Welcome to the land down under! This week we will begin our month-long study of Australia. And what better way to begin than at the beginning? We will start by learning about the native residents of Australia, Indigenous Australians. We will learn about their rich history, beautiful art forms, innovations, storytelling methods, and delicious food. But first, let’s begin with a detailed geography lesson and a bit of math. Click here to download our skills tracker for the week.
What you need:
Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):
- Not For Parents Australia: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know by Lonely Planet
- Welcome to Country by Aunty Joy Murphy (or listen to this read aloud)
- Gadi Mirrabooka: Australian Aboriginal Tales from the Dreaming (World Folklore Series) by Pauline E. McLeod (Note: This book is expensive, so we recommend purchasing it used. It is a wonderful book to use this week, especially if you have older students.)
- Albert Namatifira by Vincent Namatjira. (This book is not available in North America yet, but you can listen to a read aloud here)
Optional chapter book:
- Sally’s Story: My Place for Young Readers by Sally Morgan
Optional poetry book:
- The Banjo’s Best-loved Poems, Chosen By His Grand-daughters by Hugh Sawrey.
Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):
Note: We break down our supply list so you can choose what you need based on which lessons you plan to do with your child.
Longitude + latitude activity:
- 2 oranges
- black permanent marker
Lemon myrtle tea bags:
Lemon Myrtle Anzac Biscuits:
- ingredients from this recipe
What to do:
We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!
Australia is an island, a country, and a continent. Begin your exploration with this web article from National Geographic’s Kids. Read an overview of the country and watch the video at the bottom of the web page for an introduction to this amazing place.
Activity 1: Map work. Australia lies in the Southern Hemisphere. Its seasons are opposite the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere. Using a map, atlas, or Google Earth, locate Australia on the globe. Next, print this map of Australia. Label each of the six states (New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania) and two territories (the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory). Locate the capital of Australia, Canberra. Each state also has a capital. Label them all on your map. (source)
Australia is the world’s flattest continent. Mount Kosciuszko is Australia’s highest peak at 7,310. Find this peak using Google maps and mark it on your map.
Fun Fact! Tasmania is not attached to the rest of Australia. It is 150 miles from the main island.
Activity 2: Geography. Learn about the geographical terms longitude and latitude here using the webpage and the free printable. Review other geographical terms like equator, prime meridian, 45th parallel, northern hemisphere, southern hemisphere, eastern hemisphere, western hemisphere with the help of this downloadable, hands-on lesson. This video will also be helpful.
(+) Want to add in a math extension? This video explains the role angles and degrees play in geography.
Activity 3: There are several islands that are part of Australia. Some are right off the mainland, and others are a bit farther away. Using Google Earth, locate the following locations:
- Rottnest Island
- Kangaroo Island
- Tiwi Island
- Fraser Island
- Heard & McDonald Island
- Macquarie Island
- Lord Howe Island
- Phillip Island
Read the blurb and look at the pictures on Google Earth about each location. If any of them sound interesting, learn more about one of these locations with a little more research.
(+) Activity 4: Let’s try another math extension! Longitude and latitude are a fantastic means of communication. People from all over the world, even those who speak different languages, can communicate by means of these coordinates. Use this website to search for the longitude and latitude of Rottnest Island, Kangaroo Island, and Heard & McDonald Island. Write the coordinates on your map.
Next, let’s play a game with this new “code.” If I wanted to meet you at the following coordinates, where would we meet?
- -33.867139°, 151.207114°
- -25.353594°, 131.034362°
- -37.813628° , 144.963058°
Note to parents: Colonization can be a difficult subject to discuss, but it is a crucial part of sharing and teaching historical truth. Want tips for how to discuss it in a gentle, age-appropriate way? This article can help.
Activity 1: Read + Discover. There have been people living on the land of Australia for millennia. The first people of Australia are known as the Aboriginal Nation. Read a few facts about the Aboriginal nation here and read Australia Everything You Ever Wanted to Know pages 8 and 9.
(+) For a deeper dive into Aboriginal culture, read Part 1 of Gadi Mirrabooka: Australian Aboriginal Tales from the Dreaming. This book is beautifully co-written by two Aboriginal women (and a non-Australian) to bring us a truthful portrait of this culture by helping us to see their customs, art, and language.
We can learn a lot about a culture by reading their folk stories. Read the tales in the book Gadi Mirrabooka: Australian Aboriginal Tales from the Dreaming. These stories often explain wonders in nature, like where birds get their colors or how kangaroos got their tails. Analyze the story elements of the short stories you read in Part 2. (You can use this printable to help identify the parts.) What do you learn about the Aboriginal people from these stories?
Activity 2: Next, let’s learn more about rock art and practice some creative writing. First, read about and view cave art in this post. You can also find some pictures in the book Gadi Mirrabooka: Australian Aboriginal Tales from the Dreaming.
“All cultures use imagery to tell stories, so it is likely that, from the time of their first arrival in Australia, First Nations peoples were using artworks in sacred and public sites to give form to their narratives. For First Nations peoples in Australia, rock art sites are records of their ongoing history since time immemorial. Rock art is the oldest surviving human art form. Across Australia, rock art is an integral part of First Nations life and customs, dating back to the earliest times of human settlement on the continent. Petroglyphs (rock engravings) and pictographs (drawings) are a key component of rock art.” (source + pictures of original rock art.)
Often, the pictures found in these caves and walls were telling stories. Let’s create our own cave art inspired by the art we have learned about today.
Next, write your interpretation of the art work you created in a few short paragraphs. Make your story as funny, silly, serious, or fantastical as you would like!
Activity 3: Dot paintings have become internationally recognized as integral to Indigenous Australian culture. While also being beautiful, this unique art form was created to serve a deeper purpose: to disguise the sacred meanings behind the stories being painted from outsiders.
Before they began painting on canvas, Indigenous Australians would create art in the soil or with body paint. In both cases, these sacred designs could be washed away before they were seen by anyone not in their society. Once the art forms began to be transferred to canvases, the artists started to abstract the designs so they could not be understood by Westerners or anyone not privy to their regional stories. Originally colors were restricted to variations of red, yellow, black and white produced from ochre, charcoal and pipe clay. Later acrylic mediums were introduced allowing for more vivid colorful paintings.
“Aboriginal artworks painted in acrylic are a beautiful blend of traditional and contemporary. The dot technique gives the painting an almost 3D effect and a sense of movement and rhythm. Many people comment that the paintings look alive and that they literally seem to jump out at you. The flat canvas comes to life with energy and vivacity just like the dreamings and rituals that inspired them.” (source + you can also see many examples of this art form at this link)
This art form is extremely sacred to the people who create it. You can learn more about its importance in this article.
Would your child like to try creating their own art inspired by this beautiful style? Let’s try this craft next. If your child enjoys storytelling, you could also see if they want to try creating a story to inspire their own art. Here are some animal templates you can use for their craft—we recommend printing onto cardstock for durability!
Activity 1: Read + Discover. One of the most well known sacred sites in Australia is Uluru, located in the center of Australia in the outback. Uluru is a massive single-rock formation, or monolith, made of sandstone. Its water holes, springs, landmarks, and ancient rock paintings make it a magnificent place to explore. Learn a few more facts about the Uluru Rock by reading this web page.
Uluru has been home to the Anangu people for thousands of years and is located in the desert in what is called the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The Anangu people believe that it was formed by ancestral spirits and, as such, it is sacred to them. Climbing the rocks is banned out of respect for their beliefs, but visitors can walk around the rock on paths in the park. As you walk around, you are also likely to see emus!
Despite the fact that the Anngu people had been living on this land for centuries, the first European explorers named it Ayers Rock. In 1985, though, the Commonwealth Government of Australia returned Uluru to its traditional owners, the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people (also known as Anangu). (source)
As you learn about Uluru with your child, consider this question together: Why do you think it is important for people to respect the ban on climbing Uluru?
Let’s bring this famous landmark to life with this paper collage craft.
Activity 2: Ready for a math extension? The website linked above is an Australian website, so all the measurements are all in the Metric system. Use a conversion calculator to convert the height, circumference, and weight of the mountain into the Imperial system (U.S. standard). How many miles around is Uluru? Once you figure out the miles, figure out how long it would take you to walk around it. This website will help you track your pace and figure out the timing.
Activity 3: Let’s learn more about one of Australia’s famous artists, Albert Namatjira. Read the book Albert Namatifira, written by his grandson Vincent Namatjira. It’s a wonderful picture book about the artist and his life. (The book is not available in North America yet but you can listen to a read aloud here.) This picture book will provide a wonderful opportunity to have meaningful conversations about cultural differences and injustice. Use it as an opportunity to discuss the impact of colonization on this man’s life.
(+) Want to know more about this fascinating artist? Read more about Albert Namatjira here.
Activity 4: Aboriginal culture is very diverse. Before the British invasion, there were about 250 different Aboriginal nations, each with their own language and dialects, cultural protocols, diet, and customs. Click here to see a map of the Aboriginal nation before colonization. This website share more important information about understanding Aboriginal cultures.
One notable thing about many Indigenous Australian cultures is their “Welcome to Country” practice where an Indigenous custodian or elder from a particular traditional area welcomes people to their land through speech, ceremony, or music with the intention of wishing them safety and peace as they traveled through the land. Read the picture book, Welcome to Country to learn more about this nation’s beliefs and culture. Next, watch this Wurundjeri Welcome video by a Wurundjeri elder.
Today would be a good time to introduce the chapter book: Sally’s Story: My Place for Young Readers. This book was adapted from the author’s original biography. It is authored by Sally Morgan, a woman with Aboriginal ancestry.
Activity 1: Read + Discover. Let’s learn about a famous Australian icon, the boomerang! Aboriginal people used the boomerang for hunting and battle for thousands of years. Boomerangs are also works of art, and Aboriginals often paint or carve designs on them to depict legends and other traditions. Read about the history of this historical and iconic instrument here. Next, visit the Australian Museum virtually to see their boomerangs collection. Click the links to discover more from each section.
Next, recreate this boomerang craft. Design your boomerang any way you would like!
Activity 3: Read + Discover. The competitive sport of boomerang throwing was developed with the growing popularity and usage of boomerangs. The sport is popular in Australia, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States. Read about the games here. Next, watch this video to learn about one of the world’s best boomerang throwers, how competition works, and what physical strength is needed to excel in this sport. (This video will also give you a bit more detail about the boomerang’s history.)
Now, get outside and play with a real boomerang!
Activity 1: Discover the history of lemon myrtle. Lemon myrtle has quite the history in Australia. For centuries, Indigenous Australians have used the leaves (which are prominent in bush foods) as a seasoning. They also used it as bush medicine, and today the health benefits attributed to lemon myrtle are many and varied.
In the early 1900s, lemon myrtle was distilled in a factory located in the small town Eumundi on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. In 1920, it was discovered that the distilled steam had antimicrobial qualities.
Lemon Myrtle tea is also very popular. Make your own tea bags using fresh tea leaves with this tutorial. They make a lovely gift, too!
Activity 2: Lemon myrtle (backhousia citriodora) is a beautiful Australian shrub or tree naturally occurring in the wetter coastal areas of northern New South Wales and southern Queensland. The lemon myrtle is also called a sweet verbena tree or a lemon-scented myrtle. It has dark green leaves with white flower bunches in the summer. In cultivation, lemon myrtle shrub grows to about 3 meters, and the trees can reach a height of about 8 meters fully grown. Clusters of cream feathery flowers occur in autumn, creating a spectacular, fragrant display.
Fresh lemon myrtle leaf is a versatile and refreshing herb. The leaves can also be cool dried (to prevent loss of essential oils) and then ground and stored in a cool, dry manner for later use. Lemon myrtle is without a doubt the most popular of Australia’s native herbs, with its fresh fragrance of creamy lemon and lime. The fresh flavor complements many culinary delights, from fish and chicken to ice cream or sorbet. (source + source)
Today we will prepare a traditional cookie with the herb, Lemon Myrtle Anzac Biscuits.
Activity 3: Tea + Poetry. Now you have biscuits and tea—let’s read some poetry! Read the famous poet Banjo Paterson’s poetry here while you enjoy your treats. If you enjoy his work, you might enjoy the The Banjo’s Best-loved Poems, Chosen By His Grand-daughters by Hugh Sawrey. Read a bit more about him here.
***Post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through a link, we may receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting our small business!***