A female student looking down at a butterfly resting on her shoulder.

Sustaining Life in an Ecosystem

Year levels



$19 per student


Monday to Friday (during school term)

Student Ratio

1 adult for every 10 students

Using two real-life case studies, discover what experts need to consider to save a threatened frog and butterfly species from extinction. Develop an understanding of the impact of adaptations, homeostasis and disease on survival and collect data to determine how species interact within ecosystems.

Program description

Sustaining Life in an Ecosystem uses in-depth case studies to explore how animals are adapted to their environment, how animals interact with the ecosystem and the success that Zoos Victoria has achieved in the conservation of species.  

Students discover the structural, physiological, and behavioural adaptations of the Southern Corroboree Frog, the threats it faces to its survival including a global devastating fungal infection and the breeding program at Zoos Victoria saving it from extinction. They develop understanding through multi-modal representations, classroom discussion, critical thinking activities and data analysis. Students apply their learning to develop and reflect on conservation strategies.  

Students will learn: 

  • How structural, behavioural and physiological adaptations aid survival 
  • How the internal environment is regulated through homeostasis and stimulus-response signalling 
  • The strategies used by Zoos Victoria to conserve species 
  • About the interdependencies of species within an ecosystem, including distribution and density 
  • To use science inquiry skills 

Can’t make it to one of our zoos? Our Digital Program gives you direct access to your own expert Zoo Teacher and unique zoo content. Location is no longer a barrier.

Program sequence

Before your visit

Use the activities in the Teaching Guide (below) to spark students curiosity and prepare them for their zoo visit. 

During your visit

During your Sustaining Life in an Ecosystem excursion students will practice their practical investigation skills to plan and collect real world data surveying the distribution of a butterfly species within the Butterfly House. This data can be used to develop understanding of the scientific process, and more specifically to identify the factors that affect butterfly distribution. This practical investigation is suitable for school assessed coursework. 

Your zoo visit will include:  Zoo Teacher workshop (40 minutes), practical investigation with a Zoo Teacher (40 minutes), student-led research time and keeper talks. Check out your Teaching Guide for other ideas of what to do at the zoo.

After your visit

Use activities in the Teaching Guide to enable students to complete their investigation and analysis.

Program maps 

Your booking confirmation email will list your group's education workshop time/s. Digital maps will be provided to you on the day.

Program resources

VCE teaching guides are password protected. You will receive the password via email six and two weeks before your excursion. You can also request the password upon booking.

Learning outcomes

Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) – Biology

Unit 1: How do living things stay alive?

Area of Study 2: How do living systems sustain life? 

  • Students will explore the survival of a species through learning about their adaptations, homeostasis, disease and natural history and how this understanding can inform strategies to prevent extinction of a species

Area of Study 3: Practical Investigation 

  • Students will carry out a practical investigation that considers experimental design. This will include surveying butterflies within a habitat to collect and analyse data which will inform strategies to conserve a threatened butterfly

Plan your excursion 

Sustaining Life in an Ecosystem is an outdoor all-weather program; the students will need appropriate clothing for weather conditions. This could include a raincoat, hat and sun protection. 

Students will need access to the Sustaining Life in an Ecosystem Student Workbook and resources to record their research e.g. notes, drawings, photographs, videos, voice memos, diagrams.  

School groups will enter Melbourne Zoo via the Rail Gate entrance. Organising teachers please check in with our Admissions team upon arrival. More Information. 

All onsite excursion bookings are subject to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions and as such are subject to change in line with the Victorian Chief Health Officer’s advice. We will be in contact with all teachers prior to their booked date if we need to clarify any new requirements. 

Book your education experience

Fill out an online form to request a booking for your zoo education experience

Request booking now

You will need to know the following to book your zoo excursion or online workshop:

  • Education program of your choice (if applicable)
  • Preferred date
  • School name and address
  • Contact details of organising teacher
  • Number of students/classes and their year level