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Activity Teacher Notes 2.6

2.6 Survivor! - sheltering from the weather

Levels: P, S, SS
Focus curriculum areas: Science
Supporting curriculum area: Society and history
Key concepts: Shelter, Aboriginal culture, survival

boys on a log

Understanding goals

Students cooperate in groups to design their own temporary shelter.

Students will research Aboriginal bush culture.


inspecting an old log

Learn to tie basic knots, invite an expert into the class. (Sailors are often good at knots!).

Collect different types of natural fibres (stringy bark, various types of native grass) that you could use to tie things together with. Predict which fibres you think will hold the knots, experiement tieing knots and rate them 1-5 for the easy of tieing and 1-5 for strength.

Research Aboriginal shelters and materials used.
See Background Note 2b - Planning for a safe trip in the outdoors.

You will need

  • sapling poles of various thickness and length
  • twine, strips of flax or reed, or string
  • branches with dense leaves
  • large cardboard boxes
  • sheets of plastic
  • other shelter-building materials
  • watering can and water

This activity could be done either in local bushland, on camps or in the school grounds (in consultation with the grounds-person!)


1. a) In groups using allocated materials, build a shelter for two people. You will need to consider protection from rain and wind and provide space for two people to lie down.

b) Alternatively, make a model of a shelter on a board (A3 or larger) using mud, sticks, leaves, bark and rocks.

2. Place sheets of dry paper under your finished shelter and ask your teacher to do the ‘watering can test’. The teacher will pour water over the shelter to see how wet the paper gets. If you are not satisfied that you would stay dry if it rained, adjust your shelter.

3. Give your shelter a rating for its strength against the wind, how well it keeps people dry and your design. Ask your teacher to rate your shelter on the same criterion. How does your rating compare to your teachers?

4. If there are enough materials for all students, you may be able to camp to try out your shelters, either at school or in local bushland.

5. What is a midden? Identify the

walking along a track

Rocky Cape NP

factors important to Aboriginal people when they decide on a campsite location. Work out why middens are now protected places.

6. Research and list some behaviours of indigenous people pre-1900's which would have helped them to cope with the harsh winter weather.

Going further

See the Aboriginal Education Resource Centre.


Watch the video about Tasmanian Aborigines called "Manganini". Discuss all aspects of surviving in the Tasmanian environment.


Create a raft by tying together 2 or 3 litre milk containers. Using a bath, pond or pool check that your raft floats. Estimate the heaviest and the largest load your raft is able to carry, experiment and see how accurate your estimation was.

See the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery - Aboriginal watercraft.

Many thanks to Frank Cooper of Waddamana Field Study Centre, and Peter Harrison and students of Goulburn Street Primary School for this activity.