In Hunter's history book (The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child: The Middle Ages) there's a chapter on the Aborigines of Australia. It's a lot harder to find teaching materials on the Aborigines as compared to, say, the Vikings, but we found some interesting books and projects. Here are a few things we used to get a more in-depth look at the Aborigines:
Sun Mother Wakes the World: An Australian Creation Story by Diane Wolkstein is a beautiful introduction to Aboriginal beliefs about nature and how the world and all the creatures in it came to be. There's even an explanation for the many unique animals native to Australia, such as the platypus and kangaroo. This book is a great jumping-off point to talk to children about more complex Aboriginal beliefs such as the Dreamtime, the continual process of creation in which art and "walkabouts" play a part. (Parents who want to learn more about Aboriginal spirituality and myth before teaching, try this site, or this one).
Ready to Dream, by Donna Jo Napoli. This easy picture book tells the story of a young girl named Ally who travels to Australia. Ally wants to capture her impressions of the Outback in her artwork, but she keeps "messing up" her creations. When Ally meets an Aboriginal artist named Pauline, she learns to rejoice in each mishap and see how it adds to her art. Children will learn something of the attitude of Aborigines toward nature and art (for which their culture is famous). The beautiful illustrations of Bronwyn Bancroft, an Aboriginal artist and children's book illustrator, are an education in and of themselves.
For an art project, we chose Aboriginal dot painting:
We used spouncers for the dots, but q-tips would probably work even better. We looked at examples of Aboriginal art online, and my son was inspired by the flyer from an Aboriginal art sale! (See it here). I pretty much just provided tempera paints, brushes and spouncers, and a piece of poster board (he chose black), and got out of the way.
He had a lot of fun, and was very proud of his creation. As soon as it was dry, he had me hang it up on his bedroom wall. Here are some great sites to get tips and instructions on Aboriginal dot painting for children, as well as other Aboriginal crafts and activities:
For more ideas on studying Aborigines and Australia, including free printable Aboriginal art coloring pages, try our "Australia for Kids" Pinterest board here.
A few good websites for viewing Aboriginal art online are:
Australian Aborigines are the oldest continuous culture on the planet; we hope you have as much fun learning about them as we did!