Science cross-curriculum perspectives

I know this is primarily an English teachers’ blog….but wanted to share this great work led by Joe Sambono, a Jingili man working with ACARA:

No excuses! Aboriginal perspectives in schools

Here is another great article challenging teachers to get outside their comfort zone and learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures and histories. A good summary of top resources too. I would also add Victor Steffensen’s The Living Knowledge Place (

‘But I am NOT ABORIGINAL I don’t know how to do this stuff!’



8 Ways Aboriginal Pedagogy

An integrated HASS/Science unit applying the 8 ways Aboriginal pedagogy

This unit is designed around 6 full-day excursions with local Aboriginal rangers and cultural interpreters. Each lesson sequence describes one excursion and the related information and activities that can be delivered in the classroom. Contact details for the relevant traditional owners, rangers and cultural interpreters are available at the end of this document; teachers cannot engage authentically with this curriculum without consulting and collaborating with these key people.

Campbell High School Unit planner land management

For more information, contact myself or Adam Shipp, Yurbay Consultancies (formerly Greening Australia) –; M 0414 454 571

8 ways pedagogy was developed and is managed by the Western NSW Regional Aboriginal Education Team, NSW Dept. of Education.

See Tyson Yunkaporta’s thesis on the 8 ways here.

I have mapped the 8 ways framework to Quality Teaching, AITSL Standards and ACT Directorate have added ‘Good Teaching by Design’, attached here.

ACT ED & Campbell High School 8 ways and QTM FA AITSL GTBD


Reading Australia resources

I have written three units for Reading Australia with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander perspectives:

Ellen van Neerven, Heat and Light, for Year 10-12

Heat and Light

Ruby Ginibi Langford, Don’t take your love to town, for Year 12

Les Murray, Collected Poems, for Year 11

Reading Australia now has a partnership with Magabala Books and there will be units of work on Magabala titles coming soon.

Aboriginal Connections to water

Here are lesson plans from the ‘Water in the World’ Yr 7 Geography unit which incorporate Aboriginal perspectives.

aboriginal art symbols

aboriginal water connections teacher notes

Aboriginal water connections hand out

Yr 7 Aboriginal connections to water

AIATSIS Online Exhibition: Living off our Waters

Great reads from Magabala Books

Magabala Books Aboriginal Corporation in Broome has sent me some beautiful children’s picture books to promote.

Magabala has been in the game since 1990, producing high-quality Indigenous Australian literature.

I highly recommend you browse their collection at

Here are some of their latest goodies:

The spotty dotty lady

Josie Wowolla Boyle & Fern Martins (Ill.)

2014, 31 pages


Teacher notes available on the Magabala website:

This is a beautifully illustrated book with vibrant colours and stunning art. It has large and clear font.

It is about friendship among all races and types of people.  The sad lady’s only friends are her flowers.  She finds a spotty dotty flower which inspires her to paint spotty dotty designs on her tea cups, and then her kitchen, and then her whole house.  This attracts interest in the neighbourhood and the neighbours and their friends come to look.  They begin to get to know each other and make friends.  The lady throws them a party and paints their tea cups and after that she is never lonely again.  It shows how much we connect emotionally with nature, beauty and colour.

It is a great book for discussing the importance of friendship and community; and how hobbies like gardening and art can bring people together.

The little corroboree frog

Tracey Holton-Ramirez and Angela Ramirez (Ill.)

2013, 32 pages


Teacher notes available on the Magabala website:

This book has large and clear font and has bright, watercolour-painting style illustrations.

The little corroboree frog is ultimately a conservation story – a frog wakes up from winter hibernation, mates with a female frog, waits for eggs to hatch but is troubled by the weather changing. The winter rains are not coming and there is rubbish in their habitat.  Meanwhile, a little boy and his father are exploring the area and the frog jumps on to the boy and leads the boy to his nest to show his home.  The boy realises that the frog is unhappy about humans’ treatment of his habitat and he and his dad clear it up and drive home discussing what they can do to help the frogs.

This is a great book to study within a unit on environment/conservation, and it includes a non-fiction section with frog facts.

Spinifex mouse

Norma MacDonald (writer and ill.)

2013, 40 pages


Teacher notes available on the Magabala website:

This is a stunning book with lyrical language and elegant illustrations by an award-winning artist.  Little spinifex mouse is called ‘Cheeky’ and dances and teases the snake as she rests warming up on the rock – until the snake strikes, and the eagle comes and picks up the mouse, saving it.  He drops the mouse but the snake has caught up and strikes again; this time the eagle picks up the snake.  The mouse goes home and tells his family, saying he learnt his lesson and won’t be silly again – and the family decide to change his name to ‘Lucky’.

The writing is sophisticated, in third person, past tense and using dialogue and a range of literary devices such as repetition, alliteration and rhythm and simile.

There is a clear moral, that greed and boastful/showing off behaviour will make you unpopular and cause trouble.

There is information about habitat and the life cycle/predators, so this book also fits in with units on environment.

Silly Birds

Greg Driese (writer and ill.)

2014, 32 pages

Hard cover

Teacher notes available on the Magabala website:

This evocative book tells a Dreaming story – Maliyan the eagle is a bird who always looked and listened because his parents taught him speaking too much was for the silly birds.  Maliyan grew wise and met Wagun, a silly bird who boasted that he was the best; he was loud and ran around, knocked people over, didn’t listen to elders.

Maliyan thought he was fun and followed him and started to act like him. More birds followed; they became careless and didn’t look after their environment.  The parents grew worried and upset.  Maliyan felt bad and went to the elders for advice. He remembered to look and listen and he grew wise again.  Wagun continued to be selfish.  He lost his ability to fly, and scratched around on the ground to find food. Today all Turkeys scratch around on the ground and can’t fly well.

The coda of the story is: “it is hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys”.

This book has beautiful art, incorporating traditional symbols such as dot designs and animal tracks. It teaches children in a lovely manner, gentle but firm, like you are sitting with elders.

It is a great book to use when talking about peer pressure and setting your own goals, your own path in life; not letting others steer you off your course.

Two Mates

Melanie Prewitt, Maggie Prewitt – ill.

2012, 32 pages


Bold font, quite small

This book is based on a true story about Raf , a non-Indigenous boy who has spina bifida, and Jack, an Indigenous boy. They are growing up together in Broome and share a life of hunting, swimming, fishing and quad biking.

The story is reasonably simple, and takes us through illustrations of the boys doing each activity.  The illustrations are cleverly done so that it is not until the end of the book that the illustrations reveal Raf in a wheelchair. The illustrations, too, are simple – like bright crayon drawings. The understated appearance makes the revelation about Raf’s condition all the more compelling.

It is a story about friendship and crossing barriers – around both race and ‘disability’ (although, clearly, Raf is not prevented from participating in cool, fun little-boy activities).

The book includes photos of the real boys and their families as well as information about spina bifida.

It is a great book for teaching about compassion and embracing each other’s uniqueness.

More on contemporary Aboriginal poetry: two great publications

Charmaine Papertalk-Green’s “Just like that and other poems” (Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2007) is a gruelling little book of poems that packs a punch on all manner of topics from Aboriginal identity, racism and land rights to womanhood, being a single mother, domestic violence, family and love.

“Young One – You Don’t Understand” is a poem structured like a dialogue between a young Aboriginal person asking an elder questions (why so sad? the whites give you all you want, don’t they?) and the elder’s response (you don’t understand, we’re not free, we don’t have our land and our pride).  It’s not only a good way to discuss the importance of land to Aboriginal people but also the differences in opinions and life experiences between people of different generations.  Perhaps the ‘young one’ in this poem has grown up wadjella way (white way, using the Western Australian Noongar word for white), and doesn’t have any memory of a different way of life.  Perhaps the ‘young ones’ in Aboriginal communities do not understand the struggles their forebears have faced to maintain culture and language within the context of colonisation.  There are many issues you could tease out in the classroom with this poem.

“My English” is a great piece which lists some examples of Aboriginal English: “That becomes dat, Apple becomes happle”.  It speaks to me because some of the examples reflect the way some of my family members speak, and I have a way of slipping into this vernacular when I go home to Dubbo.  The poem highlights the bilingualism many Aboriginal people negotiate – we speak “white” or “black” depending on the context, and this also applies to urban Aborigines who may not have their traditional language but speak some form of Aboriginal English when among their community.

In his introduction to this collection of poems, poet John Kinsella compares Papertalk-Green’s writing to Queensland Aboriginal poet Lionel Fogarty’s in the way in which they use and adapt English, the language of the coloniser, to assert Aboriginal culture and heritage.  Fogarty’s work can be seen at

Ngarla songs” by Alexander Brown and Brian Geytenbeek (Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2004) is an important publication put together with the Wangka Waya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre which showcases anecdotal songs passed down through the generations of the Ngarla people from the top of WA (whose country stretches from Port Hedland on the Indian Ocean 150km east and 50km inland along the De Grey River).  The book is set out with the Aboriginal language song on the left and the English translation on the right side of the page.  The songs document aspects of traditional culture and daily life as well as contact with colonisers and other seafarers (e.g. “Japanese Pearling Fleet”, a poem composed before World War Two).  It gives a fascinating insight into the history of the Pilbara region, infused with the Ngarla peoples’ extensive knowledge of country.