Territories: FOUNDATION - HASS - Explore

A possum disturbs Old Dog, and a ‘cranky’ magpie swoops at anyone who steps into the backyard. Little J and Big Cuz share a room and when Little J steps on Big Cuz’s art project, a disagreement over territory ensues. The result is a clear dividing line to mark their individual territory. But they discover they have to compromise on a shared space, and cooperate in order to move in and out of the room, and to get past the swooping magpie in the backyard. Their joint, inventive solution wins high praise from the class at ‘show & tell’.

Explore - Sort and record information and data, including location, in tables and on plans and labelled maps

Theme - MAPS

After viewing Little J & Big Cuz, Episode 12 ‘Territories’, engage students with the following activities to support their understanding about place, maps and boundaries.

Ask students to recall the animals featured in this episode. Discuss the students’ prior experiences of magpies, and any knowledge they have about why magpies defend their nests in spring.

Provide a selection of stories about a magpie to read as a class or individually, such as

Access Google maps to explore the neighbourhood where the students live and where the school is located. Have students identify areas where magpies might nest and mark these locations on a map. Select ‘Satellite view’ to see clumps of trees and open spaces as well as roads and other features. Print a map of the neighbourhood that students can annotate.

As a class, discuss which trees and/or parks are known or suspected to be magpie sites for nesting in spring. Use ‘pins’ (coloured markers) to indicate where swooping may occur. Examine other features on the map, such as roads, shops, church and other landmarks. Have students provide information about the neighbourhood that may not be marked on the map, such as tracks and play areas, shortcuts from one street to another. Using the map, have students draw a circle to indicate where the magpie might defend its nest. This would indicate what the magpie feels is its territory. Compare what students have indicated and see who has indicated the biggest and smallest areas of defence.

Have students suggest ways people mark their ‘territory’, such as using a fence around a house, or streets to indicate a suburb, or identifying land features, such as rivers/creeks, mountains, and forests to indicate the division of lands, etc. Introduce students to how Aboriginal peoples and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples use different ‘physical land features’, language, and heritage to know where their country is and what is not their Country. Explain that when European settlers arrived they mapped the lands of Australia unaware/insensitive to traditional cultural or language boundaries, trading routes, hunting and gathering grounds, and sacred places. (There was no way for European explorers to determine that the land was owned – no fences or visible boundaries). This meant that one of the three requirements under international law enabled the British to claim Australia as Terra Nullius (Land that belongs to no-one'.)

The artworks and songlines of Aboriginal peoples and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples were their maps. And this knowledge was passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years.

Listen to, view or read Aboriginal Dreaming stories and/or Torres Strait Islander Bipo Bipo Tiam ( Before Before Time) stories about how the land was formed, and the importance of animals that protect the land, such as:

Activity: Build your own land

Students create miniature landscapes using soil, sand, gravel and tiny plants. Recommended as an outdoors activity.

  • Working in pairs or small groups, provide the groups with a plastic ice cream tub (with drainage holes poked in the bottom).
  • Fill the tubs with soil. (If the soil is fine-textured or dusty, mix it with some potting mix, so that plants may grow).
  • Water the soil in the tubs and drain the excess water so that it isn’t muddy.
  • Ask students to find rocks, gravel, tiny twigs, leaves, shells, gumnuts, feathers and other natural materials. (Suggestion: don’t encourage students to use plastic or brightly coloured items as these things may overwhelm the subtle natural materials from our local environment.)
  • Ask parents/guardians to provide small inexpensive plants such as succulents for a dry landscape, or herbs such as parsley or coriander for a moist landscape. Have students plant these using old teaspoons as tiny garden trowels.
  • Invite students to name their land. Arrange the lands into a map of the local environment or an imaginary nation.
  • Have students explain how their land was formed, and what is special about their land to others in the class.

If available, students can sprinkle pinches of some quick-growing seeds such as grasses, watercress, and coriander. Radish seeds are some of the quickest to come up but they are very tiny for small hands to handle – try also the big seeds of the squash and bean families, such as zucchini, pumpkins, melons or all sorts of beans and peas, even though they will soon get too big for their miniature world! (Students could transplant them to a vegetable garden when this happens.)

Keep the miniature worlds somewhere where they will thrive without drying out completely, and water them as needed to keep them moist but not wet. Miniature worlds with succulents will need less water (Suggestion: succulents don’t combine very well with leafy green plants because they don’t like the extra water the leafy plants need).