Australia Unit: Week 4

For our final week of Australia, we’ll meet some intrepid people, discover amazing inventions, and explore architecture that still captures the imagination of people all over the world. Ready to get started? Click here to download your weekly tracker.

What you need:

Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):

Optional additional books:

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.

DIY box kite:

Sydney Opera House geometry:

Fire experiments:

Fire safety floor plan:

Building a fire:

  • fire pit or other safe location to build a fire
  • firewood (or dry sticks and wood from outside)
  • tinder (small pieces of wood, scrap paper, etc.)
  • matches or a lighter

Aussie Damper:

  • ~2 c flour
  • 5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 2 T cooking oil
  • parmesan cheese for sprinkling

Shrimp on the Barbie 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!

Lesson 1:

Today’s activities will really help your child’s imagination take flight! Let’s meet a famous Australian who overcame some big challenges to pave the way for future pilots.

Activity 1: Discover Nancy Bird Walton. At a time when most women couldn’t wear pants (seriously!), Nancy was flying airplanes. Nancy Bird became the youngest Australian woman to gain a pilot’s license at the age of 19. (source) Learn about this amazing woman in this brief biography or read the book Meet Nancy Bird Walton by Grace Atwood. 

Today, the terminal at Bourke Airport where Nancy Bird Walton had helped set up remote air ambulance services is now named after her. (source) In 2019, it was announced that Australia’s newest airport would recognize her as one of the country’s greatest aviators, with the proposed facility at Badgerys Creek named Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport. (source)

Next, let’s learn about Walton’s work for the Royal Flying Doctors Service. Listen to this interview describing the life-saving work she did as a pilot. She also talks about the flight conditions of some of her flights and landings. Click this article and watch the video to listen to one of her success stories.

Let’s learn exactly how planes fly by watching this video. Next, let’s learn about turbulence by reading this article and watching the video linked at the bottom. Finally, take all that knowledge and apply it as you fold and fly your own paper airplanes using the book Whoosh! Easy Paper Airplanes for Kids: Color, Fold and Fly! 

Activity 2: Lawrence Hargrave was an engineer, explorer, astronomer, and aeronautical pioneer. Born in England, he emigrated to Australia with his family in 1865. He was also the inventor of the box kite, a classic high-performance kite. Read about him here, and then build your own box kite with this tutorial.

Activity 3: Have you ever heard of the black box on an airplane? It was invented by another famous Australian! Click here to read how David Warren, a research scientist from Melbourne, created this device that is now mandatory on all commercial aircrafts. What is it and how does it work? Watch this video to learn. 

Activity 4: People who become inventors are trying to find solutions to solve a problem. If your child is inspired by inventor stories, read the book Accidental Inventions That Changed Our World: Fascinating Origins of Inventions to Inspire Young Readers by Riddleland. Hopefully this book will inspire your own inventions! To get started, brainstorm problems you would like to find a solution to. Think about what would solve that problem. Perhaps you have already found a solution! Is there something you can invent? Write or draw your ideas.

Lesson 2:

Today, we’ll learn more about city life in Australia and the architecture of the Sydney Opera House.

Activity 1: Discover + Write. There are many cities in Australia. Let’s take a quick tour with this video that was produced to help people find a new place to live. After watching the video, which city would your family want to live in?

Let’s use these cities to inspire a writing projects. Read the two options below to your child and let them choose the one that interests them the most:

  • Option 1: Choose your favorite city from the video and research it a little further. Write up a pros and cons list of living in that city.
  • Option 2: Pretend you are a real estate agent and create a brochure attracting families to the city that interests you the most. Include details about finances, lifestyle, and who would be attracted to the city.
  • Option 3: Pick one city from the video and pretend you are a person living there. Then, write a fictional diary entry of day-in-the-life of that person.

Activity 2: Discover the Sydney Opera House. One of the best known structures in all of Australia (and possibly the world) is the Sydney Opera House. The building was designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, who won a competition set up by the mayor of Sydney in 1959 to design Sydney Harbor’s newest building. Begin by reading Australia: Everything you Ever Wanted to Know pages 84-85. Next, read the history and details of this astonishing structure in the book The Story of Buildings, pages 80-83. (If you weren’t able to get the book, you can read about it here.) Notice how the design was drawn without the means of knowing how it would actually be built. Would you choose to build a structure of this magnitude without knowing that it could actually be completed? Learn more about the materials used to make the Opera House in this video. Use your book to find the places the tour guide is describing including the fly tower, the orchestra pit, the concert hall stage, and the tiles on the roof.

Next, let’s visit the Sydney Opera House! Start by watching the start of this video of different views of the Opera House from around the city and sneak peak inside, and then take a virtual interactive tour of the Opera House and listen to the music you would possibly hear if you were visiting.

Does architecture appeal to your child? Introduce the book Architecture for Kids. This book is full of lessons and activities for a child who wants to delve deep into this skillful art form.

Activity 3: The Sydney Opera House has hosted performers from all over the world. Let’s meet one special performer who called Australia home, Harold Blair. 

Harold Blair was born in 1942 at the Cherbourg Aboriginal Reserve. His mother, Esther Quinn, was relocated to Purga Mission when Harold was six months old. He was separated from his mother at the age of two when she was sent away to be a domestic servant. (source)

From an early age, Harold loved to sing and would spend hours listening to records on the mission’s wind-up gramophone. A born entertainer, his talent for mimicry delighted his peers. Harold attended the mission school until the age of 13. Several years of farm work followed, although the mission received most of Harold’s wage. (source)

Harold remained on Purga under the custody of the Salvation Army until he was 16. He was given a limited education—just enough to be a laborer. (source)

In 1942, 18-year-old Harold was one of hundreds of Aboriginal men sent to work in the cane fields as part of the war effort. While in Fairymead, Harold’s singing caught the attention of his employer and he was soon performing regularly at local events. Then came a fortuitous encounter with a union man named Harry Green.

From the moment he heard Harold sing, Green was convinced of his potential. He insisted that Harold relocate to Ipswich and take singing lessons. He then arranged an audience with the soprano Marjorie Lawrence, who was impressed by Harold’s raw talent. Her insistence that Harold be professionally trained was widely reported at the time. However, a campaign to send him to a top music conservatorium was initially unsuccessful. (source)

After applications to two conservatoriums were rejected due to his limited education, Harold sang on a radio talent show in 1945. His performance attracted a record number of votes from listeners, and within months he was accepted at the Melba Conservatorium of Music in Melbourne (now Melba Memorial Conservatorium of Music). In 1949, Harold graduated with a diploma in music with honors, becoming the first Aboriginal person to achieve this accomplishment.

Shortly after marrying, Harold was encouraged by Todd Duncan, an African American baritone, to study music in America. Harold was ultimately accepted into the prestigious Juilliard School in New York. After singing in a Harlem church, Harold became involved with the community and learned much about the civil rights movement in the U.S. (source)

Harold was a successful musician, performing in many concerts nationally, as well as touring Europe and the U.S. He was also an activist. He used his unique position to speak publicly about Aboriginal disadvantage, as well as the importance of education for Aboriginal children. Despite these achievements, his music career was interrupted many times. In order to support his wife, son and daughter, Harold worked in retail, small businesses, and taught music.

Harold returned to the stage in 1973 for a performance of the Aboriginal opera Dalgerie at the newly opened Sydney Opera House. You can listen to his voice here. Listen to it while you work on this next project!

Activity 4: When we examine the ‘sails’ of the Sydney Opera House, we see a clear pattern in the design using parabolic line drawing. Use this geometry lesson to create your own design. You can see it being drawn in this video if you need a little visual assistance.

Lesson 3:

Sporting events are big attractions in Australia. Today, we’ll learn about two of the most popular sports played in the country, some traditional games played by Aboriginal and Torres Strait people, and common backyard games kids in Australia enjoy playing.

Activity 1: One of the most popular sports in Australia is called Australian Rules Football. This game has some rules that are similar to American football and soccer with a few elements you see in basketball (such as dribbling and rebounds) and wrestling (body slamming)! Put it all together and you have a completely unique sport. Watch this video to learn the rules of the game. Then watch these clips to see how rough it can get!

Activity 2: Next, let’s learn about the traditional games of Aboriginal and Torres Strait people. If you are a group of 4 or more, look for a game that you can play as a group.

Activity 3: One of the biggest sporting events in Australia is the Australian Tennis Open. Tennis players from all over the world gather in Australia to play on the hard court of this popular tournament. Read about the game and this tournament here.

Activity 4: Here is a link to kids games often seen in the playgrounds and backyards of Australia. Pick one (or several!) to play today!

Lesson 4:

Wildfires are a reality of life in much of Australia. Let’s learn more about why these wildfores happen and the conservations efforts being made to protect the wildlife of this amazing country.

Activity 1: First, let’s learn more about the science of fire. Three things are necessary for a fire to burn: oxygen, fuel, and heat. Click here for a lesson on fire, fire safety, and living with fire. Read the section under the Science subheading. Next, do these simple experiments. (Parental assistance recommended.)

Activity 2: Next, go back to this website and follow the directions under the Technology subheading. Using graph paper, draw a layout of your home to create a floor plan. (Want to add in a math application? Draw your floor plan to scale by measuring each room and having each box on your graph paper represent one foot of distance.) Next, create a plan to exit your home safely in case of fire, taking your local environment into consideration. 

Activity 3: Read + Discover. Learn more about Australian wildfires here. Next, read the heartwarming story, Finding Home.

Then, go back to this website and learn about prescribed fires the difference between them and wildfires.

Activity 4: Finally, use this lesson to learn how people who work in fire forensics to investigate fires. There are many pages to this site, and it will likely take a day or two to get through them all.

Lesson 5:

Another important use of fire? Barbecue! Cooking barbecue-style has a long history in Australia, which we’ll learn more about today.

Activity 1: Traditional Aboriginal cooking always involved the use of a traditional barbecue, or outdoor cooking over a fire or hot coals. They would also use the earth to create earth ovens. The first fleet brought with them traditional English-style ovens, but it could be assumed that the extreme heat of the Australian landscape enticed them to search for alternative cooking methods outside. That combined with lessons from the local Aboriginals would have led to the birth of barbecue. (source)

By the 1900s, outdoor cooking had emerged as an official method of cooking in Australia. By the 1950s, it was common to see a barbecue in the backyards of many Aussies. In the coming decade, it became ingrained into the culture and weekly lifestyle. By the 1960s, gas grills were commonplace as well. (source)

“The Aussie barbecue is a timeless ritual that is ingrained in our culture. Cooking over a sizzling hot grill in the great outdoors has become part of our national identity. Barbecuing is a tradition that bridges cultural differences and brings people together. It is a vehicle for family bonding, community spirit and often for comic relief.” (source)

Activity 2: Before we move on to cooking, let’s learn an important life skill: fire building! Read this article for tips and tricks, and then get outside and build a fire of your own. (Parental supervision is strongly recommended.)

Activity 3: Does your family like to camp? Now that you have learned how to build a fire, let’s create an Aussie camping experience. Watch this video to learn how to make an Aussie damper over an open fire from famous Australian chef Curtis Stone.

Damper is a thick homemade soda bread traditionally prepared by early European settlers in Australia. The bread is different to bush bread, which has been made by Indigenous Australians for thousands of years and was traditionally made by crushing a variety of native seeds, nuts, and roots and mixing them into a dough, which was then baked in the coals of a fire.(source)

Activity 4: Finally, let’s also prepare this classic recipe of shrimp on the barbie.

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Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.