How do sand dunes work to protect the coastal environment?

Three children and an adult inspect some sand

In this programme, students investigate the biodiversity and erosion process of the dune system and engage in hands-on learning to create their own mini sand dunes.

Year level 3 to 8
Curriculum level 1 to 4
Availability Year-round (tide dependant)
Times 9.30am to 11.30am, or
12.30pm to 2.30pm
Sites Spencer Park Beach
Waimairi Beach
North New Brighton Beach
New Brighton Beach
South New Brighton Beach
Sumner Beach
Cost Free
Number of students Maximum of 35

Risk analysis and management (RAM)

Programme outline

Key concepts

Importance of dunes from a biological and human perspective, interdependence and biodiversity on the dunes, erosion.

Lesson description/intentions

Students will take a practical approach by building a mini-dune system. They will explore the management and the stabilisation of dunes. Students will also investigate the differences between native and introduced sand binders (plants) and discover what lives in and around a dune. Students will consider differing opinions of the value of these coastal resources.

Possible success criteria

Students may be able to:

  • state key reasons why coastal environments are special places
  • build a simple dune system
  • name at least one influence that might negatively impact on the dunes
  • describe methods of dune protection and enhancement
  • identify an action they can take to reduce dune erosion
  • name flora and fauna living in a coastal environment
  • discuss differing values positions regarding the the sand dunes.

Key competencies

  • Relating to others – students will have the opportunity to cooperate within their group while competing appropriately between groups during the building of their mini-dune system.
  • Managing self – students will be required to be enterprising and resourceful during their exploration of dune systems; they will set high standards for the plans they make and the management of their mini-dune system project.
Learning Area Strands Curriculum level Achievement objectives


Nature of science

2 to 4

  • Communicating in science
  • Investigating on science
  • Participating and contributing


Living world

2 to 4

  • Ecology


Physical world

2 to 4

  • Physical inquiry and physics concepts


Planet Earth and beyond

2 to 4

  • Earth systems

Health and physical education

Personal health and physical development

1 to 4

  • Safety management

Health and physical education

Healthy communities and environments


  • People and the environment


Nature of technology

2 to 4

  • Characteristics of technology
  • Characteristics of technological outcomes

Social sciences



  • Understand how places in New Zealand are significant for individuals and groups
Social sciences  


  • Understand how places influence people and people influence place
Social sciences  


  • Understand how people view and use places differently
  • Understand how early Polynesian and British migrants to New Zealand have continuing significance for tangata whenua and communities

Social sciences



  • Understand how exploration and innovation create opportunities and challenges for people places and environments
  • Understand how people participate individually and collectively in response to community challenges


"Planting the pingao was great and clearly explained why we had to replant the dunes"  – Teacher, Years 7/8

"People that walk/run over the sand dunes cause erosion"  – Student, Year 8