Lessons on the wing

The Aussie Backyard Bird Count, one of Australia's biggest citizen science events, is on again this year as part of National Bird Week from Monday 23 October to Sunday 29 October.

The Bird Count aims to engage school communities in the natural world while getting to know the birds in the schoolyard by taking part in a simple, fun, all-ages activity. The fourth annual tally last year counted more than 1.4 million feathered friends, up from around 850,000 in 2014, and identified 576 different species. The resources are intended for Year 5 and 6 teachers working towards Stage 3 outcomes in the curriculum, but can be adapted for younger students. The resource comprises two lessons. They are an inquiry-based resource that encourages students to engage in the scientific process through monitoring birds.

The teaching and learning is based on the students’ role as citizen scientists investigating the bird community and habitat of their school. They collect, analyse and interpret their data. In addition to the lesson plans, the organisers also have the following materials available:

  • A4 Backyard Birds posters
  • Stickers
  • Bookmarks
  • A3 posters
  • Colouring page.

Registration can be made here and an email will be sent with links to download the lesson plans and a form to request the additional resources and materials.

Festival of the book

The children's book of the year awards were announced during Book Week, held at the end of August.

Among the winners was Kevin Rudd's nephew, Van Rudd, who won the Crichton Award, which recognises new talent in the field of book illustration, for his work on The Patchwork Bike written by Maxine Beneba Clarke.

Other award winners included Claire Zorn for Book of the Year for Older Readers One Would Think the Deep, which traces the emotional journey of a young man’s forced sea change with his aunty’s family after his mother dies.

Trace Balla won Book of the Year for Younger Readers with Rockhopping; Johanna Bell won the Early Childhood award with Go Home, Cheeky Animals!; Bob Graham for Picture Book with Home in the Rain, and Gina Newton won the Information Books awards for Amazing Animals of Australia's National Parks.

The Children's Book Council of Australia established the book awards in 1946 to promote children's books of high literary and artistic quality. Past winners include Colin Thiele’s Storm Boy (1964), Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park (1980), Robin Klein’s Came Back to Show You I Could Fly (1990) and Melina Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi (1993).

Cast your vote

The Australian Electoral Commission provides free educational resources and programs for teachers and students as part of the Australian Curriculum in Civics and Citizenship.
The AEC's professional learning suite allows teachers to work online or attend workshops to help students understand the decision-making process of an election, as well as a “how to” for running a school election.
The course covers Civics and Citizenship content from the Humanities and Social Sciences curriculum and aligns with the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.
Its website has a range resource material to download including fact sheets and activity sheets.
The site outlines the five steps for running a school election:

  • Getting started – planning and nomination

  • Getting organised – pre-election preparation
Get informed – voter education and campaigns

  • Get voting – Election day

  • Get results – Counting and announcement of results.

Teachers can order a free election equipment pack and there is template that can be filled out to create a ballot paper for the school election.

Stars of the Dreamtime

Physics student and Wiradjuri descendant Kirsten Banks uses ancient Indigenous constellations from the Dreamtime to teach people about Aboriginal cosmology.

She also works as a tour guide at the Sydney Observatory and will be presenting “Talking Space: Cosmology of Indigenous Australia” on Wednesday 11 October, 6–8pm.

Ms Banks, who is studying a Bachelor of Science with a major in Physics at the University of Nsw, said Aboriginal astronomy is about how constellations are intrinsically connected with the Australian landscape.

"A very important concept in Aboriginal astronomy or culture is that what is in the sky is also on the land," she recently told the ABC. "It's all such a complex culture, it's amazing."

Apart from the talk, one of the Observatory’s school learning programs is Dreamtime Astronomy.

Students will be able to make, use and keep an Indigenous star wheel (planisphere) to experience the oneness of earth and sky, and discover the emu in the sky, which Ms Banks says: "Once you see it you can't un-see it."

The Observatory, one of the three venues of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences that includes the Powerhouse, also offers learning programs for teachers and school groups that are searchable by learning stage and curriculum.