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Back to CensusAtSchool home page CaSMa08 - Opinions On...Are Girls More Concerned?

You can download this activity and the teacher solutions as a rich text file (RTF) at the bottom of the page. Download our printer friendly Prepared Samples as Excel files or access data using the Random Sampler.

Subject Area

Mathematics and Studies of Society and Environment / Human Society and its Environment - Geography

Key Statistical Literacy Competencies Addressed

  • Data awareness
  • The ability to understand statistical concepts
  • The ability to analyse, interpret and evaluate statistical information
  • Communicating statistical information and understandings


In this activity you will work in a group to compare the attitudes on environmental sustainability of students today to those of a community in the 1990s. You will investigate attitudes about environmental issues, including pollution. An analysis of CensusAtSchool data will enable you to determine the attitude of students today and compare the attitude of boys to girls.

  • Computer with internet connection
  • Spreadsheet software
  • Calculator
  • Pens and paper
  • Student Worksheet



Many people are concerned over the future well-being of the global environment. They would argue that the well-being of the environment depends on the action of humans. Monitoring the actions of humans can be difficult. But, conducting surveys that gather opinions (which hopefully mirror actions) is somewhat simpler and can provide us with useful information.

You will have provided your opinions on some environmental issues if you submitted an Australian CensusAtSchool Questionnaire. Questions concerning the importance of environmental issues are particularly relevant.

Task One: Community Attitudes

Quite regularly the ABS and other bodies conduct surveys to canvas opinions. Towards Environmental Sustainability, NSW EPA, 2000 reports findings from surveys conducted by the ABS and the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) about environmental issues. The following is stated:

'The ABS surveys found that younger people are more likely to be concerned about long-term environmental problems. Similarly, the EPA surveys show that the environment is of higher concern among females in the younger age group (15-24 year olds).'

1. Do you think this is still true now?

2. Go to the CensusAtSchool website and use the Random Sampler to obtain a sample of 200 students.

Reference year Select Year
Select questions All
Year levels 10, 11 and 12

Copy the data for questions ‘How important are the following environmental issues to you? (slider scale 1 to 1000)’ onto a new, blank sheet.

3. The CensusAtSchool Questionnaire ‘How important are the following environmental issues to you? (slider scale 1 to 1000)’ is divided into six sections (see below). For this slider scale question, the responses are provided in both numerical and categorical formats (shown below). Your group needs to decide whether to use categorical or numerical form of the data.
Use the table below to divide the topics among your group. To make a fair comparison, everyone in the group should use the same random sample from CensusAtSchool.

Table showing how Numerical and Categorical Data correlate

4. Analyse the data to determine the attitude of students to environmental issues. Draw up a table and summarise your conclusions in a paragraph. Don’t forget we are investigating the percentage of students who selected each category and the difference in attitudes between males and females.

(Hint: It will be easier to count the number of students in each category if you sort the data first, using the SORT function in Excel. If you are good at Excel it will be even easier if you use the COUNTIF function to do the counting for you. e.g. use the COUNTIF function to count the number of 'Very Important' responses in each category)

5. Analyse the data to determine whether 'the environment is of higher concern among females in the younger age group (15-24 year olds)' is true. Explain your reasoning.

Document all of your work and think carefully about what you claim from your findings.


Task Two: Looking into the past

6. Do the opinions of today's students differ to other community groups now and in the past?

You could visit the following web pages as a starting point:
The Wilderness Society - The Australian community wants Australia's forests protected
Environmental Protection Authority - Pages exist for all Australian states and territories - google ‘EPA’ and the name of the state or territory.

Task Three: Has anything changed between 2006 and now?

7. Take a second sample from the CensusAtSchool Random Sampler. This time collect data from 2006. Clearly distinguish the name of this sample from your first sample when you save it.

8. Analyse the 2006 data in the same way you did for your first set of data. Identify any differences between the two samples.


Student Worksheet

Teacher Solutions

Commonwealth of Australia 2008

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