Class Activities

Advice to Teachers


STEP ONE: Present the stories

Teachers could initiate a unit of work based on Shipwrecks, Sealers and Scientists on Macquarie Island by asking the students to present, either individually or in groups, some or all of the 43 stories contained in The Shipwreck Watch, The Sealers Shanty and The Science Observer journals. Students could be given a week or two to develop imaginative ways of presenting the stories. They should be encouraged to present the stories in ways that involve several art forms such as art, craft, music and drama.


STEP TWO: Plan activities and assessment criteria

Student-initiated activities should be encouraged. They could brainstorm a term or semester programme of individual, group and class activities based on the stories and information in this site.

The nature of the activities undertaken by the students will naturally vary according to their needs, abilities and interests and the requirements of the curriculum. Students could enter into a contract with their teacher about the type of activities they will do over a set period and how they will be assessed.

Many of the activities described below could cover a range of subject areas including English, Studies of Society and the Environment (SOSE), Technology, Science, Health and Nutrition, Work Education, Mathematics, Art and Craft, Drama and Music. A Shipwrecks, Sealers and Scientists on Macquarie Island unit would work well as an integrated English and SOSE unit, with the involvement of other subject specialists. The Tasmanian Schools Assessment Board (TASSAB) has set out the skills and knowledge to be acquired and assessed in subject areas in Tasmanian schools. The criteria listed below relate to the Grade 9 English and SOSE subject areas.


Studies of Society and the Environment
1. Speak and listen effectively in a range of formal and informal situations. 1. Recall and understand facts and information.
2. Read and view a variety of texts in order to explore issues, values and personal experiences. 2. Demonstrate awareness of current events.
3 Write achieving appropriate accuracy of expression. 3. Find and use information.
4. Write to increase understanding of texts and to make connections with personal experience. 4. Form a reasoned opinion.
5. Create and craft a range of texts for a variety of purposes and audiences. 5. Communicate ideas and information.
6. Appreciate and analyse the structures and features of spoken, written and visual text. 6. Plan, organise and undertake activities.
7. Understand ways in which culture, values and experiences shape the construction and interpretation of texts. 7. Work with others and in teams.
8. Use technologies to access information, compose texts and communicate with different audiences.  
9. Work effectively with others in a variety of group situations for a range of purposes.  
10. Set and achieve goals for their own learning through negotiation, reflection and making independent judgments.  


Teachers will need to map the activities to the requirements of the syllabus they are following and keep in mind that class activities should vary according to the educational needs, interests and abilities of the students.


STEP THREE: Possible Activities

Students propose activities to undertake over a term or semester and agree on these with the teacher. Some suggested activities are described below, but these are not meant to be prescriptive.


Devise a Game

Students could work collaboratively to invent a board game or some other type of game based on some the stories and information in the Shipwrecks, Sealers and Scientists on Macquarie Island site. The game may involve one or two simple rules such as 'the game must have some form of currency', or 'each player must represent one of the people or animals mentioned in the stories'.


Hold a Debate

Brainstorm topics for debate then organise a debate or series of debates. Here are three possible topics:

I. 'Macquarie Island has a fragile environment and no tourists should be allowed to visit there';

II. 'Scientists have caused more environmental problems than sealers on Macquarie Island and elsewhere';

III. 'Global Warming is merely part of a natural long term cycle of increasing and decreasing temperatures on the earth's surface.'


One Month Journal

Students could write a Macquarie Island Journal over a period of one month. They could choose to write the journal as if they were a convict who had escaped to Macquarie Island, a shipwrecked sealer or scientist, a scientist working on Macquarie Island or a family member of a person who is on Macquarie Island or adopt some other persona.

Telling and Selling Your Shipwreck Story

One group of students could volunteer to be shipwrecked on Macquarie Island. They must agree on the details of the shipwreck (Who was shipwrecked? Did anybody die? When did it happen? Where did it happen? What happened? Why did it happen? How did they eat? How did they find shelter? How did they get home?). These students are then invited to write their account of the shipwreck for the media (in return, of course, for a large sum of money...). The remaining class members are journalists. They will need to decide what type of magazine or newspaper they are working for, who are their readers, and how they should present their stories. The journalists arrange a media conference to interview the shipwreck survivors. The journalists then draft their account of the shipwreck story, hand over the draft to a 'sub-editor' and present a finished copy of their work for publication.

Non-Metric Measures

Working individually or in groups, students could design imaginative ways to explain to the class some non-metric measures that were in common use in the nineteenth century and may still be in use today. Examples of these measures are: pounds, shillings and pence, bushels, fathoms, feet, horsepower, fathoms, knots, feet, inches, pints, tuns, tons and tonnes. It would be useful for students to visit the glossary before attempting this activity


Charting the Weather

Using Internet data on the Antarctic Division?s Macquarie Island website at:

Chart Macquarie Island's weather over an agreed period of time.


Ship Building

Undertake any or all of these activities, working independently or as a team member:

I. Use information from books, the glossary, the ships data-base, the Internet or other sources to make scale paper cut out models of different types of sailing vessels such as brigs, barques, schooners, etc. Use grid paper to make these models to scale;

II. Use the grid to convert non-metric dimensions (feet and inches) to metric dimensions;

III. Build actual models to the dimensions of the paper models;

IV. Design and carry out experiment to see which of these vessels are the most efficient at sailing; Explain your results to the class and justify your conclusions; or:

V. Write an article on the shipbuilding industry, from bark canoes to nuclear warships


Subantarctic Plants and Animals

I. Read the stories in The Science Observer, then choose one species of plant or animal that is found on Macquarie Island. Use information from a variety of sources (i.e., books, the Internet, CD ROMs) and write about its life cycle; or

II. Investigate the impact of introduced plants and animals in national parks. Find two different ways to present this information to the class.


Winds and Currents

I. Investigate the currents and/or the winds in the Southern Ocean; or

II. If students live near a river or the sea they could investigate local currents. They could do this by sending out messages in bottles, asking people who find them to contact you and say where they found the bottle. Students could then map where the bottles were found over a period of time. Present this information to your class.


Navigation at Sea

Research the history of navigation at sea. Teachers could encourage students to look at navigation methods used by non-Anglo cultures, for example, Polynesian, Indonesian, Chinese or Vikings. They could also look at instruments used to navigate and explain to the class how these work.


History of Communications

Investigate the history of communications, from hand signals to satellite signals. Students could present a written and practical demonstration of their research to the class.


Humans - Environmental Vandals or Guardians?

'Some human cultures are better than others at looking after their environment'. Research and report on this topic. In your report, include at least two case studies of how some human cultures have driven other species to extinction.


Whaling and Sealing Industries

Use various sources (i.e. books, Internet, Shipwrecks, Sealers and Scientists on Macquarie Island site) to investigate the whaling and sealing industries. Use drama, music, art or craft to present your information to the class.


Careers in the Antarctic and Subantarctic, Past and Present

Investigate the range of careers in the Antarctic and subantarctic since the early 1900s. Present two or three case studies of careers in the Antarctic or subantarctic. If possible, students could interview with people who have worked in the Antarctic or subantarctic and map the locations where these people have worked.



Using the stories and information in the Shipwrecks, Sealers and Scientists on Macquarie Island Internet site, students could decide on which events they would consider to be the 20 most important events in the island's history, and chart them on a timeline. They should justify their selection of these events.


Nautical Themes

I. Research the history of a local shipwreck;

II. Investigate and report on nautical terms and superstitions; or

III. Research the history of the use of knots on ships and give a practical demonstration to your class.


Poetry and Sea Shanties

I. Write a poem about Macquarie Island. Edit the poems and publish as a class anthology; or

II. Using the Internet and/or books, investigate the history of sea shanties and either put together a tape of shanties or publish as an anthology.



Students could write a one page outline for a feature film or documentary based on Macquarie Island. They are trying to sell this story to a film producer and must convince him/her to fund your film.


Ship-Board Diets

Use books, the Internet or other sources to investigate:

I. Links between diseases such as scurvy and ship-board diets of the past; or

II. Factors influencing human diets in Antarctica and the subantarctic. Write a report on your findings.



Advice To Teachers


These activities have been put together with the assistance of Mr Gary Guiver, a teacher at Taroona High School, Tasmania.

(C)Anne Morgan, 2000. Permission is granted to reproduce this document.

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