Transformation: YEAR 2 - Science - Explain

Little J finds a Hawk Moth caterpillar on the Tar vine in the backyard that he names ‘Sausage’. He wants to take it to school but the caterpillar has other ideas and disappears underground. Nanna teaches Little J the story about the Yeperenye caterpillar of the Arrernte people from central Australia. Sausage finally returns to give Little J a further lesson on life cycles. Sissy wants to perform a dance for the school with Big Cuz, but Big Cuz feels ‘shame’.

Explain - Represent and communicate observations and ideas in a variety of ways


After viewing Little J & Big Cuz, Episode 10 ‘Transformation’, ask students to identify parts of the story focused on place, bush tucker and the seasons.

Show students the painting titled ‘Banumbirr Manikay, by Jack Wunuwun (Holmes a Court Gallery) and/or Bartji (Jungle Yams)’, (c. 1985), (National Museum of Australia collection)

Explain to students that the artist was born in Arnhem Land, about 1930, and is a Gangarl (Gang-ngal) man of the Murrungun people of the Dhuwa moiety. The Murrungun are custodians for the Banumbirr ceremony, a song cycle concerned with life, death, and regeneration, as well as being important in rituals of diplomacy and exchange.

“The Yolngu experience their world as being divided into two moieties, dhuwa and yirritja, everything being classified as belonging to one or the other. Places, seasons, winds, flora and fauna exist in complementary relationships and people are bound by laws which determine the complex web of their social and ceremonial interactions, including who they can marry.” (Holmes a Court Gallery)

‘Bartji (Jungle Yams)’, (c. 1985): Old Masters: Australia’s Great Bark Artists – Jack WUNUWUN

“The Djan’kawu arrived with the dawn and are linked to Banumbirr the Morning Star, which is symbolised by the yam plant. In Bartji (Jungle Yams), Jack Wunuwun, a master of the visual pun, has drawn the tubers of the plant in profile to suggest the human body with arms outstretched, as if performing in ceremony. He has transformed his subject from one realm to another, from the natural world to the ancestral. The vines of the yam plant symbolise the feathered string that ancestral beings attach to Banumbirr the Morning Star on its daily pre-dawn journey heralding a new day.”

(‘Djan’kawu’, National Museum Australia)

Have students examine the painting by Jack Wunuwun titled, Barnumbirr the Morning Star, National Gallery of Australia. Use the I See, I Think, I Wonder visible thinking strategy, for students to observe the symbols in the painting and what each means. Have students observe the objects and symbols that together tell the story, e.g. butterflies, dragonflies, cooked yams, twisting vines, growing yams.

Ask students what might happen when the rains come, and the butterflies start to appear. (This tells Aboriginal peoples it is time to look for yams growing under the earth in the moist soil.) The painting also represents the life cycle of the butterflies as each stage relays information to the Aboriginal peoples for when it is time to harvest yams.

Create a WebQuest of Aboriginal paintings and/or Torres Strait Islander paintings that represent the suggested themes: ‘harvest’, ‘butterflies/moths’, ‘seasons’. Invite students to access between two and five websites, view the artworks, answer the pre-set questions and develop one question of their own that they would like to investigate further, e.g.

  1. On the web page, ‘Old Masters: Australia’s Great Bark Artists
    1. Find the image of the painting, “Yam”:
    2. Who painted it?
    3. When was it painted?
    4. Which clan does the painter belong to?
    5. On the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language map, find the location of the painter’s language group:
  2. On the web page, ‘Aboriginal Art Stories, Japingka Aboriginal Art
  1. Find an image of the painting, “Yarla Bush Yam,” by Doris Gingingara:
  2. When was it painted?
  3. How many yams are found on the plant?
  4. What does the use of the colour blue represent?
  5. Find the location of the painter’s language group on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language map.:

Access the ABC audio program, Indigenous food through the seasons: yams, ABC Gold Coast, which is about an Aboriginal family that finds and cooks bush food, particular yams. Devise a set of questions that students can respond to about the story.

Organise a visit to the local Botanical gardens and invite a horticulturalist to inform students about bush food found in their local area. Have students draw the different plants, as per a botanical illustration, labelling the different parts of the plant or use the shapes of leaves and fruit to tell a story about their trip to the gardens and what they learned.

Suggested teacher references:

Have students enter their data and research about bush tucker and how Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples harvested them and could identify the change of season from their growth, to their science journal.

A science journal is a record of a students’ observations, experiences and reflections. Each entry is dated and annotated by the student. Annotations may include written labels, drawings, diagrams, charts, small specimens, photographs, and graphs. Student engagement and learning is evident in the science journal.”

Sourced from: Primary Connections, Linking science with literacy