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Teaching Children About Australia Day



The Australia Day public holiday was held on January 26. Dave and I kept mentioning that we didn't know what it was about, so I did some research. It turns out that January 26, 1788 was the day that the captain of the First Fleet of convict ships planted a Union Jack on Australian soil. 

I began to think about how to teach Elnathan about Australia Day when he is old enough. I found a great page of printable colouring sheets, including flags, birds, flowers and animals. However, none of these sheets teach about the history of Australia day!

One idea I had is to teach the history of the day through constructing boats from boxes, and having figures made from sticks (or something similar) with paper heads to act out the story. We could have a mini flag to plant on a mound to represent the land. We could also have darker coloured stick people who were already on the land, and talk about how they may have felt about the newcomers.

Have you ever tried to teach history to tiny ones? If so, do you think this idea would work?

For older children, I thought it might be fun to find a map of the known world in 1788 and have them track the journey of the First Fleet. Upper primary and high school students could also research life at that time, including indigenous cultures. By the way, it is not my Mum's fault that I don't remember the history of Australia Day! She tells me that we made a project book about the First Fleet. Mum also taught us about indigenous cultures, and has readers about Australia that she may pass onto me. If we want Elnathan to remember the meaning of Australia day when he grows up, we may need to repeat history related activities every year. Repetition aids memory, and if the activities are fun children can look forward to them.

Anonymous –   – (February 4, 2010 at 4:23 PM)  

Teaching history to very tiny ones is not easy because it's quite abstract to them. Start the concept of history with 'when you were little' and teach about Australia with 'places we have been to'. Later you can make the connection with 'history of a place'. Much later, they can discuss why Australia Day is celebrated on the day a group of criminals landed on the continent with a British flag and why some Australians find it less than appropriate. But for now, family history is fun. My kids especially like 'when mum and dad got married' and 'how mum and dad met'. We also tie in local history with family - eg Cyclone Monica happened the week Tom was born, Cyclone Tracey happened when mum was a baby in Canada. WWII happened when Granddad was a young man and he fought in Borneo.

Elnathan is not too young to start planning for history lessons. Take him to the zoo and make some photos. Later show him the photos - "This was when we went to the zoo. You saw a kangaroo". Eventually he will grasp that some things happened in the past and there is evidence to prove it.

Does all that make sense?

Jo McDougall

Rebecca Matheson  – (February 8, 2010 at 4:07 PM)  

Hi Sherrin,

another thing to think about when teaching about Australia day!

http://www.geoffreport.com/wp/2008/01/28/whose-australia-day/

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