate difficulty for their group of students.

Bourke Public School students observe the flow of water below the surface, using an aquifer model they built from gravel and sand (October 2022)

Bourke Public School students observe the flow of water below the surface, using an aquifer model they built from gravel and sand (October 2022)

The mini unit's lessons

The groundwater mini unit includes 3 lessons:

Lesson 1: How does water move through the environment, in particular groundwater?

  • Learn the terms porosity and permeability.
  • Describe how groundwater moves through rocks.
  • Learn what geological materials are likely to store and allow water to flow through them.
  • Classroom activity: ‘groundwater flow’.

Lesson 2: What is an aquifer?

  • Learn what an aquifer is and why they are important.
  • Describe how groundwater is stored in and extracted from aquifers.
  • Classroom activities: ‘Build an aquifer’; discuss aquifer types.

Lesson 3: What is the Great Artesian Basin?

  • Learn about the Great Artesian Basin and its importance in Australia.
  • Learn how satellite imagery is used to understand the basin.
  • Classroom activities: online student activity using Digital Earth Australia platform to interpret satellite imagery to learn how the surface water of the basin is used and First Nations Australian perspectives; use of surface water; a research task about the Great Artesian Basin.


First Nations Australian perspectives, stories and associated materials were included in the groundwater mini unit teaching resource with the permission of B. Cochrane, Founder and CEO of TIPIAC, a Supply Nation registered business. TIPIAC’s First Nations Australian teachers specialise in developing curriculum-aligned, culturally-appropriate educational materials. This is the first education resource co-designed by Geoscience Australia and a First Nations Australian education consultant. It is compliant with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) Guide to evaluating and selecting education resources.