Introduction and Explanation of the Issue
While working in the primary classroom, teachers of Geography are expected to discuss contemporary geographical issues with a focus on the aspect of values. The issue selected for being taught and discussed in the class is the pollution of the Georges River because of Endeavour Coal’s activities (Appendix A). In October 2018, Endeavour Coal, a mining company, caused the overdose of ferric chloride in a sediment pond at Appin Colliery.
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Ferric chloride was used to clarify water resources, but water with a high dose of this substance was discharged into the Georges River, leading to its pollution and changing the color to orange-brown because of acidic reactions (“Endeavour Coal fined $30,000,” 2019). This local geographical issue and the solution to the problem need to be discussed in detail in the context of teaching Geography in primary school.
The New South Wales Environment Protection Authority (NSW EPA) imposed a fine of $30,000 on Endeavour Coal because of the violation of the environment protection license issued by the EPA. Firstly, the ferric chloride dosing pump was not managed appropriately at Appin Colliery, and the replacement of the pump led to negative consequences for the environment. Secondly, the discharged water caused the pollution of the Georges River, resulting in the high turbidity and acidity of water associated with the increased levels of iron and zinc (“Endeavour Coal fined $30,000,” 2019). The situation became risky for animals and aquatic species because of the high toxicity of water in the river.
It is possible to discuss and explain this issue as potentially threatening to fish in the Georges River, animals populating the nearby territories, and people living close to the river and using its water. The pollution could potentially cause the death of different organisms and living species because of changes in the quality of water (“Endeavour Coal fined $30,000,” 2019). Consequently, one inappropriate activity could lead to a range of negative effects on the environment in the region of the Georges River that mostly suffered from pollution.
In the context of this situation, it is necessary to discuss specific values and positions held by the stakeholders involved in the issue. The NSW EPA is the key authority in the region responsible for protecting the environment, and its members share such values as responsibility, care, social justice, integrity, and excellence. They also understand the importance of sustainability in managing activities that can influence the environment.
Explaining the reaction of Endeavour Coal to the situation and their work to improve the maintenance and monitoring of using substances like ferric chloride, it is possible to state that their values are integrity, honesty, being ethical, responsibility, and sustainability. However, the fact that the issue occurred can support the vision that the company needs to improve its sharing values and activities to become more environmentally oriented and sustainable, depending on the nature of potentially threatening operations of a mining company. Other stakeholders involved in the issue are expected to hold and promote such values as responsibility, sustainability, the care for nature, and the interconnection of a human being and the environment.
In the primary classroom, the explained issue can be discussed in the context of all mentioned values. The purpose is to accentuate what geographical issues exist, how they can influence or be influenced by people, and what reactions and solutions based on values are expected. The proposed issue depends on the idea of pollution and harming the environment and people. Therefore, it is possible to state that these specific values can be rather easily explained to primary-age students.
Justification of the Issue Choice
The issue of fining Endeavour Coal for polluting the Georges River can be justified as being appropriate to discuss it in the classroom related to Stage 3. Although the original description of the issue provided in the article by NSW EPA can be viewed as complex to be presented to the students at Stage 3, the nature of the problem is appropriate to be analyzed in the classroom. It is necessary to present the justification of the selected issue concerning the curriculum requirements.
Following the Board of Studies Teaching and Educational Standards NSW (2015), the chosen issue of water pollution is associated with Stage 3 concepts and values related to the field of Geography. Stage 3 students are expected to develop their knowledge regarding such areas as the environment and sustainability among others. Focusing on the concept of the environment, students should develop their understanding of its significance in people’s lives and notice certain interrelationships between the environment and individuals.
Furthermore, students should understand how the environment and people influence each other and the effects of certain natural disasters (NSW Education Standards Authority, 2019a). The discussion of the selected issue can demonstrate how people’s unmonitored activities can lead to water pollution and affect the environment and then impact people themselves because of injured fish and animals and the impossibility to use water.
Additionally, focusing on sustainability, students should learn how to protect the environment’s capacity to support living creatures with a focus on environmental management practices. Referring to the issue, students will learn that companies like Endeavour Coal need to adopt effective management practices to decrease their negative impact on the environment to protect and save it (Gilbert & Hoepper, 2017). As a result, students will be able to develop their visions regarding the interaction between people’s activities and the environment, the importance of sustainability, and the role of responsible actions.
The issue is in line with the outcomes set for Stage 3 students regarding their development of knowledge of geography. Therefore, according to GE3-2, Stage 3 students should be able to explain different connections between people, places, and environments (NSW Education Standards Authority, 2019b). In the context of the selected issue, students will learn how the activities of the local mining company and associated people can influence the life of species in the nearby river and, thus, influence the environmental balance.
Explanation of Values Teaching Approaches to Investigate the Issue
To teach values to students, it is necessary to focus on such values teaching approaches as inculcation, values analysis, and values clarification. Values inculcation is aimed at sharing certain desirable values, as well as instilling them, to make individuals accept and follow these ideas. The purpose of values analysis is to assist students in thinking logically to determine and analyze individuals’ values.
Clarification is associated with making students clarify their values (Biddulph, Lambert, & Balderstone, 2015). While discussing the case of water pollution by Endeavour Coal and their actions to address the problem, it is effective to apply values inculcation and values analysis as the key approaches to teach this geographical issue. Values clarification seems to be inappropriate depending on the age of students at Stage 3, and values analysis should also be adapted to the learning capacity of students.
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In the narrow context of discussing the selected issue, the purpose of values inculcation is to persuade students that water pollution negatively affects the environment, the discharge of chemicals into the river has bad consequences for fish, animals, and people, and guilty actors should accept their responsibility and take actions to address the problem. This approach is effective to explain the nature of the issue to Stage 3 students and helps them understand the interconnection between people and the environment by accentuating the effects of both responsible and irresponsible activities.
The purpose of values analysis for Stage 3 students should be presented as to make them recognize and understand the values guiding the actions of the EPA and Endeavour Coal. According to the curriculum requirements, Stage 3 students should understand the concept of sustainability. Therefore, it is necessary to help them analyze the EPA’s decision and Endeavour Coal’s response to the problem in the context of sustainability as the preservation of the environment for the future.
Students need to learn how to identify what values guide stakeholders’ behaviors in the situation of addressing the issue of water pollution. Thus, two values teaching approaches are appropriate to be used to teach the issue of discharging chemicals into the river for Stage 3 students (Biddulph et al., 2015). Referring to the curriculum requirements for this stage, it is possible to state that values clarification can be ineffective. The focus is on the primary formation of certain environment-related visions and values in students.
Biddulph, M., Lambert, D., & Balderstone, D. (2015). Learning to teach geography in the secondary school: A companion to school experience (3rd ed.). London, UK: Routledge.
Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards NSW. (2015). Geography K-10 syllabus: Geography K-6 (Vol. 1). Sydney, Australia: Author.
Endeavour Coal fined $30,000. (2019). NSW EPA. Web.
Gilbert, R., & Hoepper, B. (Eds.). (2017). Teaching humanities and social sciences: History, geography, economics and citizenship in Australian Curriculum (6th ed.). Melbourne, Australia: Cengage Learning.
NSW Education Standards Authority. (2019a). Content for Stage 3. Web.
NSW Education Standards Authority. (2019b). Outcomes (linked to course content). Web.
Endeavour Coal fined $30,000
Mining company Endeavour Coal has been fined $30,000 by the NSW Environment Protection Authority after the Georges River was allegedly polluted with ferric chloride from Appin Colliery.
EPA Manager Illawarra Region Peter Bloem said the pollution incident caused a section of the Georges River near Kings Falls to become acidic and turn an orange brown colour.
“Sampling by the EPA at the time of the alleged incident showed that the river close to the discharge was acidic and had elevated turbidity with high levels of dissolved iron and zinc.
“While on this occasion no dead or injured animals were observed, the discharge was at levels that are toxic to aquatic species,” Mr Bloem said.
The environmental impacts from the incident were reduced due to prompt actions by the company, the presence of a river rock pool which allowed the discharge to be pumped back to the colliery and a rainstorm the following day which diluted the remaining pollutants.
The incident occurred on 18-19 October last year, when the company allegedly caused a sediment pond at the site to be overdosed with ferric chloride, used to treat and clarify water, and water was subsequently discharged from there into the Georges River.
Endeavour Coal has indicated that the discharge occurred when a ferric chloride dosing pump was incorrectly replaced the evening before by one with a larger dosing rate.
The $30,000 fine resulted from alleged breaches of two conditions of the EPA environment protection licence – including water pollution and failing to adequately maintain the ferric chloride dosing pump properly and efficiently.
“Tests two weeks after the EPA inspection showed water in the affected area was clear, no residue was detected, and small fish were observed in the river,” Mr Bloem said.
“Endeavour Coal carried out remediation work and has undertaken to improve its maintenance, monitoring and warning systems,” he said.
If you suspect someone is doing the wrong thing, phone the NSW EPA on 131 555. Further information can be found at the NSW EPA’s website www.epa.nsw.gov.au.