Environment centres' school learning program

Brisbane City Council's environment centres offer a unique learning experience that will immerse your students in Brisbane's natural wonders. Our curriculum-based school learning programs work to deepen students' understanding of the environment to facilitate behaviour change. This is part of our commitment to making our city clean, green and sustainable.

Our education officers use role-play, games, art and guided walks to facilitate a wider understanding of Brisbane's biodiversity in our bushland, wetland and waterway habitats. The interactive lessons cover a variety of topics including:

  • habitats, living things and their needs
  • life cycles, features and adaptations
  • food webs, biodiversity and ecosystems
  • waterway health and catchments
  • conservation and reserve management
  • waste education and sustainability.

Download the 2024 environment centres school learning program document (Word - 121kb) for a list of available programs for primary and secondary students.

Book online

If you would like to make a booking, complete the schools booking and enquiry online form.

Our online school lessons

Watch two of our online school lessons below. If you'd like to access more online lessons (there are six), view our Environment centres: School lessons YouTube playlist.

Mangrove adaptations

Video transcript

[intro music] 

>> JACKIE: We are down here at Nudgee Beach, at the Tabbil ban dhagun mangrove boardwalk which means, a place of saltwater. 

>> MIKE: And today we are going to look at six different mangrove species, and we are going to look at their adaptations to dealing with this environment. 

>> JACKIE: When we talk about adaptations, we are talking about unique features which enable a plant or an animal to survive in a particular environment or habitat.  

>> MIKE: Yeah, so these particular mangroves have to deal with a high amount of salinity, so we are going to look at a few different ways they deal with that. 

>> JACKIE: Absolutely, it’s a very challenging environment, but our mangrove species are up to the challenge. Let’s have a look at species number one. 

>> MIKE: Let’s do it.  Our first mangrove we are going to look at today is a, milky mangrove. 

>> JACKIE: Also known as the blind your eye mangrove because you don’t want to get this sap in your eye. 

>> MIKE: Where will we find this mangrove? 

>> JACKIE: It’s found more at the high tide mark, so it doesn’t get full inundation with saltwater like some of our other mangrove species, but it still has to cope with a certain amount of saltwater. How does it do this? It’s a salt concentrator, so it concentrates the salt in its older leaves, and then those leaves drop off, and that’s its ways of getting excess salt in the plant. 

>> MIKE: Sort of like a sacrificial leaf.  

>> JACKIE: That’s right, yeah.  

>> MIKE: Introducing the yellow mangroves, so obviously the tell-tale sign it’s a yellow mangrove is that yellowish-green colour. Another tell-tale sign is that the leaves always point upwards in this mangrove species. They have buttress roots, meaning their roots can sit above the surface in the mud and that helps them to stabilise. The cool thing with these guys is they have what we call, propagules, and that’s their seed pod. These long bits sticking here and what they will do is, they’ll break off and land in the water, and they always float vertically. Ok, so once they float, find some mud and actually grow a new plant from there. 

>> JACKIE: Over here we have the river mangrove which has a very specialised adaptation of dealing with the saltwater environment. If you have a really close look at the leaves, you’ll notice some fine salt crystals all over the leaves. That’s part of the adaptation for the plant, it extrudes salt from its leaves, so, therefore, getting rid of salt from the plant. It also concentrates salt in the old leaves as well. The river mangrove gets some pretty white flowers that have a smell of ripe bananas and animals such as bats are good pollinators for the river mangrove. 


>> JACKIE: So down here, we have a beautiful example of the iconic mangrove species the red mangrove. They have this really iconic prop roots which are really obvious and distinguish them from some of the other mangrove species.  

>> MIKE: And they get their name red mangrove from the red colour on the roots and a cool adaptation is the big waxy leaves and that helps them to retain some of the moisture. 

>> JACKIE: Their strategy of dealing with the saltwater environment is that they’re blocking salt uptake from their roots and also concentrating salt into the older leaves and getting rid of it that way. 

>> MIKE: They also have their seed pods which they call propagules and they’re really long on this species, kind of like a cigar shape and they actually float vertically, much like the yellow mangrove. 

>> JACKIE: This is probably my favourite mangrove, this is the large-leaved orange mangrove. They are really beautiful, aren’t they? They’ve got this big large green glossy leaves and they’re quite waxy, that helps to retain water, and their strategy is an adaptation for dealing with salt is to exclude salt at the roots and also again concentrated in the old leaves to get rid of it that way. 

>> MIKE: One thing I really love about the orange mangrove is the way their sea pods, or, remember that word, propagule, grow, They kind of look like a little octopus. What will happen, the propagule will grow from the middle and will drop off and start the red mangrove and the yellow mangrove, it will float around until it finds a suitable spot in the mud or the sand to grow a whole new mangrove. It’s really cool. 


>> MIKE: Hey, check this out.  

>> JACKIE: Yeah, that’s an impressive hollow. 

>> MIKE: It is an impressive hollow. So this is in a grey mangrove. Once they get to this larger size, they develop hollows and really, really, really good habitat. 

>> JACKIE: Absolutely, there are all kinds of species in the mangroves here that will utilise a piece of real estate like a tree hollow like this. You might find snakes living in there, you might find different birds, possums, animals like that. They all love hollows as shelter in their habitat. 


>> MIKE: So the most dominant species of mangrove in the Boondall Wetlands is the grey mangrove which you can see all around us. Now, this is a pioneer species and what that means is that it’s the first species of mangrove to grow in this area. This guy is pretty big and they can grow to a very, very ripe old age indeed. 

>> JACKIE: The thing that you will notice about the grey mangrove is all this little peg or pencil white things sticking up from the mud, that’s part of its roots system called, pneumatophores. They help the grey mangrove to breathe essentially to absorb oxygen and exchange gas even though they’re down in the mud. So, it gets those roots up out of the mud to enable gas exchange. 


>> MIKE: So, as you can see, mangroves are really, really important for the wildlife.  

>> JACKIE: Absolutely, habitat but as well as that, they are a carbon sink, they protect against erosion, and they are really important filtering all kinds of pollutants. So, how can we work together to protect mangroves? 

>> MIKE: We can act to keep our dog on a leash. 

>> JACKIE: Absolutely. 

>> MIKE: We were just saying at the Environmental Centre and that’s take three for the sea and what that means is if you can take three pieces of rubbish every day, you're going to be doing your part to helping a wetland like this. Well, that’s it from us guys. Make sure you come out and experience the Boondall Wetlands, in particular, walk the Tabbil ban dhagun Track here at Nudgee Beach. 

>> JACKIE: Hope to see you soon, see you later. 

[outro music] 

Habitats are home (bushland)

Video transcript

[Introduction music] 

[Desk bell rings] 

>> CATHERINE: Hello, hello, hello. Welcome to Downfall Creek Bushland Centre. You’re the group that are here to talk about habitats, aren’t you? No worries, I’ll grab my hat. I’ll meet you outside. 

Hi, my name’s Catherine and I’m one of the Environment Education Officers who works here in the beautiful Raven Street Reserve in north Brisbane. 

So, the word of the day for you guys is 'habitat'.  

So, what is a habitat? 

A habitat is any place that an animal lives and there’s some special things you need to know about habitats. 

Habitats can be really big, like this reserve, this is one whole habitat, or they can be really small like a leaf or a rock. We call those small habitats, micro habitats. Now generally, the bigger the animal the bigger the habitat, so you won’t find any elephants hiding underneath rocks in here. I know that because there’s no elephants in Australia. 

Hi guys, I’m going to take you on the Creek Track now and I’m going to show you an example of a healthy habitat and an unhealthy habitat. So stick to the path, follow me, let’s go. 

Habitats can be healthy and unhealthy. This is an example of a healthy habitat. This is a creek habitat. This is actually Downfall Creek. Now I know it’s a healthy habitat because I can see and hear lots of animals. I can see the trees around and lots of grass around and healthy-looking bushes that around. The water is nice and clear and there’s no pollution. This is an example of a healthy habitat. 

We are going to take you now to show you as an example of the same creek, but in an unhealthy state. 

Believe it or not, this is Downfall Creek. It is the top end of the Downfall Creek catchment. Downfall Creek as you see here runs all the way through Raven Street Reserve and ends up at Boondall Wetlands down at Moreton Bay.  

Humans have modified this part of the creek into a drain, so therefore damaging the creek habitat in this area alone. You can see by looking at the creek now, that there is not much life in there, and you also see the pollution and the pollutants on top of the surface. 

When we talk about unhealthy habitats, we talk about pollution and rubbish that people left behind. Up in the tree here, we have some rubbish left behind by humans. It’s a balloon. Balloons can be very dangerous for the environment especially when they land in waters and the oceans. So instead of releasing a balloon at your next party, why don’t you try blowing bubbles instead? 

Habitats can be natural, or manmade. This is not a nest, this is actually a ringtail possum’s drey. We have two types of possums in the reserve. We have Ringtails and Brushtails, but this one is made by the Ringtail. 

Let’s have a look at the manmade habitat now. Even if a habitat is manmade, animals will soon take advantage of it and live there especially if it provides good shelter. There’s something living in this box right here, shall we have a look?  

An animal will only live in a habitat if that habitat provides the five things it needs to survive. Those five things are clean air, water, shelter, food and a mate. 

I’ve found a really good habitat for you. This is a termite’s nest. Have a look high up in the tree. As I’ve said, this is a termite nest. Termite nests are found on the ground and also high up in the tree. Termites play a really important role in the reserve here. They eat the bark that has fallen down on the ground, they recycle the nutrients, which goes into the soil and helps the trees to grow. 

Now this is an example of a shared habitat. Not only do termites use this habitat, but so do brushtail possums, kookaburras, kingfishers and lace monitors. So the termites do all the hard work and then everybody else moves in.  

Some habitats are under the ground. This is a habitat for a trapdoor spider. Shall we have a look? You can hardly see it, it’s very well camouflaged. We'll gently pry it open. These spiders are nocturnal, so they’ll come out at night. Normally the females are the big ones that live in their traps  and they will hang their legs over the edge of the trap and wait for an insect to come pass. They’ll grab it, drag it down to the bottom of the trap and then it shuts like this.  

Above me here, we have a native stingless bee’s nest. Australia has about 2000 species of native bees. Only about 11 live in colonies like this. This one is called the sugarbag bee. It’s very little, it looks like a little fly. Sugarbag bees produce a little bit of honey but not as much honey as our European bees. This is where we get most of our honey from. A native stingless bee is a really important part of the environment. They are very good pollinators. They are very good at pollinating flowers, fruits and vegetables.  


This vine is called a monkey rope vine, it’s called a monkey rope vine because it likes to climb up trees just like a monkey does.  

Trees are really important habitats for lots of different animals. This is a really old tree and as you can see, there’s a couple of hollows in this tree. In this hollow, you will sometimes find lace monitors, carpet pythons. You might find owls, snakes, lizards, lots of different animals. Hollows take a hundred years to form, so it’s really important that we protect our old trees. 

There’s one animal at Raven Street Reserve that you will sure to smell before you see it and that is our flying foxes. At Raven Street we are lucky enough to have a camp of flying foxes. The fact that they are here, is a good indication that this habitat provides the five things that they need to survive. 

Flying foxes are a really important part of the environment. They spread seed and they help pollinate our trees. They also like to poo a lot, so we are gonna keep moving.  

Well, that’s it for habitat today. I’ve really enjoyed showing you around Raven Street Reserve. It is one of the hidden gems in the middle of Brisbane.  I’ve enjoyed showing you all the habitats I can find in the middle of Brisbane in our major capital city. So I look forward seeing you, hopefully, out in the wild one day. 

Bye for now. 

More information

If you require any further information, including a list of programs and how they link to the Australian curriculum:

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Brisbane City Council acknowledges this Country and its Traditional Custodians. We pay our respects to the Elders, those who have passed into the dreaming; those here today; those of tomorrow.