Platypus Deep is the story of Orni the platypus and his search for a new place to build a den when his old home is destroyed by a savage storm.Author and conservationist Jill Morris likes to make plays on words with the names of her characters. The scientific name for a platypus is Ornithorhynchus Anatinus and upstream from Orni lives Anatina, feeding her babies; while downstream lives the old and fierce platypus, Rhyncus. A good way to introduce your students to the idea of scientific names and that they are important because there can be so many common names for the same thing.
Morris gives us a clear sense of the habitat of the platypus in her opening pages; In the ‘secret pool on a quiet creek,’ we meet sandpaper figs, fig parrots, butterflies, frogs, echidnas and yabby’s, which all share the pool with Orni. We learn what Orni eats and also the food web relationships between the other inhabitants of this little ecosystem. Later a dingo visits the pool and we get a sense that there are predators even further up the food chain.
Morris also shows us some of the adaptations and characteristics of the platypus and other animals. Anatina feeds her babies upstream, clearly mammalian, the snake soaks up the sun for warmth, and Orni and Rhyncus battle with their posion spurs as they compete for the pool downstream.
There is also a sense of changing landcape here, which fits in with the Earth and Space Sciences stream. There is the rapid change due to the storm, geological changes over long periods of time and the changes caused by the impact of humans and pollution. Morris sends a clear message here and her inner back cover states that ‘in 2005 the people of Maleny protested unsuccessfully against the building of a supermarket on the bak of Obi Obi Creek, the habitat of a large colony of platypuses. Illustrator Heather Gall lives near Maleny in Queensland.
Morris doesn’t let the science get in the way of the story-line and so it’s an enjoyable read on it’s own merits. It’s also a book that could be used on a number of different levels, even with older children as an exercise in drawing food webs.It’s particularly relevant at level 4, looking at interactions between organisms. Local and authentic content makes the exercise much more worthwhile.
Jill Morris has produced a number of books with conservation themes through her Greater Glider publishing. A review of her book ‘Green Air’ on this blog can be found here. You may also like to read a review at Aussie Reviews.
NATIONAL CURRICULUM LINKS (as from ACARA)
Biological sciences (Foundation)
Living things have basic needs, including food and water
- recognising the needs of living things in a range of situations such as pets at home, plants in the garden or plants and animals in bushland
Biological sciences (Year 1)
Living things have a variety of external features
- recognising common features of animals such as head, legs and wings
- describing the use of animal body parts for particular purposes such as moving and feeding
Living things live in different places where their needs are met
- exploring different habitats in the local environment such as the beach, bush and backyard
- recognising that different living things live in different places such as land and water
Biological sciences (Year 2)
Living things grow, change and have offspring similar to themselves
- representing personal growth and changes from birth
- recognising that living things have predictable characteristics at different stages of development
- exploring different characteristics of life stages in animals such as egg, caterpillar and butterfly
- observing that all animals have offspring, usually with two parents
Biological sciences (Year 4)
Living things have life cycles
- making and recording observations of living things as they develop through their life cycles
- describing the stages of life cycles of different living things such as insects, birds, frogs and flowering plants
Living things, including plants and animals, depend on each other and the environment to survive.
- investigating the roles of living things in a habitat, for instance producers, consumers or decomposers
- observing and describing predator-prey relationships
- predicting the effects when living things in feeding relationships are removed or die out in an area
- recognising that interactions between living things may be competitive or mutually beneficial.
Biological sciences (Year 5)
Living things have structural features and adaptations that help them to survive in their environment.
- describing and listing adaptations of living things suited for the Australian environment
- exploring general adaptations for particular environments such as water conservation in deserts
- explaining how particular adaptations help survival such as nocturnal behaviour, silvery coloured leaves of dune plants
- comparing types of adaptations such as behavioural and structural
Earth and Space Sciences (Foundation)
Daily and seasonal changes in our environment, including the weather, affect everyday life.
- investigating how changes in the weather might affect animals such as pets, animals that hibernate, or migratory animals
Earth and Space Sciences (Year 1)
Observable changes occur in the sky and the landscape.
- exploring the local environment to identify and describe natural, managed and constructed features
- recording short and longer term patterns of events that occur on Earth and in the sky, such as the appearance of the moon and stars at night, the weather and the seasons
Earth and Space Sciences (Year 4)
Earth’s surface changes over time as a result of natural processes and human activity .
- collecting evidence of change from local landforms, rocks or fossils
- considering how different human activities cause erosion of the Earth’s surface
- considering the effect of events such as floods and extreme weather on the landscape, both in Australia and in the Asia region
Author: Jill Morris
Illustrator: Heather Gall
Greater Glider, 2006