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Australia Lesson Plan for Kids: Hands-on History and Culture

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I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.

Hands-on Lesson Plan on Australia

Hands-on Lesson Plan on Australia

Taste Vegemite and other Australia foods, paint Aboriginal dot art, create Australian animal crafts, host an Australian tea, and more during this fun hands-on unit on Australia's history and culture! This lesson plan was written to be used with elementary-aged and preschool aged children and is perfect for a classroom, homeschool, co-op, after-school program, or enriched family learning time. I have also included our favorite children's books and YouTube videos on Australia's history and culture.

Geography Overview

Finding Australia on a globe

Finding Australia on a globe

1. Ask the children to each share something they already know about Australia.

2. If desired, watch the below short YouTube video clip giving an overview of Australia.

3. Australia is an amazing country and continent! Read and discuss Psalm 19:1 & Genesis 1:24-25.

  • The land is huge but the population is relatively small, so it is a perfect area for star-gazing and even spotting constellations we can't see in the Northern Hemisphere (like the Southern Cross) .
  • There are numerous animals that are unlike any animals found in the rest of the world. This is a testimony to the creativity of God!

4. Find Australia on a map or globe. What do you notice about the continent? [Most of the inland is desert. Most of the population lives on the coasts, especially the Eastern coast.]

  • Compare the size of Australia with the size of the United States. How do the populations compare?

While looking at photos of various places in Australia (from online or from a book), locate:

  • Major cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra (the capitol), Brisbane, & Perth
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Great Dividing Range
  • Uluru Rock/Ayers Rock

YOU WILL NEED:

  • a map or globe for each group of children and photos of Australia (from online or from a book)

Nat Geo for Kids: General Overview of Australia

Aboriginals: History, Religion, & Art

Recreation of Aboriginal Art Kangaroo done by a 10 year old (The Kangaroo was printed from a free printable from The Crafty Classroom, linked below.)

Recreation of Aboriginal Art Kangaroo done by a 10 year old (The Kangaroo was printed from a free printable from The Crafty Classroom, linked below.)

5. Briefly discuss the history of the aboriginals while either flipping through a book such as Aboriginal Art & Culture by Jane Bingham or by showing photos from online. While discussing the below points, have children compare the history of the aboriginals with the treatment of Native Americans in the United States.

  • Before Europeans settled in Australia, more than 500 societies of aboriginals lived there. They spoke at least 200 different languages.
  • The aboriginals were described as originally being peaceful and helpful. Some of them became more war-like (mainly killing cattle and sheep and burning crops) after some of the British began ruthlessly killing them. Some British tied aboriginals to trees and used them as target practice. Some stole aboriginal children to use as labor and branded them like cattle. Sometimes the British army attempted to simply rounded them up to kill them all.
  • In a period of 150 years after the British first arrived in the late 1700s, the aboriginal population was quickly decimated, with societies/tribes starting with thousands of members being killed off so that less than 20 survived from each society. Some societies were completely wiped out.
  • Starting in the 1830s some British attempted to round up the remaining aboriginals and relocate all their children to British orphanages and homes in an attempt to "civilize" them. The parents and children were separated for life and never saw one another again. Meanwhile, the remaining aboriginals were relocated to reservations in remote areas with limited rights. They had to get permission from a British reservation manager in order to get a job or get married.
  • In 1967, most Australians voted to remove the unjust sections against the Aboriginal people and eventually the Australian government returned some of the land back to the Aboriginal people.
  • In the 1990s many groups, including churches, officially apologized for their mistreatment of aboriginals and a national Sorry Day was observed on May 26, 1998.

YOU WILL NEED:

Scroll to Continue

6. In an attempt to preserve and/or develop aboriginal culture and tradition, modern aboriginals developed Dreamtime Stories, describing the creation of the world.

  • During the 1700s and 1800s, some Christian missionaries shared the Bible with the aboriginals. Some Aboriginal people converted to Christianity, so some of the traditional beliefs have been combined with Christian beliefs. Some Aboriginal Christians teach that the Great Spirit of the Dreamtime Stories is the God of the Bible.
  • Read a Dreamtime story such as Sun Mother Wakes the World: an Australian Creation Story by Diane Wolkstein and compare it to the Biblical account of creation.

YOU WILL NEED:

7. A traditional Aboriginal instrument is the didgeridoo. Watch the below brief YouTube video on how they are created.

8. In another attempt to preserve and/or develop aboriginal culture and tradition, beginning in the 1970s modern Aboriginal people began a new form of art made up of dots. They mainly used earth tones such as brown, orange, red, yellow, black, and white.

  • There are remaining pieces of original Aboriginal "art" rock paintings and rock engravings found throughout caves and on rocks that are believed to be thousands of years old. Some are "X-ray paintings" that include the bones and organs of the animals and people. Show some examples as shown in the book Aboriginal Art & Culture by Jane Bingham or by showing photos from online.
  • Show examples of modern Aboriginal art dot paintings as shown in the book Aboriginal Art & Culture by Jane Bingham or by showing photos from online.
  • Allow the children to paint their own version of a dot painting. I gave the children the option of either painting their own design or painting over a printed animal which I printed from the free download at https://thecraftyclassroom.com/crafts/australia-crafts-for-kids/ .
  • As the children paint, play didgeridoo music. (We listened to Yanni from YouTube.)

YOU WILL NEED:

  • a book such as Aboriginal Art & Culture by Jane Bingham which shows ancient and modern Aboriginal art or by photos of Aboriginal art from online
  • paint in earth tones (brown, orange, red, yellow, black, and white) - Acrylic will turn out nicer because it's thicker, but we used poster board/tempera paints because that's what we have.
  • paintbrushes & Q-tips
  • table cover
  • paper
  • Aboriginal Animals free download from craftyclassroom.com
Recreation of Aboriginal Art Snake and Man in a Boat done by an 8 year old

Recreation of Aboriginal Art Snake and Man in a Boat done by an 8 year old

James Cook Sails to Australia

Tasting sauerkraut while learning about James Cook

Tasting sauerkraut while learning about James Cook

8. Briefly discuss the expedition of James Cook on the Endeavour as he explored Australia as you flip through and summarize a book such as You Wouldn’t Want to Sail with Captain James Cook or while showing images from online.

YOU WILL NEED:

9. Captain James Cook is known for preventing scurvy by feeding his men sauerkraut and fresh fruit whenever they could get some.

  • Discuss: What is scurvy? What are the symptoms? What causes it? What is sauerkraut?
  • Taste sauerkraut.

YOU WILL NEED:

  • sauerkraut & spoons (& available water for children to drink afterward)

British Penal Colony

You Wouldn't Want to Be an 18th-Century British Convict! : a Trip to Australia You'd Rather Not Take by Meredith Costain

You Wouldn't Want to Be an 18th-Century British Convict! : a Trip to Australia You'd Rather Not Take by Meredith Costain

10. Briefly discuss the development of Australia as a British penal colony you flip through and summarize a book such as You Wouldn't Want to Be an 18th-Century British Convict! : a Trip to Australia You'd Rather Not Take by Meredith Costain or while showing images from online.

YOU WILL NEED:

Australian Gold Rush, Aluminum, & Opals

Panning for gold-colored rocks

Panning for gold-colored rocks

11. England knew that Australia had gold but kept it a secret for a while. After the California Gold Rush became too commercialized for individuals, Australia became the next location for miners in search of striking it rich.

  • Allow children to pretend to pan for gold outside
  • Prep: Ahead of time I placed multiple plastic dishpans outside. I tossed in some "gold" (rocks spray-painted gold), scooped in some dirt (to hide the "gold"), and filled them with water. I had a metal pie pan for each child.
  • The children got to take turns at the "river" (plastic dish pan) of their choice & use their gold pan for getting a big scoop from "the bottom of the river."
  • They could then swirl around the water or just pick out any pieces they found. I made sure everyone was able to get at few pieces.
  • Afterward we washed off our hands & the "gold." I let them keep their "gold."

YOU WILL NEED:

  • plastic dishpans or tubs
  • sand or dirt
  • "gold nuggets" (pebbles & rocks spray-painted gold or amber colored glass beads found in the fake floral department at Walmart)
  • water source

12. Gold is not the only precious "stone" found in Australia.

  • Australia is the world's leading producer of bauxite, from which aluminum is made. Pass around a piece of aluminum foil and allow children to squish or shape their piece. What else can you think of that is made of aluminum?
  • Most of the world's opals are from Australia. Pass around a piece of jewelry that has opal in it or show a picture of opal.
  • If you're not limited by time, watch the below video on opals from Australia.

YOU WILL NEED:

  • a small piece of aluminum foil for each child
  • jewelry with an opal in it or a picture of an opal

Australian Animals

A pipe cleaner kangaroo, platypus, & dingo

A pipe cleaner kangaroo, platypus, & dingo

13. When you think of Australia, what animal first comes to mind?

  • Read a book about some of the Australian animals such as Super Marsupials : Kangaroos, Koalas, Wombats, and More by Katharine Kenah or show photos from online while describing them.
  • Allow children to each select an animal and then create a craft model of it. I laid out various children's books for them to look through along with craft supplies.
  • If children finish early, they can flip through the children's books on Australian animals.
  • Allow the children to each show the animal they created.

YOU WILL NEED:

Sydney Opera House

Paper Plate Sydney Opera House

Paper Plate Sydney Opera House

14. The most recognizable building in Australia is the Sydney Opera House.

  • Briefly summarize about the design and construction of the opera house either by summarizing from a book such as The Story of Buildings : From the Pyramids to the Sydney Opera House and Beyond by Patrick Dillon or by using photos from online.
  • The inspiration for the final design of the roof was the peel of an orange with all the parts coming from the same sphere. If time allows, to demonstrate that, allow children to cut a white paper plate into 6 pieces and paste on a sheet of blue paper.
  • If desired, watch the below two videos on the Sydney Opera House.

YOU WILL NEED:

Australian Cuisine & Review

Vegemite

Vegemite

15. Vegemite is a truly Australian experience. It is a yeast product high in the B vitamins and is served on buttered toast for breakfast or sometimes used in a sandwich.

  • Have children taste a piece of buttered toast with Vegemite spread on it. Keep the sample size quite small and have a camera ready for the faces that will be made.

YOU WILL NEED:

  • Vegemite on buttered toast
Australian snacks

Australian snacks

16. Twice a day Aussies will have tea time during which they drink hot tea, usually with milk and sugar. They will also have a sweet treat such as a biscuit (what we call cookies) or scone. In some towns even school children will have a morning tea time.

  • Pass out tea with sugar and milk. (To be proper, it should be in a tea cup with a saucer.)
  • Pass out small sampler plates of pieces of Australian snacks for children to sample.
  • Some of the children enjoyed doing the "Tim Tam slam" in which they bit off the ends of the Tim Tam cookie and then tried to suck up hot chocolate through it. It was kind of like eating an Oreo cookie with milk.

YOU WILL NEED:

  • Hot/warm tea served with milk & sugar, preferably in tea cups with saucers
  • A variety of Australian snacks such as the sampler pack linked below OR ones you make yourself: pikelets (mini-pancakes with jam on top), lamingtons (yellow cake with chocolate frosting & shredded coconut on the outside), &/or anzac bikkies (oatmeal & coconut cookies)
  • Small cups of hot chocolate (optional)

17. While children enjoy their tea time, review what we learned about Australia.

18. If you're not limited by time, you can also include activities related to sheep and wool since Australia is a leading producer of wool. Here is where I posted our hands-on lesson: Sheep & Wool. Make and eat edible sheep, card and dye wool, paint sheep paintings, and more!

Tea with milk and sugar and pikelets with jam

Tea with milk and sugar and pikelets with jam

We read many books on Australia. Below were our favorites:

General Overview & Tourist Sites

  • Australia by Chloe Perkins
  • This Place is Lonely by Vicki Cobb (Has some forced evolutionary language thrown in when talking about the animals & how long the Aboriginals have been around)
  • Are We There Yet? : A Journey Around Australia by Alison Lester (About a family that takes a road trip around the entire coast of Australia & mentions the main sites & what they did & saw)
  • Ayo's Awesome Adventures in Sydney : Harbor City
  • Outback Adventure : Australian Vacation by Kate McLeod
  • The Story of Buildings : From the Pyramids to the Sydney Opera House and Beyond by Patrick Dillon

Australian Animals

  • Top to Bottom Down Under by Ted Lewin
  • Super Marsupials : Kangaroos, Koalas, Wombats, and More by Katherine Kenah
  • I Wish I Was a Kangaroo by Jennifer Bové
  • Koala by Claire Saxby
  • Platypus, Probably by Sneed B. Collard
  • Meet the Quokkas! by Caryn Jenner
  • Tasmanian Devils by Sandra Markle
  • Emu by Claire Saxby
  • Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French (a silly series)
  • Where is the Great Barrier Reef? by Nico Medina (short chapter book)
  • One Night in the Coral Sea by Sneed B. Collard

History of Australia

  • The Story of Australia by A. Grove Day (Chapter book from the Landmarks Books series - We skipped the first chapter that talks about "millions of years" but the rest is great.)
  • Sun Mother Wakes the World : An Australian Creation Story by Diane Wolkstein
  • Aboriginal Art & Culture by Jane Bingham
  • You Wouldn’t Want to Sail with Captain James Cook by Mark Bergin
  • You Wouldn't Want to be an 18th-century British Convict! : A Trip to Australia You'd Rather Not Take by Meredith Costain
  • Sand Swimmers : The Secret Life of Australia's Desert Wilderness by Narelle Oliver (Skip the beginning that focuses on evolution but it's good after that – Includes descriptions from Sturt as he explored the inland areas of Australia and then mentions some of the animals found in each of those areas)
Hands-on Geography Lessons

Hands-on Geography Lessons

  • China: History & Culture: (12 parts) Design and fly kites, paint Ming porcelain on paper plates, prepare a Chinese meal and eat it with chopsticks, create a dragon puppets, practice Chinese character writing, carve "jade" sculptures from soap, construct a Lego model of the Great Wall of China, and more during this fun hands-on unit on China's history and culture. This link will take you to the first lesson. Links to the other lessons can be found at the bottom of the page.
  • Japan: An Overview of Culture: (1 part) Make an origami paper crane, a carp fish kite, a Japanese meal, a Japanese doll, and more during this fun hands-on lesson on Japan! This lesson was written and used for early elementary and preschool.
  • Africa: History & Culture: (4 parts) Dramatize the mummification process, carve clay cartouches, eat a Tuareg-style meal, act out an Ashanti tale, dramatize the historic gold and salt trades centered in Ghana, paint watercolor paintings of the animals of the Congo, make Nigerian-style tie-dye shirts, hunt like a Pygmy and act out the Pygmy Honey Dance, enjoy an Ethiopian-style feast, create Zulu shields, and more in this fun 4 part hands-on unit study on Africa! This link will take you to the first lesson. Links to the other lessons can be found at the bottom of the page.
  • Russia: History & Culture: (8 parts) Cook borscht and blini, study and paint like the famous artists of Russia, perform a miniature "Nutcracker" ballet performance, dramatize a Communist lunch (complete with sentencing to "Siberia" for the non-compliant), and more in this fun hands-on unit on Russia! This link will take you to the first lesson. Links to the other lessons can be found at the bottom of the page.
  • U.S. States & Regions: (9 parts) Cook and eat regional foods, play rodeo games, enjoy a luau, dance zydeco, celebrate a Southwest Fiesta, and more while studying the 50 States of the United States. Since there were so many great resources we found for each individual state, I've also created a webpage featuring our favorite books, YouTube clips, & more for each state. You can find the links for each state on my 50 States Lesson Plans lens.
  • Around the World in 26 Letters: (26 parts) Study a different county each lesson as you visit one country per letter of the alphabet. Locate the county on a map, color the flag, cook an ethnic meal, create an ethnic craft, read a book about the county, and more! All the maps, flags, recipes, craft ideas, etc. are already listed!
  • Fun, Free Hands-on Unit Studies: Looking for all my hands-on lessons filled with active projects that are both educational and fun! I have posted over 35 unit studies compromised of more than 260 lessons! This is over 10 years worth of science, social studies, and art lessons from which you can choose! Click on the individual lesson plans to see the dramatizations, art projects, cooking, singing, science experiments, and/or lapbook ideas! Also included are our favorite "living books"/picture books that compliment each lesson.

© 2022 Shannon

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