Visiting the Land Down Under: Take Your Kindergarten Students Around Australia in 5 Days
With this Australia unit study, kindergarten students will experience Australia with a week’s worth of activities, stories, and games. They will gain a sense of the life on the other side of the planet by learning about the continent of Australia.
On the first day, students will locate Australia on a globe, identify images from the continent, and learn why the people of Australia are not falling off the planet or standing upside down!
Social Studies: Introduce the unit by using a globe, to point to where you are located on the planet. Make sure you name your location. Does it look like a big place? How many people to do you think live there? Is there any water nearby? Next, point out Australia’s location on the globe. Does it look far away? Point out the water that surrounds the continent. Point to the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. Note the equator and how this one line divides the seasons based on the tilt of the planet. So when it’s summer in the northern hemisphere, it’s winter in the southern hemisphere - Christmas in Australia is quite different from the way your kindergarten students experience it.
Circle Time: Select a book about Australia, such as Look What Came from Australia by Kevin Davis. This book will serve as a preview of what students can expect to learn about in greater detail over the coming week.
Math: Place a collection of pictures on the board: one koala, two kangaroos, three wombats, four dingoes, and five emus. Have students sort the pictures according to the type of animal, and then count how many they have of each animal. Let students continue to practice using manipulatives at their work stations.
Science: How to explain gravity—Why are people in Australia not hanging upside down? Place paper clips on a table. Use one magnet and place it in the center of the paper clips to show students how the Earth’s gravity keeps them on the planet. If they drop a ball, if someone falls from a plane, or even when a swing always comes back down has to do with the Earth’s gravity. Show a video of people in zero gravity, such as a NASA space walk, to give students an idea of how the Earth’s gravity works.
Day two is devoted to the native people of Australia, the Aboriginal people. Your students will learn about various aspects of Aboriginal culture, including music and artwork. A science experiment will help students learn how Uluru, otherwise known as Ayers Rock, was created millions of years ago. Finally, students will participate in their own version of a walkabout. A geography lesson plan on Australia could be incorporated into this area too, or used for extension activities on another day.
Circle Time: Read a book about the native people of Australia, such as Aboriginal Australians by Diana Marshall. For this lesson, focus on details about different aspects of the lives of native Australians. Use an illustrated web map how details are part of a main idea.
Music: Listen to Aboriginal music, such as that from a didgeridoo. Encourage students to dance along to the rhythms. After, ask how this type of music is different from any other kind of music they’ve heard before.
Math: Since Aboriginal artwork represents many examples of patterns, have students use color and shape manipulatives to create patterns. Have them work in groups to figure out the next piece in the pattern.
Social Studies: Aboriginal means ‘the first ones.’ Learn about the Aboriginal people of Australia during circle time. Ask students to consider all the similarities they share with the Aboriginal people. Keep an illustrated list, so that students can relate to the common attributes they share with a group of people from another part of the world.
Science: Ayers Rock, known as Uluru, is one of the most recognizable land formations on the planet. It sits in the middle of Australia and was formed from layers of sedimentary rock that built up and eventually folded. For this experiment, you will need empty plastic bottles with their lids, sand, gravel, and soil, and water. Allow students to scoop the sand, gravel, and soil into their bottles. Next, they will pour in about half a cup of water, place the lid on the bottle, and shake. When they stop shaking, ask students to observe how the different particles move within the bottle. Students should know that Uluru was made of sedimentary rock which has eroded over many millions of years. They will notice that the heavier materials will sink to the bottom of the box while the finer particles of sand will remain on the top. This is how sediment is formed.
The bottles should be placed in a high spot with their lids removed so the water can evaporate and students can view how the sediment has settled. If it seems the water will take too long to evaporate, speed things along by placing a pin prick hole on the bottom of the bottle and leaving it overnight in a sink or standing in a shallow pan. You can also try a dry version of this same experiment using flour, sugar, pepper, decorative sugar, and test tubes.
Art: Australian Aboriginal Art – View samples of Aboriginal animal artwork. Aboriginal artwork, which depicts much of the natural life of Australia, often uses patterns of dots, lines, and swirls. Provide students with a reproducible of a native animal of Australia. Demonstrate how students can use finger paint to place a pattern of dots and parallel lines around and within the animal to create their own version.
Physical Education: When Aboriginal boys become teenagers, they go on a journey to live in the wilderness and try to follow the paths their ancestors took. This journey is called a walkabout. Take students on a ‘walkabout’ around school. Ask them to observe their surroundings: identify trees, flowers, local animals, and where they are located in their community.
Today students will learn about the continent and the native creatures. Students will also demonstrate their knowledge of Aussie critters—and have a little fun— by inventing their own movements to mimic animal behaviors like jumping, trotting, and running.
Social Studies: Australia is made up of six states and two territories. The states are Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania; the territories are Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory. The Australian capital of Canberra is located in the Australian Capital Territory. Compare a map of Australia to a map of the United States.
Art: Provide students with a copy of a map of Australia. Have them color each state and territory a different color.
Circle Time: Read a fictional story about Australia, such as Koala Lou by Mem Fox. As they listen, chunk the story into parts. Read and ask questions about the main character, what he wanted, and if he finally got what he wanted. When they’ve heard the entire story, ask students to retell the beginning, middle, and end of the story. After, ask kindergarten students to act out their favorite part.
Physical Education: Australian Animal Exercises – Do the kangaroo hop, the dingo trot, climb like a koala, or run like an emu. Vary a game of Simon Says by renaming your moves according to the Australian animal exercises and have students act out the behaviors.
Math: Use shape manipulatives to formulate creatures which closely resemble Australian animals. Next, students will name the shapes used to make the animals. Finally, students will count how many of each shape they used.
Science: What are some of the native creatures of Australia? Learn about dingoes, wallabies, koalas, wombats, emus, platypus, and other native creatures. Briefly describe the characteristics of mammals and point out how marsupials are different. Finally, describe the platypus in detail and how it differs from other mammals.
Circle Time: Read Kangaroos by Steve Parish. As you read through the story, keep a visual list of all the characteristics of a kangaroo: the pouch, the tail to balance, long feet, etc. After reading the book, use a toy kangaroo to play a game of question and answer. Begin with the question “How do I know you’re a kangaroo?” Ask students to take turns pointing out the characteristics of a kangaroo on the toy animal.
Math: Kangaroos are known to jump between five and thirty feet. Use a measuring tape to measure several strips of yarn. Tie a knot every five feet. Allow students to work in pairs and move about the classroom and around the campus measuring how far a kangaroo could jump. Tape the yarn on the wall and have students label the distance with kangaroo artwork.
Social Studies: Many kangaroos live in the desert middle region of Australia known as the Australian outback, or bush. Watch a short streaming video clip so that students can have an idea what the outback looks like. Ask students to identify characteristics of Australia’s outback.
Science: Kangaroos have to survive in very warm conditions in the outback. Use a large thermometer to demonstrate to students how temperature works. Average daytime temperatures at Ayers Rock in the center of Australia can reach as high as 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Demonstrate how the mercury moves up as the temperature rises and goes down as the temperature falls. Use a weather website like weatherbug.com to track the temperature for a handful of Australian locations. Compare the temperatures in Australia with local temperatures and note the differences.
Art: Draw images to describe the weather and terrain of Australia. Use smaller pictures of sun, wind, clouds, etc., in tracking the weather in Australia. Use other student artwork to continue building a wall unit of Australia.
On the final day students will track time zones, draw conclusions about why the majority of the country’s population lives on the coast, and express their feelings about what they learned.
Circle Time: Choose a fiction picture book about Australia, such as Marsupial Sue by John Lithgow. Before reading, tell students they will be listening for the problems in the story. What goes wrong with Marsupial Sue? When you finish reading, students will take turns recalling the conflicts in the story. As each conflict is identified, as students why it happened in the first place. Finally, ask if the problem was resolved. Then focus on the character of Marsupial Sue. How would they describe her? If students could be like an animal, which animal would they be? Why?
Social Studies: Use a map of Australia to point to the number of cities located along the coast. Ask students why a majority of people would live along the coast instead of within the continent. List their various reasons on the board: better weather, access to the beach, better soil for planting, less extreme climate. Ask students to think about where they live. Why did people choose to settle and place their homes and town in that location?
Math and Science: What time is it in Australia? Explain the concept of a time zone to students. Point out the different time zones in the United States. Use images of the sun as it moves throughout the day to demonstrate the time change. Check your own time zone and how it compares to different cities in Australia. How many hours ahead is Australia? Show the students that when it is x time in the United States, it is x time in Australia. Let them play with clock manipulatives to count the numbers out for themselves.
Art: Provide students with paper and watercolors. Ask them to paint their favorite lesson about Australia. Give the artwork an opportunity to dry and ask volunteers to explain their picture and why they enjoyed what they learned so much.
Learning about Australia--or any country--should always be fun, and taught in a way to instill character-building traits like tolerance of differences and appreciation for new cultures. There are so many more activities and resources available for teaching students how to understand Australia. For more ideas or for additional information try reading the following books with your class.
- Look What Came from Australia by Kevin Davis
- Kangaroos by Steve Parish
- Marsupial Sue by John Lithgow
- Australia ABCs: A Book About the People and Places of Australia by Sarah Heiman
- This is Australia by Miroslav Sasek
- D is for Down Under: An Australia Alphabet by Devin Scillian and Geoff Cook
Davis, Kevin. Look What Came from Australia. Franklin Watts, London: 2000.
Marshall, Diana. Aboriginal Australians. Weigl Publishers, New York: 2004.
Fox, Mem. Koala Lou. Sandpiper, London: 1994.
Parish, Steve. Kangaroos. Gareth Stevens Publishing, New York: 2000.
Lithgow, John. Marsupial Sue. Simon & Schuster, New York: 2001.
Images are all royal-free images from Wikimedia.org.