In-school Activities

Making use of Burarra Gathering Online at School

These activities only require readily available materials and may be carried out before exploring Questacon's Burarra Gathering: Sharing Indigenous Knowledge Online or as follow-up activities. They should be trialled before using in class and safety aspects should be given due consideration.

Sharing Information

Different cultures pass on information in many different ways. You can learn new skills through reading, experimenting, observing and copying someone or by being told what to do.

  • How do you know how to tie your shoelaces?
  • Who showed you how to tell the time?
  • Apart from your family, who else might you learn things from?

A traditional method of communication for Indigenous Australians is to pass on knowledge and information through story telling and artwork. People learn by observing and imitating friends and family members.

There are hundreds of groups of Indigenous people living in Australia, each with its own knowledge and stories which relate to the land in their region, including the weather, the habitats, the animals, the plants and the waters.

Find out the name of the Indigenous group that lives or lived in your area. What is their language? What is their traditional knowledge about finding food, navigating and making fire?

Do your own painting or drawing that tells a story or information that is important to you.

Seasonal Calendar

Does your environment change with the seasons? For example, what weather signals indicate the best time to plant vegetables?

How do you know when it is about to rain, snow, blow a gale or get really hot? Are there signals that indicate what the weather will be like, such as pink clouds in the evening, certain cloud shapes or odours/smells in the air?

Do you have seasons such as Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter in your region or are there different seasons such as the Wet and Dry seasons? Discuss why there are different climates and how they affect what activities people can do. For example, is it possible to go snow skiing in the Northern Territory of Australia?

Making Fire

Why do you need fire? Discuss whether you could live without a fire while camping for a month.
Can you think of uses for fire? The Burarra people used fire in many different ways. For example, they used it to:

  • cook food
  • burn dry grass so that the grass makes new green shoots which attract animals
  • boil water with plant roots and other materials to dye twine for basket weaving
  • communicate


Design a fish trap using natural materials such as wood, stone, flexible plant material (such as reeds or grass) and cutting tools. Think specifically about where you would use your fishtrap (eg in a creek, river, mud flats etc).

Watching how fish behave might give you ideas for your fishtrap. Set up a fish tank with some places for the fish to hide (eg dark pieces of PVC tube, water plants). Observe the fish for five minutes at the same time each day for one week. Record where you see the fish in the tank during this time. Do they tend to hide or do they mainly stay out in the open? Do you think different breeds of fish behave differently?

After one week, place a new object in the tank. How do the fish behave now? Based on what you have recorded, can you think of anything else you should include in the design of your fishtrap? Research what sort of traps Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people used. Do any of these look like your trap?


Working in pairs, each student should draw a map showing the path they travel from school to home. You can draw streets, but do not use street names. Show as many features as you can, such as parks, trees or creeks. Can your partner follow your map? Discuss how Indigenous people living traditionally on their land might find their way around.

Find out how to use the stars to work out which direction is south. Show someone else how to do this.


Place a plastic sheet on the ground and cover it with fine-grained sand about 2 cm deep. Place another plastic sheet on the ground and cover it with damp garden soil or potting mix about 2 cm deep. Observe both sets of sand and soil each day for a period of 2 weeks. Can you see any tracks - can you identify the tracks? Do they belong to mice, insects, dogs, cats or humans? Which sample preserves tracks best – the sand or the soil? If there are overlapping tracks, which animal walked over the area first? What other traces might animals leave?