Lesson Ideas

​These topics, activities and ideas are designed to assist teachers encourage students to investigate historic heritage in their local community. The activities require curiosity and a desire to investigate, imagination and abstract thinking. Teachers are encouraged to build on the ideas to reflect the grade and ability of their students.

Exploring your School's Heritage

Schools change with changing lifestyles and views. What is taught and how it is taught have drastically changed since settlement. Research your school's history by:

  1. Exploring how class sizes have changed over time. Look at the number of classes, number of students in each grade or class, the number of teachers at the school and the staff to student ratio. Compare this to school records from 25 and 50 years ago (or further back if you have the records).
  2. Investigating the different types of writing and technological implements used and how they have evolved. Compare the writing styles.
  3. If your school have a time capsule investigate when was it created and why? What is in it? What does the capsule tell you about the history of the school? What would you include in a time capsule for the school? Why is the object or story you've chosen important? What types of information and objects would students like to uncover if children from 100 years ago created a time capsule?
  4. Organise an activity day, when children come dressed in pioneering clothes and play traditional games outside, such as sack races, three-legged races, egg and spoon race, hoop racing, skipping, tunnel ball or wheel barrow races.
  5. Walk around your school, looking for clues which can help identify different architectural styles of the buildings. Draw your favourite part of the school or make a rubbing of the brickwork or other fine details. Find out who designed or built that part of the school (see also Using Oral Histories).

Exploring Public Buildings and Monuments

Public buildings and monuments provide a resource to learn how architecture economic and social identities of a community change over time. The following activities will allow students to explore the history and significance of a place, and what that reveals about the social and economic history of your community.

  1. In groups or as individuals, choose a public building or monument to research its history. When was it built? Why was it built? What style/s are employed? Research the social and economic history at the time of the buildings construction. What events were happening in Tasmania, Australia, the world? How does the architectural style used reflect what has happening socially and economically when it was built? Is the building/monument on the Tasmanian Heritage Register? Why? The information could be presented through a poster/essay/Prezi or PowerPoint presentation.
  2. Arrange for a site visit. Provide students with a worksheet to help them collect information such as: what clues tell us when the building/monument was constructed (e.g. plaques)? How would you describe the building? What are the building's measurements? What is the setting of the building/monument (e.g. park, gardens, roadside)? Sketch the building or its key elements. Back in the classroom, the information may be used to create scale models; write poetry using the descriptive words and other information collected; produce a poster, essay, Prezi or PowerPoint presentation on the building or monument and its importance to the local community.

Exploring Farming Heritage

Farming heritage has played an important role in developing Tasmania. The wool, apple and hops industry, for example, have shaped the identity of many local communities. The following activities will allow the class to explore how farming shaped Tasmania, and how farming practices have changed over time.

  1. Using maps find where existing farms and homesteads are located. Compare your map to old maps; what are the differences? Brainstorm the types of farms which are currently operating in your community (e.g.: cattle, diary, sheep, wool, hops, wheat).
  2. Using aerial photos or online maps and satellites, identify the number of buildings on a farm. What are the buildings used for? Why is it important to keep a record of the buildings and their uses? Create a list of the types of machinery used on the farms from 150 years ago and compare with the machinery used today; or compare how jobs on the farm have changed.
  3. Arrange an excursion to an historic homestead such as Woolmers, Brickendon, Clarendon, Entally or Highfield. Using architectural styles as a guide, estimate when the different buildings were built. Ask the students to draw their favourite window, door or room, looking for details which are no longer found in modern buildings (such as ceiling roses, sash windows, stain glass windows or door fans). Back in the classroom, use the information you have gathered to write poems and stories. Imagine you lived at the property. Who were you? What did you do?

Exploring Lighthouses and Shipwrecks

Tasmania has many lighthouses and a rich history of shipwrecks. It provides another exciting opportunity to explore the history of Tasmania.

Using a map of Tasmania, identify where lighthouses are located. Which of these are still operating? Choose a lighthouse and research when it was built, the materials used, the cost of the materials, the fuel the lamp used, when it was last in operation, its height, and the distance the light shines.

During early settlement, livestock needed to be transported from the mainland to Tasmania. Using old shipping logs, estimate the duration of the journey to Tasmania. What types of cargo still arrive by sea?

Many ships were unlucky and did not safely reach their final destinations. Are there any ship wrecks near your town? What are their stories?

Some lighthouses are no longer being used as navigation aids. Brainstorm ideas for the adaptive re-use of lighthouses (see Building Futures From the Past).

Visit an operating lighthouse. What do you think it would be like to be a lighthouse keeper? Write essays, poems, blogs.

Visit a museum or maritime museum. Provide the class a list of questions which can be answered from the displays and information at the museum. Look at the types of artefacts which survived a ship wreck. Why are coins, plates and steel items usually found but not books, wooden objects and material?

Exploring Churches and Cemeteries

Churches are embedded in spirituality, faith and specific beliefs. They can be associated with times of happiness, remembrance, joy and sadness. Family stories can be re-discovered from walks through cemeteries. A note of caution: Teachers should consider any impact a cemetery visit will have on their students, and any concerns the students' parents may raise.

  1. Identify the churches or cemeteries in your local community. Which denominations are represented? Identify the architectural styles used. Which was the first church established in your community? When was it built? Is it still there today? Some churches have bells? What was the purpose of the church bell? Are church bells used today?
  2. Using imagination, can students describe a way to adapt a vacant church for a different use? A community venue, a men's shed, a mother's meeting room, a residence, a local museum. How could the church be adapted to meet the change of use? What elements and fabric of the church would you keep as a reminder of its past?
  3. Visit a cemetery. Identify the oldest headstone and the age of the deceased. Complete a sketch of the common and more unusual shaped headstones. What are the headstones made from? Why do some plots have headstones while others don't? During the visit gather information on the age and gender of the deceased. How many were males; how many were females? Why do some headstones have multiple family members listed? Are they any patterns to be found in the burials (e.g. the number of men buried during WWI or WWII)?

Interpreting Heritage

Interviewing family, friends and other members of the community is a good tool for students to use to find out how things have changed in their community. The Interpreting Heritage page [link] of this website steps out the process students can use to interpret a place's history. Suggested activities include:

  1. Interpret the school's history and significance to visitors and prospective students. As a class brainstorm ideas. What do you know about the history of your school? What are your school's values?  What is special about your school? What are its unique selling points? Either as a class or in groups develop your theme; think about the words and pictures that can be used to best interpret that theme; design a way to interpret the school. It could be a brochure, a panel at the school office, a website, a presentation to the class.
  2. The study of interpretation can be broadened out through a site visit in your community that uses interpretation to increase awareness and understanding of the place. In the classroom introduce the concept of interpretation to your class. What it is, why it is used, how it is used. On site, provide students with a worksheet to direct their thinking. The worksheet could include questions such as: What is the topic or theme? How is the story of the place told? What styles are used? What descriptive words are used? What do you like about the interpretation? What don't you like about the interpretation? How could it be improved (e.g. more pictures)? Back in the classroom, in groups or individually ask the student(s) to create a new interpretation for the site. Think laterally about your site visit. It could be a local tourist attraction where interpretation is used, a panel next to a building or landmark, or a website.

Using Oral Histories

Interviewing community members is one way that students can learn about places in their community and how the place's significance has changed over time. The Oral Histories page [link] of this website steps out the process students can use to complete an interview. Suggested activities include:

With the students working in pairs, ask them to take turns interviewing a friend. Create a worksheet to direct questions. [upload] As a class activity, discuss the stories uncovered: Did we find out anything new about each other? Can the information be collated to find out how many students walk to work; have pets; play a particular sport? The activity could be extended to build a broader profile of the class.

Ask the students to interview a member of their family using a worksheet to direct questions. Back in the classroom students could write a story using the information they have collected; create a poster, Prezi or PowerPoint presentation based on the oral history; present the oral history to the class.

With parent permission, older students could conduct oral histories further afield. For example, they could interview people in an older person's home or interview a group of people based on a theme (e.g. war veterans). For this exercise, deciding a theme, researching the theme and creating questions can all be incorporated in the activity. There is also the potential to present the stories through multimedia (e.g. DVD, PowerPoint, web).

Reading Photos and Objects

Photos and objects help tell the story of the people who built, lived or worked in a building or place. Known as 'moveable heritage', photos and objects can be used to allow students to explore the past. 

  1. Ask students to bring a photo from home showing a favourite place. It can be an old, or a more recent, photo. Ask the students individually to present their photo to the class. Help the student by asking relevant questions, such as: who is in the photo? what are they doing? where is the place?
  2. Source some old black and white photos of landmarks in your community. Newspapers, magazines, friends, the local council, library and history rooms are all good sources. In groups, ask students to discuss the photo and present their answers back to the class, or write a story about the photo. Help them with the following questions: what is the place? what are the key features? when might the photo have been taken? are there any clues? if there are people in the photo, what are they doing? what story does the photo tell us?
  3. Try and source two or more photos of the same places taken at different periods of time. School magazines, libraries and archives are an easy source. In groups or individually, ask students to compare the photos: what is the same/different? when might each photo have been taken? if the photos show people, how have dress and hair styles changed? what do the photos tell us about how society has changed? Ask the students to write a story or illustrate what the place might look like in the year 2050.
  4. Source some unfamiliar objects, like old tools or cooking implements. In groups, ask students to talk about the object: what the object is, or might be; and what it is, or might be, used for. It is not necessary that the students know the real function of the object. It is more important that they look and ask questions.

Building Futures from the Past

All buildings are built for a specific purpose. But what do we do when the building is no longer needed? Unfortunately, many unused buildings become so neglected they fall down or are demolished to make way for something new. In Tasmania, more and more heritage buildings are being conserved and have taken on a new life. This process is known as ADAPTIVE REUSE – the process of converting a building to a use other than that for which it was originally designed. The following activities explore the opportunities that exist of giving new life to old buildings.

As a class or in groups, think about the places in your community that are not being used, or are being neglected because: the occupant relocated to a larger, newer, more comfortable, more cost effective place; new technology has changed processes making the building redundant; or there is no longer a demand for a particular service or product. What could be done to these places? What alternative uses might they have, and how would you go about changing the building to allow the new use without destroying the heritage fabric?

As a class, think about which neglected places exist in your community and why they are worth saving? What is the history? Why is it significant? What could the building be used for? In groups or individually create a poster exploring the need to secure the building or showing how it can be reused.

If there is a place in your community that has already been adapted for a new use, visit the place and talk with the owners about how the new use fits with the heritage Before your visit ask the students to find out as much as they can about the place and its history. Who made the decision to keep the building and give it a new lease of life? How has the community reacted to the change of use? For example, its conservation may have turned an eyesore into something admired, or it may have brought in extra tourists into the community, increasing jobs.

If you are able to visit a place that has been adapted, ask the students to draw or photograph the new and old fabric. How would they describe the old and new areas of the building? What do the students see, hear, feel, smell? How is the old blended in with the new? Back in the classroom the descriptive words can be used to create poems, or used to direct creative writing.

If there is a building in your community that is currently not use, this could be an example students could use to explore how it might be adapted for a future use. To begin the project, students should find out as much as they can about the place and its history. What is important about the building? Does the community have a strong attachment to the building? If a site visit is possible, have the students draw or photograph the original features. What features do they find interesting or important? Back in the classroom, the students can discuss potential uses for the place and decide which features should be retained and which might be removed or changed. All the information can be used to write a proposal or presentation to conserve the building, pointing out the importance of the building, its history and significance, and how giving it a new use will be a benefit to the community. This activity can be extended by inviting a local council staff member to explain the planning process.

Creating Heritage Trails

Tasmania's historic heritage is a big draw card for tourists, and many communities around Tasmania create 'heritage trails' to direct visitors to historic sites. Creating, or improving, a heritage trail in your community will allow students to think about what is significant about your community.

Before you start, discuss as a class the importance of tourism to your town. Why do tourists visit the town? What are the major attractions? How many are linked to history and heritage? Either using maps or walking a pre-arranged route, the students can create their own heritage trail. Have them think about what places they would include; how they would describe the place and why it is worth visiting; what parts of the history of each place would they tell to the visitor? Using imagination they could change a trail into one for children, e.g. uncovering the mystery of a moving ghost.




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