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Taste based teaching techniques – the salty liquorice (licorice) salinity simulation

Tilwin Westrup.

Agriculture, Western Australia, 50 Stubbs Street, Lake Grace, WA 6353.


The salty liquorice exercise was developed to teach primary and high school aged students about the effects of salinity on plants, plant communities and biodiversity. It is a simulation whereby the students get an idea of what it is like to be a plant in a saline environment.

The students (a group of 15 - 30) take part in a role playing exercise. They are all told that they are no longer humans, but plants. Each is a different species, and together they make up a diverse wetland community.

They are then asked to eat each piece of Dutch liquorice (which is salty) one at a time, from least salty to most.

Their response determines the next step.

  • If they show no negative response, they remain seated for the next round.
  • If they pull a face, their plant is under stress, and they must put their hands on their head.
  • If they spit the liquorice out, their plant species has become extinct, and they must move to the back of the room.

As about half the class moves to the back of the room by the second round, the presenter can explain that;

  • a reduction in species diversity (biodiversity) is observed,
  • most of the remaining species are under threat, and
  • only the more salt tolerant species remain functioning normally.

The Poster

The poster is designed to complement the salty liquorice exercise. It is very visual, with bright colours, and pictures. It indicates how Western Australian plant species are affected by each level of salinity, and allow the students to see how their responses compare to those of native plants. It also allows them to see how they, as a class, responded to salinity compared to a community of native plants.

How This Helps To Create A Climate for Change

This exercise is part of the groundwork for creating a climate for change in awareness, attitudes and expectations with regard to the issue of salinity in Australia. The exercise targets people when they are at an age when they are at their most impressionable. It makes them aware of the issue of biodiversity loss associated with salinity, and may teach compassion for the plants exposed to salt. The exercise will remain in their memory, and the children should grow up with the expectation that something will be done to intervene and limit salinisation in Australia. It is hoped that this exercise will help to make them more receptive to innovation in dealing with salinity as adults. It may also spark the interest of innovative minds that might otherwise be lost to other areas.

Educational Importance

This taste-based exercise is a very simple and effective way of introducing young students to the issue of salinity and loss of biodiversity. It is receiving amazing levels of support from all the teachers who witness it. There has been some interest shown to include this exercise as part of a new "land care / environment" section in the school curriculum.


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