Activities to watch, make and play
Making objects or animals with nothing but hands and string is an activity that traces well back into history throughout the world!
Many Aboriginal groups traditionally made patterns or designs on the hands with a loop of string. The Yolŋu people of Yirrkala in the Northern Territory call them ‘matjka-wuma’, some Mob in North Queensland call string figures ‘kamai’, and ‘wame’ is the word used for string figures in the Torres Strait.
Watch our First Nations staff make traditional string figures such as ‘weitj djen’ (emu foot) from Balardung Country in Western Australia.
We recommend this activity for children 7+ years.
The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the country’s most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence across the areas of research & innovation, leadership, science engagement, and school science.
Check out the past winners and runner-ups of the Sleek Geeks national science film competition for Primary and Secondary school students, and start producing your own entry for 2020!
2019 University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize - Primary
Finn Thomas, St Mary's Catholic Primary School, Concord, NSW
Inspired by the book Jurassic Park, Finn ponders what life would be like today if a dinosaur species were to be resurrected. In his film, Can We Bring Dinosaurs Back to Life?, Finn explores the science and biotechnology critical to this notion and explains the challenges scientists would face.
Evelyn Cahill and Lucy Carlisle, Presbyterian Ladies' College, Sydney, NSW
In their film, Polar Bears Need their Ice, Ice Baby, Evelyn and Lucy explain how the use of air conditioners in Australia may be damaging the habitats of polar bears. They conduct experiments to demonstrate global warming and offer practical ideas for living more sustainably.
2019 University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize - Secondary
Ellie Cole and Tsambika Galanos, Presbyterian Ladies' College, Sydney, NSW
What do cosmetics, clothing and toothpaste have in common? They all contain microplastics. In Fish Fiasco, Ellie and Tsambika investigate how microplastics might end up in the ocean. They interview scientific experts, visit a wastewater treatment plant and even study fish stomach contents to uncover how society's use of plastic impacts the environment.
Jonathan Davis, Townsville Grammer School
Neutrinos are subatomic particles that come from stars and nuclear reactions, and as Jonathan shows in Neutrinos – The Sky’s the Limit, they are all around us. Jonathan’s film uses creative multimedia techniques to reveal the implications that neutrinos have for physics and human life as a whole.
This film is dedicated to Professor Thomas Alured Faunce.
Croaks, whistles, bleats and barks - every frog species makes a different sound! By recording a frog call with our new app, FrogID, you can discover which frogs live around you and help us count Australia's frogs!
Frogs are a sign of a healthy environment, but around Australia frogs are declining and many are endangered. By counting Australia's frogs we can learn more about where they are and how they're doing.
Visit the FrogID project website to learn more.
Download the free FrogID app:
Google Expeditions is an immersive learning and teaching tool that lets you go on virtual reality (VR) trips to the Australian Museum.
Explore museum galleries, go behind-the-scenes or discover our specimens and collection stores in three virtual tours.
Google Expeditions allows a teacher or parent act as a 'guide' to lead student 'explorers' through VR tours or show them AR objects. Guides can use a set of tools to point out interesting things along the way.
Download the free app and search for the Australian Museum:
Hunt for clues and reveal the secrets behind these formidable dinosaurs, hatch your dinosaur eggs and collect them all!
Download and play the free Tyrannosaurs game:
The Art of Science
Explore over 100 paintings of butterflies and moths by Harriet and Helena Scott, colonial Sydney’s most famous natural history artists and see the latest scientific data. The app features fun games to play too!
Download the free app:
Frogs are a sign of a healthy environment, but around Australia frogs are declining and many are endangered.
Visit the FrogID project website to learn more, and Download the free FrogID app to contribute to our citizen science project FrogID!
Download our colouring sheets from the Rare Books illustrations of Icones Animalium (1560) and De Piscibus Libri V. Et De Cetis (1638) - two of the oldest rare books in our library and full of strange and wonderful animals!
Download here and print at home.
Belonging, Being and Becoming - The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) covers five areas of young children’s learning and development:
- Strong sense of identity
- Connection and contribution to their world
- Strong sense of wellbeing
- Confident and involved learners
- Effective communicators
Make a ‘rock’ engraving activity helps children continue to build a sense of self. The activity asks children to design an engraving, of a place, story, animal or object, that they feel a connection with. For example, their design could feature a local park frequently visited, a story they remember, or the much-loved family pet.
Identity is not fixed and includes relationships with people, places and things. A strong sense of identity is key to the development of confident and resilient children. Identity is also fundamental to the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of children.
Download these activity instructions and have fun making these rock engravings at home!
Learn about the basic principles involved in a volcanic eruption with nothing but a few household ingredients and a test tube! Our educator, Charlie, talks you through the process and the science behind it!
Museum kid's reading list and links
A library of some of the best stories being read aloud to you by storytellers.
Education resources and books for curious kids about a range of Natural History focused topics.
Yarn Strong Sista
First Nations educational resources and children’s books.
Engaging videos, games and other fun resources to support children’s learning at home.
The Smithsonian's Ology
A selection of natural history and world cultures focused games, stories, hands-on activities and videos.
Nat Geo for Kids
An extensive range of resources designed to deepen children’s learning about the world, including videos, facts, games and quizzes.
Activities, videos and games to help children learn about Climate Change and relevant topics.
NSW Department of Education Learning from Home
Resources, advice, tools and support for students, parents and teachers learning from home.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory DNA Learning Centre
DNA, genetics, and biotechnology online resources for students, educators, and the public, including online educational programming during the COVID-19 closures.
Free science teacher video resources for addressing environmental and societal issues in the classroom across all ages, key stages and grades.
Welcome to Country – Aunty Joy Murphy
This beautifully illustrated book takes you on a journey onto Country and explains the traditional customary practices of Welcome to Country Ceremonies.
Patterns of Australia – Bronwyn Bancroft
This book describes the landscape patterns of Country viewed through the eyes of Aboriginal artist Bronwyn Bancroft.
Young Dark Emu – Uncle Bruce Pascoe
Through researching colonial records, the book discusses the sophisticated agricultural and aqua-cultural practices of Aboriginal People in a way that is easy for children and young teenagers to understand.
My Place – Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins
This book is like a time machine! It takes you back through history to a place in Sydney, looking at the stories of the different children and the changes that have taken place over time.
My Culture and Me – Greg Dreise
This book presents the voice of an Indigenous child and explains the dark emu story (Indigenous Astronomy) and the importance of knowing and living your culture.
These are some of the books that our Creative Producer of Children’s Programs, Cordelia Hough, loves and has used many times with our preschool families. Read them at home as a stimulus to then explore a science concept with our suggested hands-on activities.
The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett
Every bird has an egg...except for Duck. When Duck finds a beautiful egg of his own he's delighted - even though the other birds make fun of it. Everyone's in for a BIG surprise when his egg finally hatches and a baby crocodile emerges!
Science behind the book: This book can lead to a discussion around types of animals that lay eggs. Birds aren't the only animals to lay eggs - reptiles, amphibians such as frogs, most fish, monotremes and creepy crawly invertebrates also lay eggs. Eggs come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours.
Science at home: Some birds make nests in tree hollows for their eggs. Explore the Hollows as Homes #hollowsashomes citizen science project to see which birds use hollows or check out an impressive nest made in tree branches by tuning in to the live Sea-Eagle CAM !
Click here to see an illustrated collection of animal eggs from the book, Nouveau Larousse Illustré by Adolphe Millot. Can you guess what animal each of these eggs belongs to? Find the mermaid’s purses or skate fish egg cases.
Alexander’s Outing by Pamela Allen, illustrated by Russell Clark
A young duckling finds himself separated from his family in Hyde Park when he falls down a deep hole. Through trial and error, passers-by discover pouring water down the hole will float the little duckling to the top.
Science behind the book: This book explores floating and sinking. The duckling floats and is light for its size. Trial and error, predicting and testing are scientific processes.
Science at home: Place a rubber duck at the bottom of a tall container (e.g. spaghetti jar) and ask, the child or children in your care, to predict how many cups of water it will take to get the duck to the top. Bath time is fun to experiment with objects that sink or float. Who Sank the Boat? and Mr. Archimedes Bath are other books by Pamela Allen that explore floating and sinking and water displacement.
The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Alex Scheffler
A little mouse uses the moonlight to project a tremendously enlarged, fearsome shadow to scare the Gruffalo's child back to the Gruffalo cave.
Science behind the book: This book explores the science of light and shadows. Light travels in a straight line.
Science at home: Make a dark cubby or wait for a bedtime story to play with shadow puppets and a torch. Make simple shapes in front of the torchlight using your hands or cut shapes out of recycled paper and attach to a pop stick. Experiment moving your puppet closer to and away from the torch and watch as the shadow gets bigger or smaller, depending on how much light it blocks. Extend the activity by experimenting with translucent, transparent and opaque materials. If it is a sunny day, head outside with some chalk to trace a shadow of a person or an object at different times of the day.
I Wish I Had Duck Feet by Dr. Suess, illustrated by B. Tobey
A young boy weights the pros and cons of possessing various animal appendages, such as a duck's feet, a deer's antlers, a whale spout, an elephant's trunk, and a long, long tail - only to decide that he's better off just being himself.
A wonderful Australian book with a similar message is Edward the Emu, by Sheena Knowles.
Science behind the book: Animals have adaptations or features that help them survive and thrive in their environment. Ducks are water birds that have webbed feet for swimming.
Science at home: Challenge children to wear flippers and walk in them. Make sure this is done in a safe space, such as on grass, so if they fall, it is a soft landing. Discuss if it was easy or difficult. Camouflage is an animal adaptation to avoid becoming prey or being a stealth predator. Plan a garden treasure hunt with camouflaged objects (such as green counters or pegs) versus brightly coloured objects and test your eagle eyes!
The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew it Was None of His Business by Werner Holzwarth
Mention the word 'poo' and you have grabbed every young child's attention and possibly a giggle. This humorous book follows an unfortunate little mole who surfaces only to be welcomed by someone's poo, doo or business landing on his head. Rather than telling himself it's good luck, he sets out to find the culprit. Along the way he discovers poo comes in many different shapes, sizes and colours.
Science behind the book: Animal scats come in different shapes, sizes, colours and textures depending on what the animal eats and how much it drinks.
Science at home: Discover what animals live in your backyard or the neighbourhood by searching for scats, tracks and traces. There might be possum scratch marks on tree trunks, glistening spider webs, and different types of animal poo. Identify by using books such as 'Tracks, Scats and Other Traces' by Barbara Triggs or online sites such as ABC’s ‘What’s that scat?
Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Harry Bliss
The important relationship between worms and soil health is hilariously presented through the diary of a cheeky young worm who never has to take a bath, gets to eat his homework, and because he doesn't have any legs, can't do the Hokey Pokey - no matter how hard he tries.
Science behind the book: This book explores soil science. Learn about how earthworms eat soil, organic matter and food scraps and decompose this matter into rich garden fertiliser. Worms create tunnels in our soil to enable water, air and nutrients to circulate, keeping our earth healthy.
Science at home: Create a worm farm or compost to create soil perfect for growing a vegetable patch. Can you find a worm in your garden? That is a sign of healthy soil!
Stomp, Dinosaur, Stomp! By Margaret Mayo, illustrated by Alex Ayliffe
A noisy parade of dinosaurs stomp, chomp, race, and chase their way through this energetic read-aloud about these captivating prehistoric creatures that once walked our world.
Science behind the book: How do we know there were dinosaurs? Fossils! There were many different species or types of dinosaurs.
Science at home: Make playdough or clay fossils by pressing hard objects such as shells into the playdough. This is an imprint fossil. Walk small animal figurines over the playdough to make tracks or trace fossils. Some fossils have even preserved the texture of dinosaur skin. Experiment with natural loose parts such as banksia seed pods and bark to make patterns in the playdough that might look like dinosaurs’ scaly or armoured skin or feathered body. Compare dinosaurs from this book with modern animals. Try out the different movements of these creatures.
Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker
Follow a young boy on an extraordinary visual journey through the wilderness of the Daintree Rainforest, which like so many other rainforests, is now being threatened by civilisation. As the boy walks among the trees, he imagines the forest as it might have been in the past. Dinosaurs emerge, barely perceptible, from a tangle of trunks and vines, the faint outlines of an Aboriginal child melt into a background of trees and in the final haunting scene, the unspoiled vista, is overlaid with translucent images of a possible future civilisation.
Science behind the book: This book explores habitats, human impacts and sustainability.
Science at home: Compare coastal environments and rainforest environments, then compare these similarities and differences with your preschool or neighbourhood environment. Discuss ways we can help protect the natural environment and live sustainably. Relax and listen to a rainforest or ocean soundscape whilst you craft a habitat diorama (using a recycled cardboard box) or nature collage using natural materials such as leaves, bark, shells, sand and seed pods.