Primary School Education Kit


Discovering Dieback Education Program – an essential resource for teachers

The Discovering Dieback Education Program is an award-winning education program developed by Armadale Primary School and the Dieback Working Group to engage and educate school students about one of the biggest threats to Australia’s biodiversity -Phytophthora Dieback. Through the program, students learn about a range of topics that prepare them for understanding the complex plant disease Phytophthora Dieback. Students learn about the disease and actively help protect a patch of bushland from the disease by applying treatment. Phytophthora Dieback is a complex issue for students to learn about but through the program, they not only understand it but come to care about the impact it is having on their bushland and take action to mitigate that impact. 

The DWG has been running the program in the South West of WA for the past 11 years with more than 25 different primary and high schools, reaching more than 2275 students across an area spanning from Badgingarra, north of Perth, to Bremer Bay in WA’s south. Student, teacher and parent volunteers have helped protect more than 100ha of bushland from the threat of Phytophthora Dieback through their phosphite treatment activities.

The program all started with a group of innovative teachers at Armadale Primary School in 1996 who developed the program with the Dieback Working Group and funds from the Australian Government’s Natural Heritage Trust. Their students went on to produce a performance piece about the issue called ‘Stop the Rot’ which was presented at the J-Rock competition in Perth in 1996 – and won! The performance ( has inspired others all around the world and shows the ability for these students to understand such a complex disease, take on the issue and actively share its messages. We’re proud of this program and every single student that has participated in it, but we’re keen to see many more students educated through the program across Australia. 

Current Program

The current program consists of 30 lesson plans intended to take approximately 1 term to deliver. The program starts with an introduction to new terminology and concepts of bushland value then delves into the biology and life cycles of organisms similar to Phytophthoras. At lesson 18, a DWG Officer delivers an engaging Phytophora Dieback lesson to the students, introducing them to the disease and its impacts. Lessons 19 to 29 expand on their understanding of the issue and its impacts and encourage students to take on the issue and become stewards for their local environment. We complete the program with an incursion/excursion to local bushland where the students are given the opportunity to get hands-on to help their local bushland patch by helping to treat the trees in the patch with chemical phosphite. This treatment helps the trees to defend themselves from any introductions of the disease and slows the spread of the disease. The lessons that students learn through the program about looking after their local natural environment help to foster a respect for the natural environment and inspire an interest in the natural sciences.

The 30 activities are outlined below: 

Activity 1 – Conservation Vocabulary:

To introduce the vocabulary which the children are likely to encounter during the course of this program of work in order to introduce the topic and establish background knowledge

Activity 2 – Bushland Retrieval Chart:

To create an awareness of the variety of different forests and bushlands in Western Australia.

Activity 3 – Biodiversity Classification Chart:

To introduce the concept of biodiversity in the context of the Western Australian jarrah forest and Banksia woodland.

Activity 4 – Lorax Role Play:

Purpose: To develop an understanding that the species in natural systems are interdependent and that if one is endangered there are changes throughout the system.

Activity 5 – Graphing Animal Species in the Jarrah Forest:

Purpose: To develop a greater understanding of the biodiversity in the jarrah forest and to develop mathematical understandings about the construction of bar graphs.

Activity 6 – Why is Bushland so Important?

Purpose: To develop an understanding of the different ways we benefit from healthy bushland.

Activity 7 – Bushwalk:

Purpose: To provide a first-hand experience as a basis for future art and writing activities.

Activity 8 – Water Colour Painting of a Gum Tree:

Purpose: Students reflect on their sketches from their bush walk and
respond artistically by painting a watercolour picture of a tree.

Activity 9 – Quarantine:

Purpose: to develop an understanding of the importance of quarantine and how it works.

Activity 10 – Introduced Species Report:

Purpose: To investigate the impact of introduced plant and animal speciesinn Australian environments.

Activity 11 – Introduced Species – Oral Presentation:

Purpose: To provide an opportunity for collaborative learning through student oral presentations of their research on an introduced species. This activity provides public speaking practice.

Activity 12 – 3D Bird Art:

Purpose: To create a colourful representation of three-dimensional flying birds.

Activity 13 – What are Fungi?

Purpose: To provide an understanding of fungi in preparation for the idea that Dieback is neither a plant nor an animal.

Activity 14 – How does mould grow?

An experiment.

Activity 15 – What is in the soil?

To develop an understanding that the soil has layers and consists of many living things.

Activity 16 – Soils just ain’t soils:

Purpose: To explore the macroscopic and microscopic components of different types of soils, especially bush soils.

Activity 17 – Stop the Rot DVD:

This is the J-ROCK performance that began our excursion into dieback. This can be shown just for interest and a general overview of the whole dieback story or you can use it more as a viewing activity.

Activity 18 – Phytophthora cinnamomi – Life Cycle:

PURPOSE: To understand the life cycle of dieback – keeping in mind that the children will need to have looked at the fungi section first to have a basic understanding.

Activity 19 – Size Matters:

Purpose: To understand the microscopic nature of the Dieback zoospore and therefore how difficult it is to prevent its spread.

Activity 20 – How does Dieback Kill Plants?:

Purpose: To simulate the mechanism by which plants die.

Activity 21 – Natural Sculpture:

Purpose: To design and create a sculpture using natural materials as a cooperative group.

Activity 22 – Phytophthora Dieback Geodome:

Purpose: To construct a twelve-sided paper globe to display facts learned while studying Phytophthora cinnamomi (PC)

Activity 23 – Phytophthora cinnamomi Acrostic Poem:

Purpose: To write a descriptive and emotional poem to respond to the dieback theme.

Activity 24 – Dramatic Presentation or Two Minute Documentary:

Purpose: To recap on the theme and consolidate concepts by using
drama to work with thematic information.

Activity 25 – Aboriginal Style Art:

Purpose: To look at the issue of dieback from the point of view
of the aboriginal people and try to represent the issue artistically using dot painting, cross-sectioning and cross-hatching.

Activity 26 – Environmental Stewardship:

Purpose: To introduce the concept of humans being caretakers of the environment.

Activity 27 – What Can Be Done? – Posters:

Purpose: To give students the opportunity to be pro-active and help educate the community on how to minimise the spread of dieback.

Activity 28 – DIEBACK Boardgame:

Purpose: To create a boardgame which incorporates information about the dieback theme in order to review all that has been learnt.

Activity 29 – Letter Writing:

Purpose: To engage in active stewardship of the environment by writing letters to real people outlining the issue of dieback to raise awareness of the importance of supporting management programs and using the bush responsibly in order to minimise the spread of Phytophthora cinnamomi.

Activity 30 – DIEBACK Busting Expedition:

Purpose: To provide a first-hand experience of spraying and injecting susceptible trees and plants with phosphite.