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Issue No.7 - Right Out of Thin Air

If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door.
Milton Berle



The Flute
Reading into a series of photos

Floating in Space
The experience of space:
writing the music of the spheres

Sounds Brought to Us
Exploring sound files on the web

Found Things
The romance of found objects

Into and Part of Nature
Creative Strategies for ELS – World Futures:
Investigating the Natural and Constructed World

Oscar’s Sketchbook
An Aboriginal child’s sketchbook

Reveling in the inconsistencies of the English language

Detecting the FBI
Looking at FBI files on the web

Exploring an ‘adult’ perspective

Something for Nothing
File sharing – and those fat men from ‘Metallica’

Welcome to Issue #7 of The Creative Teaching Space.

This edition – Right Out of Thin Air – continues our focus on a range of creative strategies and ideas that open new territories for us in the classroom, training rooms and beyond.

In this issue I continue a focus on the Essential Learnings curriculum in Tasmania – Investigating the Natural and Constructed Worldwhich has relevance for all teachers interested in developing student sensitivity and capacity to analyse the natural and man-made world.

Furthermore the many other strategies throughout the magazine suggest possibilities for where we can go with curriculum. I am always fascinated by the many ideas we can explore through the web. A journey into the exploring of sound files has led to an interest in alternative histories – see The Acoustic World of Early Modern England, down the page – and I am now reading a text on the history of smell. This of course moves across disciplines such as science, history, medicine, the media, etc. There are many ways of relating to the world, and its history, and it is a delight to find new interests – as it is a delight to encourage students on their path of discovery.

Enjoy what’s here and feel free to get back to me with any strategies that may be working for you in the classroom, the training room or any other educational environments. Experiment and be open to possibilities.

It is an amazing world out there and our interest in it is a great way of combating the negative and fearing forces so cynically perpetuated nowadays. Revel in other cultures, the past and possibility. There are many doors that can open – externally and/or internally.

The Flute

Boy playing flute, Peru, 1954, Werner Bischof.

This Peruvian boy is walking past fields, across mountains, to a destination. Firm stride, concentrated, he hears the sound of his flute. This is the pied piper summoning a photographer, inviting us into his dream, his space. We are carried along. We contemplate the reason for his journey, what he is carrying, and from where he has come. What is the reality of this moment? Labour or play? Dreaming? The boy surrounds himself with an aura of sound, a world within his world, surrounding himself as he walks. His sounds echo through the valleys, peasants raise their eyes and smile. Again this is only one small part of many journeys: Now a sixty-year-old man dreams of his boyhood flute. Perhaps he no longer lives. His sister, newly introduced to a computer, recognizes a photo of a lost brother. She dreams of her brother. She hears the sounds of the flute echoing through a much-changed valley. The photographer has returned – but reality tells us a different story. Days after having taken this photograph Werner Bischof, a deeply compassionate photographer, was tragically killed in a jeep accident.

Floating in Space

Edward White Spacewalking Above the Texas Coastline,
photographed by James McDivitt, Gemini 4, 1965

Edward White is spacewalking, tethered to the mothership, floating in a soundless sea of poison. The earth shines blue. The ‘umbilical cord’ that attaches him to the ship curves and strangely adopts an embryonic shape. Here man is at the limits of technology, surrounded by risk, absorbed in the highly drilled and technical requirements of space travel. Yet, photography allows its own space – a space for reflection – a moment to pause and wonder at the beauty, and death: the arms of motherhood returning at the most unlikely of moments.

Details of this space walk from the NASA website:

Ed, a photography buff, then turned his attention to capturing the spectacular views he was witnessing on film. "I'm going to work on getting some pictures….. I can sit out here and see the whole California coast," he remarked. While White snapped away with his 35mm camera, Jim McDivitt took some photos of Ed as he came into full view of the window. As he maneuvered away, Ed accidentally bumped into the spacecraft, leaving a mark on McDivitt's window. The world delighted in hearing the banter between two friends as Jim stated, "You smeared up my windshield, you dirty dog. You see how it's all smeared up there?"

White's suit held up well and the special helmet visor provided the necessary protection from the sun. White noted that, "The sun in space is not blinding but it's quite nice." The entire space walk was progressing extremely well. It was clear that White was enjoying himself thoroughly as he exuberantly radioed, "I'm very thankful in having the experience to be first... This is fun!"

Ed's final view during his space walk was of the state of Florida. "I could see all the lower part of the state, the island chain of Cuba and Puerto Rico." All too soon, the flight director ordered White back inside Gemini 4 and America's first walk in space came to a close. No one was sorrier to see it end than Ed White. "It's the saddest moment of my life," he commented as he slowly maneuvered his way back. Without the benefit of the self-propulsion unit, Ed needed extra time to return to the hatch. Some contended that the delay was an indication that he had suffered from a kind of narcosis of the deep or euphoria. However, Ed insisted that this was not the case. "I can say in all sincerity and honesty that I enjoyed the EVA very much, and I was sorry to see it draw to a close, and I was indeed reluctant to come in. But when the word came that the EVA phase was over, I knew it was time to come in and I did. There was no euphoria, but getting back into the cabin took just as much time as getting out; I had to do the same things, only in reverse order, handing my gear in to Jim, and so on." White had achieved his goal of becoming the first man to propel himself in space. In addition, his space walk had lasted twice as long as Leonov’s ten-minute excursion. Ed had felt many things during those twenty minutes, but "the biggest thing was a feeling of accomplishment".

Lieutenant Colonel White died on January 26, 1967, in the Apollo spacecraft flash fire during a launch pad test at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

What would it be like to space walk? How has the experience of space travel affected astronauts and cosmonauts? Encourage students to imagine such experiences.

Read astronauts' impressions of space:

My first view – a panorama of brilliant deep blue ocean, shot with shades of green and gray and white – was of atolls and clouds. Close to the window I could see that this pacific scene in motion was rimmed by the great curved limb of the Earth. It had a thin halo of blue held close, and beyond, black space. I held my breath, but something was missing – I felt strangely unfulfilled. Here was a tremendous visual spectacle, but viewed in silence. There was no grand musical accompaniment; no triumphant, inspired sonata or symphony. Each one of us must write the music of this sphere for ourselves.    Charles Walker, USA.

If we die, we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.    – Astronaut Virgil I. Grissom (On January 27, 1967, astronauts Grissom, White, and Chaffee died from a flash fire aboard Apollo 204 Spacecraft.)

Sounds Brought to Us

The web presents us with increasingly sophisticated opportunities of exploring sound. We can communicate with others in real time, record our voice, download music, and sounds, as well as listen to streamed archives of radio shows and live music performances.

But first you may like to investigate the nature of sound. There are many sites on the web dedicated to sound and the human ear. Let your students explore a diagram of the human ear. Can they physically represent how it works via a group movement piece?

We have some understanding of how the present sounds. List the many sounds we hear in everyday experience. How, nevertheless, did the past sound?

London Soundscape, The Acoustic World of Early Modern England (Author: Bruce R Smith Publisher: University of Chicago Press)   Review of text

Smith's text explores how England may have sounded in the past. Exhaustive research has revealed the types of daily sounds experienced. This included the sounds of blacksmiths, church bells, street vendors, musicians, horses, rushing underground rivers and the general sounds of a less private household world e.g. the fact of many people living together or the sounds of servants, maids, etc.

Choose a historical context and write it from a sound perspective!

In the review of the text Mark Smith: Listening to Nineteenth-Century America, further reference is made to how people may have experienced sound in the past: the over-powering sound of cities to a rural person, the silence of the country to a person from the city, the sounds associated with slaves as well as the threat and fear of slave silence.


In the review of Victorian Soundscapes JOHN M. PICKER, Harvard University reference is made to how people from the Victorian period may have experienced sound: imagine the impact of new machinery, telephones and recording equipment. How would people have felt?

Do you know that a possible recording of Queen Victoria lies in the vaults of the Science Museum in London? Read about the recording.

Explore archived recordings of sound artists. EarClips at the ABC website is a collection of new work for radio commissioned by the show called The Listening Room. It includes 19 three-minute sound clips.

The EarClips have been made by emerging and established sound artists and composers around the country, all drawn to the challenge of creating a three minute work – the length of a music track – expressing something of their personal lives and experiences in this form. In choosing the theme "my world, this time", we have sought a sense of what is in the air at this point of time in the year 2002 – what matters to these creative makers, what they are yearning to express whether it be global or national issues impacting here in Australia, or aspects of personal cultural identity. They range from responses to the recent dramas of bushfires and asylum seekers, to beach culture, drover's dogs, unemployment and steel city blues.


Kim’s song is delightful. Explore the Earclips.

Explore early Edison recordings online. Hear recordings of the human voice dating back to the 1880s.

Hear old cylinder recordings predating the first records. How have recording and playing devices changed over the years? Discuss.

Visit the extraordinary Library of Congress site that includes The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip. This archive was incredibly influential in bringing early styles of music to a wider public and in influencing the burgeoning folk music scene of the 1950s and 1960s. If it wasn’t for many of these recordings, and their transcription and re-recording by influential musicians, the state of 20th century American music would have been much poorer.


Covering a three-month period in 1939, the John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip documents a wide variety of musical styles from eight different states. This collection consists of approximately 25 hours of audio recordings on 267 acetate recording discs and 1 linear foot of print materials. The online presentation provides access to 686 audio titles, 381 graphic images from the Lomax Visual Image Collection in the Prints and Photographs Division, and page images as well as transcribed, searchable text for all the print material in the collection. This includes the 1939 Annual Report for the Archive of American Folk Song, a 4-page trip report, 307 pages of fieldnotes, 57 items of correspondence, 37 song text transcriptions, and the 104 extant dust jackets from the recording discs with handwritten notes.

What would it have been like to make this journey? Explore the text: The Land Where the Blues Began: Alan Lomax. I’m sure that one day this will be made into an extraordinary film.

For a sample recording listen to Colon Keel, an inmate at the Florida State Prison. Check out the Max Hunter Folk Song Collection. It includes many live recordings of songs and lyrics.

The Max Hunter Collection is an archive of almost 1600 Ozark Mountain folk songs, recorded between 1956 and 1976. A traveling salesman from Springfield, Missouri, Hunter took his reel-to-reel tape recorder into the hills and backwoods of the Ozarks, preserving the heritage of the region by recording the songs and stories of many generations of Ozark history. As important as the songs themselves are the voices of the Missouri and Arkansas folks who shared their talents and recollections with Hunter.

Listen to the singing of the song called This Old House. Recorded and trivialized in the 1980s by Shakin’ Stevens do we realize that the song is actually a metaphor that alludes to the breakdown of a body? Isn’t it interesting how meanings get watered down? Now songs such as this pop up in lifestyle television shows and adverts.

This Old House


This ole house knew my children
This ole house knew my wife
This ole house was comfort
Through th storms of th night

This ole house ar' full of laughter
This ole house shouts
Now she tremble in th darkness
When th lightnin' walks about

Ain't gonna need this house no longer
Ain't gonna need this house no more
Ain't got time to fix th shingles
Ain't got time to fix th floor
Ain't got time to oil th hinges
Or to fix th window pane
Ain't gonna need this house no longer
I'm gettin' ready t' meet th saints

This ole house is gettin' shaky
This ole house is gettin' ole
This ole house lets in th rain
This ole house lets in th cold
I know I'm getting shaky
But I feel no fear or pain
For I see an angel peekin'
Through th broken window pane

This ole house is gettin' feeble
It's needin' paint
Just like me, its ole an' beleague
I'm gettin' ready to meet th saints
My ole hound dog lies a sleepin'
He don't know I'm goin to leave
If he did, he's wake up an' howl an' grieve
But my huntin' days 'er over
An' I'm goin' t' hunt no more
I'm gettin' ready to meet th saints over on th other shore


Now let’s look at the Science perspective. Consider how the use of sound has influenced medicine.

Consider how sound is used to stress people – e.g playing loud continuous music to prisoners or used as a propaganda tool: Tokyo Rose. (Or They Call her Tokyo Rose.)

How does sound affect our lives – positively and negatively?

‘In space no one can hear you scream’ – a great catch line from the promotion of the film Alien. Listen to the Sounds of space. After all, radio telescopes scan the depths of space for unusual sounds and it is expected that the first constructed sound may in fact be our first contact with another species.

Many natural sounds can be explored via the web. These give an insight into environments and animals.

Listen to the sounds of whales from the Acoustical Society of America. Consider this truth: there were once so many whales near Hobart that early settlers had to keep close to the shore when crossing the river Derwent. It was also reported that in the early days of settlement, people in Hobart found it difficult to sleep at night because of the sounds of whales. What animal sounds do we encounter through our lives? How important is sound as a sense in the animal world? How has man utilized his hearing when hunting?

The Acoustical Society of America also includes a rather fascinating sound of the large meteor that exploded on April 23rd, 2001 over the Pacific between California and Hawaii. It is interesting to consider that meteors and volcanic explosions may have been the largest sounds ever heard by humans. Here are some suggestions on the loudest and softest sounds. Students may like to guess first.


Listen to the sounds of Australian birds and Australian mammals. The Tasmanian devil makes quite an astonishing sound – a large reason why it got its name. When I first settled in Hobart I heard two fighting outside my window. A rude awakening I can tell you.

Read about the tragic events that are now affecting the beautiful and most misunderstood Tasmanian Devil – a retro virus that threatens to wipe out the species and perhaps jump to other species. Great concern surrounds this. Is it caused by man's environmental mismanagement? If so – when will some people learn?

For the interested, one can also explore many images of Tasmania wildlife.

What does Antarctica sound like? Investigate the Sounds of Antarctica. You may also like to discover the types of slang adopted in Antarctica. In any culture, even a man-made culture such as an Antarctic base, or a submarine, people develop a specific slang culture.

Snotsicle - An icicle of frozen mucous hanging from the nose of the owner, once they start to form, they cause the nose to start running so speeding up the growth. Aus.

Hollywood Shower - A naval term, derisively used to describe showers of longer than the allotted two minutes (fresh water in a liquid form is relatively rare in Antarctica) Am.

View Webcams and tours of Antarctic bases.


Hear the sounds of the INSPIRE VLF radio receiver at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Many live radio sites are available on the net. While we can listen to archived radio shows online we can also listen to live radio scans of police:  Police Scanner Audio Feeds  Jacob Richman's Hot Sites  SI Police Scanner
, air traffic control towers and Amateur ham radio operators.

Scrutinize the type of language being used. Listen to the accents, the jargon and the general feel of how people communicate in these contexts. What does it tell us about how people communicate?

Listen to the tapes of Presidents talking at the Whitehouse. How do people communicate in this environment? Is it right to have recorded these conversations?

Listen to the future Prime Minister of Australia on a Jack Davey radio quiz show from the early 1950s.

You can hear famous speeches online including the fantastic radio play The War of the Worlds at the impressive Mercury Playhouse site where you can listen to many plays that Welles broadcast.

The War of the Worlds radio broadcast caused deep panic in the United States as many people perceived it to be a real news report of aliens landing. Read about the phenomenon, and listen to the original broadcast.

Poetry can come alive in the hands of a good reader. Listen to poets reading their works at further poems.

Found Things

The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Discuss and explore the types of things that wash up on beaches: old shoes, driftwood, marine animals, ambergris, shipwrecks, etc. Create stories based on what can be found on beaches. What stories do these found objects tell us? What other found objects do we encounter in our lives? What things have your students found? I can recall a fascinating Australian short story in which a man was repeatedly fascinated by strips of metal that he kept finding in gutters. Eventually he realized that these were left behind by street-sweepers.

Explore the romance of ambergris and its connection to perfumery.


Thereupon sat a lady bright of blee, with brow beaming brilliancy, the dream of philosophy, whose eyes were fraught with Babel's gramarye and her eye brows were arched as for archery; her breath breathed ambergris and perfumery and her lips were sugar to taste and carnelian to see.

The Project Gutenberg EBook of 1001 Nights [Arabian Nights], V1, by Richard Burton.


As for me, I looked into the bed of the stream aforesaid and saw therein great plenty of rubies, and great royal pearls and all kinds of jewels and precious stones, which were as gravel in the bed of the rivulets that ran through the fields, and the sands sparkled and glittered with gems and precious ores. Moreover, we found in the island abundance of the finest lign aloes, both Chinese and Comorin. And there also is a spring of crude ambergris, which floweth like wax or gum over the stream banks, for the great heat of the sun, and runneth down to the seashore, where the monsters of the deep come up and, swallowing it, return into the sea. But it burneth in their bellies, so they cast it up again and it congealeth on the surface of the water, whereby its color and quantities are changed, and at last the waves cast it ashore, and the travelers and merchants who know it collect it and sell it. But as to the raw ambergris which is not swallowed, it floweth over the channel and congealeth on the banks, and when the sun shineth on it, it melteth and scenteth the whole valley with a musk-like fragrance. Then when the sun ceaseth from it, it congealeth again. But none can get to this place where is the crude ambergris, because of the mountains which enclose the island on all sides and which foot of man cannot ascend

Moby Dick by Herman Melville Chapter 92. Ambergris

Now this ambergris is a very curious substance, and so important as an article of commerce, that in 1791 a certain Nantucket-born Captain Coffin was examined at the bar of the English House of Commons on that subject. For at that time, and indeed until a comparatively late day, the precise origin of ambergris remained, like amber itself, a problem to the learned. Though the word ambergris is but the French compound for grey amber, yet the two substances are quite distinct. For amber, though at times found on the sea-coast, is also dug up in some far inland soils, whereas ambergris is never found except upon the sea. Besides, amber is a hard, transparent, brittle, odorless substance, used for mouth-pieces to pipes, for beads and ornaments; but ambergris is soft, waxy, and so highly fragrant and spicy, that it is largely used in perfumery, in pastiles, precious candles, hair-powders, and pomatum. The Turks use it in cooking, and also carry it to Mecca, for the same purpose that frankincense is carried to St. Peter's in Rome. Some wine merchants drop a few grains into claret, to flavor it.

Who would think, then, that such fine ladies and gentlemen should regale themselves with an essence found in the inglorious bowels of a sick whale! Yet so it is. By some, ambergris is supposed to be the cause, and by others the effect, of the dyspepsia in the whale. How to cure such a dyspepsia it were hard to say, unless by administering three or four boat loads of Brandreth's pills, and then running out of harm's way, as laborers do in blasting rocks.

I have forgotten to say that there were found in this ambergris, certain hard, round, bony plates, which at first Stubb thought might be sailors' trowsers buttons; but it afterwards turned out that they were nothing, more than pieces of small squid bones embalmed in that manner.

Now that the incorruption of this most fragrant ambergris should be found in the heart of such decay; is this nothing? Bethink thee of that saying of St. Paul in Corinthians, about corruption and incorruption; how that we are sown in dishonor, but raised in glory. And likewise call to mind that saying of Paracelsus about what it is that maketh the best musk. Also forget not the strange fact that of all things of ill-savor, Cologne-water, in its rudimental manufacturing stages, is the worst.

I should like to conclude the chapter with the above appeal, but cannot, owing to my anxiety to repel a charge often made against whalemen, and which, in the estimation of some already biased minds, might be considered as indirectly substantiated by what has been said of the Frenchman's two whales. Elsewhere in this volume the slanderous aspersion has been disproved, that the vocation of whaling is throughout a slatternly, untidy business. But there is another thing to rebut. They hint that all whales always smell bad. Now how did this odious stigma originate?

I opine, that it is plainly traceable to the first arrival of the Greenland whaling ships in London, more than two centuries ago. Because those whalemen did not then, and do not now, try out their oil at sea as the Southern ships have always done; but cutting up the fresh blubber in small bits, thrust it through the bung holes of large casks, and carry it home in that manner; the shortness of the season in those Icy Seas, and the sudden and violent storms to which they are exposed, forbidding any other course. The consequence is, that upon breaking into the hold, and unloading one of these whale cemeteries, in the Greenland dock, a savor is given forth somewhat similar to that arising from excavating an old city graveyard, for the foundations of a Lying-in Hospital.

I partly surmise also, that this wicked charge against whalers may be likewise imputed to the existence on the coast of Greenland, in former times, of a Dutch village called Schmerenburgh or Smeerenberg, which latter name is the one used by the learned Fogo Von Slack, in his great work on Smells, a text-book on that subject. As its name imports (smeer, fat; berg, to put up), this village was founded in order to afford a place for the blubber of the Dutch whale fleet to be tried out, without being taken home to Holland for that purpose. It was a collection of furnaces, fat-kettles, and oil sheds; and when the works were in full operation certainly gave forth no very pleasant savor. But all this is quite different with a South Sea Sperm Whaler; which in a voyage of four years perhaps, after completely filling her hold with oil, does not, perhaps, consume fifty days in the business of boding out; and in the state that it is casked, the oil is nearly scentless. The truth is, that living or dead, if but decently treated, whales as a species are by no means creatures of ill odor; nor can whalemen be recognised, as the people of the middle ages affected to detect a Jew in the company, by the nose. Nor indeed can the whale possibly be otherwise than fragrant, when, as a general thing, he enjoys such high health; taking abundance of exercise; always out of doors; though, it is true, seldom in the open air. I say, that the motion of a Sperm Whale's flukes above water dispenses a perfume, as when a musk-scented lady rustles her dress in a warm parlor. What then shall I liken the Sperm Whale to for fragrance, considering his magnitude? Must it not be to that famous elephant, with jeweled tusks, and redolent with myrrh, which was led out of an Indian town to do honor to Alexander the Great?

Poetry referring to ambergris:


Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867)

Nature is a temple where living pillars
Let escape sometimes confused words;
Man traverses it through forests of symbols
That observe him with familiar glances.

Like long echoes that intermingle from afar
In a dark and profound unity,
Vast like the night and like the light,
The perfumes, the colors and the sounds respond.

There are perfumes fresh like the skin of infants
Sweet like oboes, green like prairies,
And others corrupted, rich and triumphant

That have the expanse of infinite things,
Like ambergris, musk, balsam and incense,
Which sing the ecstasies of the mind and senses.

How important is smell in our lives? Discuss pleasant and bad smells. What meanings do we associate with smells? You may like to use a blindfold – a student guessing an object from its smell.

Into and Part of Nature

The following support material is designed to support the teaching, and learning, within the Investigating the natural and constructed world component of the Essential Learnings curriculum in Tasmania. As with previous support material this is also highly relevant to teachers from other areas.

This component fits into the World Futures strand of the Essential Learnings framework which has a key outcome of students being World Contributors: willing to consider the consequences of scientific and technological innovations, make thoughtful decisions about their application, and act to maintain, protect and enhance local and global environments.

It is important to remember that the World Futures strand is one of five. The others being Thinking, Communicating, Personal Futures and Social Responsibility.

In past editions of The Creative Teaching Space we looked at the Being Ethical component of the Personal FuturesEdition # 5 and the Being Arts Literate component of the Communicating strand – Edition # 4.

This month’s component Investigating the natural and constructed world as part of an uncovered strand – World Contributors – picks up from previous Science professional development that I have conducted and the recent writing of articles in the science teaching area. As a result the ideas will be relevant to science teachers as well as teachers who wish to encourage a questioning of the world. After all, it is from sensitivity to the outside world, and an analysis and questioning of it, that one develops an analytical framework. It is also from sensitivity to the outside world, whether it is constructed, or natural, that one develops an understanding that knowledge can be a rather subjective or relative experience.

Here one recognizes that all is not what it is seems. Things can be looked at from different perspectives, peoples’ views differ and the world is not clearly black or white. This is where the challenge begins, the stimulus to explore how one is looking at the world, and newer ways of observation. It is also the point where feeling, intuition, art, creativity and imagination merge and inform so-called rational scientific thinking.

Key Element Outcome

Understands how to scientifically investigate the natural and constructed world, appreciating the tentative nature of knowledge and the value of creative, imaginative and speculative thinking.

Not all knowledge is factual and can be pinned down. Sometimes we have to take educated guesses and use our imagination to open possibilities for understanding.

S T A N D A R D 1
suggests that a student(s):

Understands how to use a variety of direct experiences and play to collect information about the natural and constructed world.

This is a great opportunity to build play and collecting into the curriculum. Don’t think that it should just happen at an early age as this requirement is a skill that can be dipped into again and again as the student gets older. There are many scientists and collectors from many walks of life, and ages, who continue to collect and ask questions as they get older.

Ask students what sorts of things can they collect from the outside world. Let students go on expeditions around the school collecting materials. Bring them back into the classroom. Explore the materials. Discuss unusual features. See if students can link and group items. What sorts of questions do the objects ask?


This is a leaf.
Why is it brown?
The others are green.
Why did it fall off the tree?
Why is it crumbling?
How do leaves get to trees in the first place?

Sort and present the information within the classroom. Most primary teachers are already very good at this!

Ask students to draw or write about the items. Use the act of translating, seeing the object from a different perspective as a means of sensitizing the student and opening questions and discussions.

Draw a tree. Interview it – A student in role. Don’t be afraid if it can’t answer the questions – use this as a means towards discovering answers. What would trees say if they could talk? Write a life in the day of a tree or leaf. Create a collage of objects. Create a poem stating observable facts that the students can recognize:

I am green.
I reach into the ground.
I sway in the wind.

(You can even turn these into riddles where students have to guess the object.)

Explore the following site for information on trees: Exploring the Secret Life of Trees Teachers Guide.

Explore the man-made aspects of the observable world by asking students to make up questions, or record observations of the immediate school or of their home. Combine these into posters or poems.

The walls are hard. There is paint everywhere. Some things are really hard like bricks. When you tap some things, like drainpipes, they make a different sound to bricks. Why?

Ask students to record natural or man-made objects via their senses. Have a sight, sound, smell, touch and perhaps taste group – just remember safety considerations and boundaries that will need to be drawn.

Generally encourage students to collect materials, observe the objects through a role of an observer – note taker – or within the lens of the classroom environment. Sensitize students to the qualities of objects and how we may see objects from different perspectives: I don’t like twigs, they can poke you in the eye, twigs are really light and you can see lots of them on the ground. They crunch when you step on them. You can light a fire with them.

Students may even like to look at the world from different frameworks. Groups can be assigned to observe the classroom or world from: the ground group, those that look up, what can you see at eye level, soft, hard, light, dark, small, big, heavy, etc.

There was a young lady named Bright,
Whose speed was far faster than light.
She left one day
In a relative way,
And returned home the previous night!

Create limericks stating scientific principles!

There are lots of fun games that one can utilize to make students more sensitive to the world around them. Pass an imaginary object around the circle. Explore how it is handled and observed. Change the object during the course of the game: a baby bird, a heavy rock, it is now getting lighter, it is a balloon, it is sticky mud, it smells. Invite students to explore how we react to objects and their qualities. Groups can even express mystery objects through mime. Others have to guess the object.

A good sensitizing and focus game that I use with people with a disability – and is applicable to primary school children – is to ask the students to walk around the room and touch things based on commands: touch something red, black, blue, hard, soft, rough, smooth, quiet, loud, etc.

Just Playing: Anita Wadley


When I'm building in the block room,
Please don't say I'm "just playing."
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
About balance and shapes.
When I'm getting all dressed up,
Setting the table, caring for the babies.
Don't get the idea I'm "just playing."
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
When you see me up to my elbows in paint,
Or standing at an easel, or molding and shaping clay,
Please don't let me hear you say "he's just playing."
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
I'm expressing myself and being creative.
I may be an artist or an inventor someday.
When you see me sitting in a chair
"Reading" to an imaginary audience,
Please don't laugh and think I'm "just playing."
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
I may be a teacher someday.
When you see me combing the bushes for bugs,
Or packing my pockets with choice things I find,
Don't pass it off as "just playing."
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
I may be a scientist someday.
When you see me engrossed in a puzzle,
Or some "plaything" at my school,
Please don't feel the time is wasted in "play"
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
I'm learning to solve problems and concentrate.
I may be in business someday.
When you see me cooking or tasting foods,
Please don't think that because I enjoy it, it is jut "play.
I'm learning to follow directions and see differences.'
I may be a chef someday.
When you see me learning to skip, hop, run and move my body,
Please don't say I'm "just playing."
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
I'm learning how my body works.
I may be a doctor, nurse or athlete someday.
When you ask me what I've done at school today,
And I say, "I played."
Please don't misunderstand me.
For, you see, I'm learning as I play.
I'm learning to enjoy and be successful in work.
I'm preparing for tomorrow.
Today, I'm a child and my work is play.

Experimentation isn’t just a part of science. It is a part of the everyday and experience!

Discuss how we learn things and how experimentation helps us grow. Find the connections between everyday experience and science.

S T A N D A R D 2
asks student(s) to:

Understands how to use a variety of techniques to collect information and resources to answer questions.

Here students can start to group objects. What are the many ways in which we can group things? Encourage students to draw connections between obvious and also quite different items. A leaf, a twig, and bark can be linked. How does a caterpillar or a shadow or light connect? Don’t be afraid to ask students to link rather difficult concepts! This encourages creative thinking, imagination as well as the posing further questions.

Ask students to take on a role of an object. Ask each student to research his or her qualities or characteristics. Interview each student in the role of the object. Play games where they have to link and group with other objects. Why are they together? Group according to other factors such as size, colour, habitat, etc. The Creatively Teaching Science in the Middle Years handbook on this site shows other creative uses of grouping. Group real objects – yet don’t be afraid to ask students to take on the role of objects and group or interview themselves!

Encourage students to identify qualities of objects. Ask them how this can be done: looking, smelling, feeling, cutting open, bending, etc. How can students start to explore the qualities of objects? Let them use their senses. Let them recognize that other tools can be used and that these can give different information: rulers, knife, magnifying glass, microscope, water, etc. What different things do they discover about the objects? What do our senses tell us? What do the tools or instruments tell us? How do the findings differ? Why do we use instruments or tools to look at things? All this is very much at the basics of science – the move away from the clearly observable world into new understandings based on the use of instruments. Let students discover these concepts.

Students may like to link Olympics statistics with the reality of their classroom. Just how far is the length that the longest long jumpers have reached?

Students may like to do all sorts of measurements: Predict heaviest object in room. How can one measure this? Guess weight, length, height of each other including various parts of the body.

Conduct basic experiments based on what floats, what sinks, what rolls, which is heavier, which is lightest, how does it smell, what sound does it make? Encourage students to record their findings in their own way. This encourages creativity and is a fertile ground for understanding the nature of classification, observation and how some approaches are better than others. Compare the approaches the students took and their successes and the challenges faced. Later you can discuss and introduce certain classifications such as metric measurement.


You can even talk about how we measure such things as smell: beagle sniffer dogs at airports, wine tasters, pollution testers, cooks, etc.

Once students identify faults in how they are observing or measuring things, including asking for help as well as recognizing new ways of approaching observation, encourage them to re-analyse their material. How different does the leaf look when it is under a microscope?

As students start to become aware that there is more to the world than opinion and at times limited perspective of the senses – I can see more with this magnifying glass – we slowly move more into the area of Standard Three where students start to identify a more systematic and social approach to evaluation. Consultation and opinion enter the frame. This develops even further into Standards Four and Five where issues and societal factors become more significant.

S T A N D A R D 3
asks student(s) to:

Understands how to pose questions, actively investigates them, and evaluates the findings against the explanations and observations of others.

Here one should simply encourage students to ask questions and then to identify the means by which they can answer them. This is also an important point at which one can introduce the fact that there are many questions that we still don’t know the answer to – how big is the universe? To not know the answer is to not be wrong. It is an invitation to guess, experiment and consider possibilities.


Students can draw detailed descriptions of collected objects. They might like to each draw e.g their own leaf. Place the leaves in a container. Other students have to match the drawing to the leaf. This shows the demand for detail in drawing items. Students may like to look at botanical drawings or anatomical drawings to see how scientists and botanists once recorded details in the days before photography. Students may also like to look at the Aardvark example for how difficult it is to accurately record detail in descriptions.

Establish frameworks for asking questions. Invite students to show objects and for others to only ask questions: why is it red, why is it heavy, why is it curved? Explore what questions can and can’t be answered. How might one seek an answer?

Collect verbal and written suggestions for how something may behave in an experiment. What will happen if we put this into water? Look at the results. Write up observations of results and compare them to the orginal guess. When are students correct in their guesses? Why? Why not?

Above all show that there are stages in analyzing the natural and man-made world. We have expectations: what would happen if I kicked that piece of concrete? Make a list of all the understandings that students already have pertaining to the area of study. Show how we have a world of experience that predates our formal studying in school.


This is often a world of survival where we know how to interact with the world e.g. babies placed on glass will not crawl over the edge of stairs and learn an astonishing amount very quickly.

How do babies of deaf parents modify their behaviour?

Discuss the many things that we already know about the world. How can these help us? Does previous experience sometimes badly affect our choices? Look at illusions. Discuss how people once thought the world is flat.

How do we know it is not flat? Is there sometimes a difference between our senses and the observable world?

Establish a culture in which students are encouraged to predict something before it occurs. Discuss expectations, how they are formed and compare them to the result. Show how experiments can be a surprise. You may also like to conduct basic science experiments that have unusual results. Show how this knowledge is used by magicians and others to create supposed magic. Often it is simple science!

Finally students can start to ask questions and investigate issues of concern to the school or local community. Here we move away from science and can explore the connection to the social sciences in which people and their behaviour can be measured. Ask students to identify a list of issues important within the community:

Why do people get fat? How can this be stopped?

Why does smoking affect health? How do we know this?

Why are some people taller than others?

Build up lists of Whats and Whys that relate to the school and local community. Once listed identify the beliefs under each statement and how the statements can be investigated. Identify the sorts of questions that are very complex compared to those that are more able to be investigated. Why? Consider investigating an issue and collecting findings to present to others.

S T A N D A R D 4
Student(s) should:

Understands principles of fair testing and controlling variables. Compares their findings with those of others and evaluates against current scientific knowledge. Chooses appropriate questions for a variety of scientific investigations.

Here students should be developing even more sophisticated means of asking questions, gathering responses and comparing them.

Students can explore issues at different issue-based websites:  Pollution   Water Issues   Land Use

Encourage students to feed their results back into the school or local community by presenting results of an investigation in the form of a speech, a debate, a poster, a school wide survey and report, a conference stand, a website, responses in an online discussion, a literature survey or taking part in community activities such as a Landcare program.


Students can explore and collect data from local areas. They can visit and collect samples from a beach – moving into an understanding of field trips. They can look at famous or current science investigations.

Students can explore the differences between personal observation as well as Secondary and tertiary information and how these all have a place in research.

They can investigate the graphing of results.

S T A N D A R D 5
Student(s) should:

Understands how to select appropriate methods to investigate collaboratively-formulated, testable models, taking into consideration current scientific knowledge. Critically evaluates own results, and also those of others, and modifies ideas in the light of new information.

Once students have grasped a deeper understanding of scientific analysis they can utilize these skills within a practical model. Students can identify an issue, a means of investigating it and conduct an experiment and report back on the results as well as an analysis of the procedure – an awareness of how process is just as important as form.

Students can document how they reached their results and how the process can be very important even if the result was somewhat cloudy. Here students can grasp the understanding that often in experimentation the journey is just as significant as the end result. Results are not always conclusive and many great breakthroughs in science took many years of analysis and re-analysis.

Read science Quotes so that students can get a better understanding of the creative endeavours involved in scientific analysis. Who are these scientists?

Dictionary Science Quotes

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Albert Einstein

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Albert Einstein

The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away. Linus Pauling

I roamed the countryside searching for the answers to things I did not understand. Why shells existed on the tops of mountains along with the imprints of coral and plant and seaweed usually found in the sea. Why the thunder lasts a longer time than that which causes it and why immediately on its creation the lightening becomes visible to the eye while thunder requires time to travel. How the various circles of water form around the spot which has been struck by a stone and why a bird sustains itself in the air. These questions and other strange phenomena engaged my thought throughout my life. Leonardo da Vinci.

Science is simply common sense at its best that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic. Thomas Henry Huxley

Theory guides. Experiment decides. Donald E. Simanek

Science is facts; just as houses are made of stone, so is science made of facts; but a pile of stones is not a house, and a collection of facts is not necessarily science. Jules Henri Poincaré

Science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary. Albert Einstein


Students may like to look at the life of Vladimir Nabokov, the famous Russian writer, who also wrote in English.

At this site, you can hear his son Dimitri read poems and short stories as well as read Nabokov’s articles on butterflies. Nabokov was a highly esteemed amateur collector of butterflies whose observations and collecting showed an unusual ability to step between the literary and scientific worlds. Furthermore his skills were so highly recognized that he published in butterfly journals – lepidoptery – and he also had a number of species he discovered named after him.


Nabokov's article on butterflies. Read about Nabokov's Satyr butterfly (Cyllopsis pyracmon nabokovi, pictured at right). Further butterflies named after Nabokov.

Look at great moments in Science – bad breath is interesting.

Look at an Innovation timeline, including the history of Kitty Litter.

Read Famous scientific texts online.

Look into the connection between Science and Art.

There are a number of classical works of art that have a scientific focus. Discuss what is being depicted in the paintings. Why were these artworks made?

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, 1768, Joseph Wright of Derby.

See also   Alchymist  

Read about the connection between science and art in this case involving the Thumbprint of Jackson Pollock.

How else does science inform art? Look at art restoration.

Finally here is an extract from the Foreword to 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke:

Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living. Since the dawn of time, roughly a hundred billion human beings have walked the planet Earth.

Now this is an interesting number, for by a curious coincidence there are approximately a hundred billion stars in our local universe, the Milky Way. So for every man who has ever lived, in this Universe there shines a star.

But every one of those stars is a sun, often far more brilliant and glorious than the small, nearby star we call the Sun. And many
perhaps most of those alien suns have planets circling them. So almost certainly there is enough land in the sky to give every member of the human species, back to the first ape-man, his own private, world-sized heaven or hell.

How many of those potential heavens and hells are now inhabited, and by what manner of creatures, we have no way of guessing; the very nearest is a million times farther away than Mars or Venus, those still remote goals of the next generation. But the barriers of distance are crumbling; one day we shall meet our equals, or our masters, among the stars.

Men have been slow to face this prospect; some still hope that it may never become reality. Increasing numbers, however, are asking: "Why have such meetings not occurred already, since we ourselves are about to venture into space?" Why not, indeed? Here is one possible answer to that very reasonable question. But please remember that this is only a work of fiction.

Oscar’s Sketchbook

How rare it is to find a child’s drawings as a means of exploring history. Here in Oscar’s Sketchbook we can see an interpretation of another time and place.

This notebook is a rare and significant record of an Aboriginal child's memories of life in the late 1800s in far North Queensland. Oscar was an Aboriginal boy from the Palmer River people of North Queensland. His 'overseer' Augustus Glissan, the manager of 'Rocklands' Station near Camooweal, had noticed Oscar's drawing talents and in 1898 gave Oscar a sketchbook. Oscar drew from memory the life style, traditional ceremonies and interactions with Europeans from the places he visited like Cooktown. Glissan provided an index to Oscar's drawings interpreting what Oscar was depicting.


Explore the many inconsistencies of the English language.

George Bernard Shaw once coined the word Ghoti and how it pronounces fish e.g. If you take the gh it comes out as f as in laughter. 0 can be pronounced as i as in women. Ti can be pronounced as sh as in motion.

Explore the other inconsistencies in the English language and how accuracy isn’t always connected to meaning. Discuss. Encourage students to write their own passages.

I Take It You Already Know...


Of tough and bough and cough and dough.
Others may stumble, but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, laugh and through.
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps.
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead - it's said like bed, not bead.
For goodness sake, don't call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat.
They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.
A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother,
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear for pear and bear.
And then there's dose and rose and loose -
Just look them up - and goose and choose.
And cork and work and card and ward.
And font and front and word and sword.
And do and go, then thwart and cart.
Come, come, I've hardly made a start.
A dreadful language? Man alive.
I'd mastered it when I was five!


Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer
in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is
taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a
toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae
we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe. ceehiro

Reasons why English is hard to learn – courtesy of the staff room wall at Glen Waverley Primary School. You can get your students to make up their own misunderstandings.

  • The bandage was wound around the wound.
  • The farm was used to produce produce.
  • The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
  • We must polish the Polish furniture.
  • He would lead if he could get the lead out.
  • The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
  • Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present. (You may know of the funny story in Cider with Rosie in which Laurie Lee on the first day at school was told to stand there for the present and was most upset at the end of the day having not received the present).
  • A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
  • When shot at, the dove into the bushes.
  • I do not object to the object.
  • The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
  • There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
  • They were too close to the door to close it.
  • The buck does funny things when the does are present.
  • A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
  • To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
  • The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
  • After a number of injections my jaw got number.
  • Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
  • I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
  • How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Detecting the FBI

We associate the Federal Bureau of Investigation with spies and movies and politics. This culture carries with it its own language and means of operating. There are a number of FBI files on celebrities available on line. Read them. How are they set out? What sort of language is being used? Read up on the biography of the person. Why were these files kept? What do they tell us about the ethos of the era? Students may like to use these as an inspiration for creating their own files on e.g. famous people or characters in novels.


Allow your students to consider the world from the so-called perspective of an adult. While the definition is rather dubious – when does one become an adult ? – give your students a chance to discuss and explore what being an adult is. Even if your students are adult, what does it mean to be adult, when does being an adult begin?

Spike Milligan has a number of beautiful poems that explore the loss of childhood – his children growing older.

Growing Up 11

Is that all there is? Goodbye!
After a million hellos
After all those bird-blessed good-mornings
After the bubbling bath time laughter,
After so many soul-searching Santa Claus,
After a million wild walks on the moors
After the swing-swung laughing summers,
After the tear-drenched kiss-better bumped head,
After the new wear-them-in-bed red shoes,
After a tumult of timeless teddy bears,
After a delirium of dolls in prams,
After a rainbow of ice-creams,
After daddy I love you all the world-

Spike Milligan Hidden Words Penguin 1993

Opposite to taking a naive perspective set your students the task of what I call adultifying material. See a nursery rhyme from an adult perspective. There was an old lady that lived in a shoe – now here is an issue for welfare!


There was an old woman
Who lived in a shoe?
She had so many children
-such naughty ones too!
She cried, "Oh, dear, me,
I don’t know what to do,
Who would be an old woman
And live in a shoe?"

Once ninety little fellows
Sat down on the floor
And lustily screamed,
"We won’t cry anymore!"
"Then stop crying now,"
the old woman said,
"The noise you are making
goes right through my head."

Then she gave the boys broth
without any bread,
And whipped them all soundly
and sent them to bed.
She scolded the girls, and said,
"Don’t make a noise,
Or you shall be served

just the same as the boys."

There was an old woman
Who lived in a shoe,
She had so many children
-such naughty ones too!
She cried, "Oh, dear, me,
I don’t know what to do,
Who would be an old woman
And live in a shoe?"

Cole’s Funny Picture Book

Mary had a little lamb
Its fleece was white as snow
And everywhere that Mary went
That lamb was sure to go.
But Mary found the cost of meat
It sure didn’t please her
Tonight she’s having leg of lamb
The rest in the freezer.

Mad magazine

Anyone who has heard a Froggy Went a Courtin’ by Bob Dylan will be aware of how it takes this children’s song and gives it, in tone, a real depth. Transform a children’s book into an adult text. Look at children toys – here they are seen as consumer items in which marketing plays an important factor.

Once, when teaching Negotiation Skills, I constructed a simulated meeting in which the Wiggles – an Australian children’s singing group – negotiated with Warner Brothers over a deal to enter the United States Market. This was an interesting session begun by my reading of a detailed article in Business Review Weekly, in which the Wiggles phenomenon was seen from an adult perspective. Perhaps your students may like to ‘adultify' the event of Christmas or take magic, or other illusions, and see them from a hard-edged adult perspective.

I can also recall hearing a beautiful song in concert by Loudon Wainwright III, exposing the saga of the Tonya Harding ice-skating incident:


Tonya’s Twirls

Ice used to be a nice thing
When you laced up figure skates
Now it’s a thing to win a medal on
For the United States

But once there were no lutzes axels
Pirouettes or twirls
Just giddy slipping sliding laughing
Happy little girls.

Loudon Wainwright III

Something for Nothing

And let’s continue the Loudon Wainwright connection! Below is a song from a recent Loudon Wainwright III album So Damn Happy.

It looks at file sharing and its impact upon musicians. Read about the issues surrounding downloading and file sharing. (Free registration now required to access this article in The Guardian, which, up to this point in time, is a newspaper that does not charge for access to its archive.)

Isn't it ironic – a perfect example of the back-handed nature of popular media culture – that I got these lyrics from a site that encourages you to download this song. Forget it. Buy Loudon’s stuff. See him if you get an opportunity. He is a great songwriter who has written some of the funniest yet also insightful songs I have heard!


Something for Nothing

You can pull one of my songs right out of thin air
Go ahead and download me, see if I care
In love, war and cyberspace, everything's fair
And it's okay to steal 'cause it's so nice to share

You're in luck 'cause last night, it happened again
I was feeling creative about twenty to 10
So I sharpened a pencil and I wore down its end
And now soon you'll have something to share with your friends

It took twenty minutes to write down this song
The tune's public domain so I didn't do wrong
I chewed up the pencil and the eraser's all gone
Scratched my head and my balls, but it didn't take long

Songwriting's not so hard, it's well-understood
Anyone can do it and everyone should
I'm sure you could write and sing something as good
With some balls and a pencil, I'm sure that you would

A PC's like a crowbar, it's only a tool
And music flows like water from a big public pool
But I wanna get paid for my work, but I'm a fool
Because trading and sharing's so awesome and cool

I don't mean to be flip, I don't want to be pat
Those Metallica guy are all getting too fat.
Free information, yeah, what's wrong with that?
Something for nothing, that's where it's at

And those moguls run labels and you call them all crooks
Because they crunch the numbers and they cook the books
But I signed that contract and I got my hand shook
Shaking hands with the devil, it's not as bad as it looks

You can pull one of my songs right out of thin air
Bootleg and download me, see if I care
In love, war and cyberspace, everything's fair
And it's okay to steal 'cause it's so nice to share.

Loudon Wainwright III

Darron Davies

© Copyright In Clued - Ed 2009


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