The devastating brushfires in Australia are constantly on my mind these days. I have been so fortunate to collaborate and develop friendships with incredible educators in Australia. In January, 2018 I traveled to Adelaide, Australia to visit and meet with my colleagues. It was a trip I will remember for a lifetime! Thank you, Makers Empire, for the experience and the memories!
When the news began showing the images of the brushfires, animal suffering, and heroic efforts of firefighters and citizens, my heart began breaking. How can I help make things better? How can we educate ourselves and our students about this situation? How can we make a difference?
I know many of you are thinking of creating integrated units, Project Based Learning units, or service projects focused on Australia. Maybe you personally would like to help, but just don’t know how. I reached out to my pals Mandi & Kim in Australia and they were able to provide some insight and resources. I gathered their links and some additional things I found to share with you in hopes it will provide inspiration and practical ways to make a difference. I am donating all I can to the cause!
First, let’s look at some books and websites that give us a better understanding about the continent, animals, and the situation. Then, keep scrolling for lots of links to organizations making a difference and ideas for helping the animals and the responders.
Books that Build Background Knowledge for Australia
This colorful picture book takes you and your students on a lovely trip around Australia. Along the way you will see animals, birds, plants that call this continent home.
You will explore 38 of the unique creatures of Down Under. This book includes beautiful illustrations and interesting facts about the animals of Australia.
This one is for the littles. It is a simple story about Banjo Blue, a koala, and his friends as they tackle a brushfire. Check it out on the author’s site for a preview!
No book list about Australia would be complete without the beautiful and sweet writings by Mem Fox. Koala Lou is a classic about a mother’s love and sibling rivalry. Please do check out Fox’s website because it has some delightful stories behind her books and resources for teachers.
I love this book! It is funny, clever, and is written in rhyming text. I have shared it in so many workshops and classrooms, I can’t count the number of times I have read it. Edwin decides he doesn’t like being an emu and tries to be something else for a change. It is hysterical. The author is an Australian and her writing is so clever.
Students Making a Difference
When I started looking for new books to share with teachers and students about this topic, I was deeply touched to find two groups of students in Australia that decided to make a difference in their own country and abroad. Both classes wrote books about the brushfires and how to prevent and survive them. My PBL (Project Based Learning) heart exploded at the creativity, authenticity, and passion of these students and teachers. These are powerful examples of how kids can make a difference.
This book is written by students to tell the story of when their school was threatened by fires. Students were directly impacted by the fires and 65 homes were lost in March of 2018, but the school was spared. Teachers used this project to help the students express and process their feelings about the disaster. The book can be purchased from the school. See the contact information on the website. I think this is so powerful! What a way to empower students!
A few years ago, this school encouraged their students to write a book to educate others about brushfires. Students wrote a book, had them published and then partnered with Fire and Rescue to have copies of their book sent to every primary school across their region. Talk about authentic writing! So amazing!
Discussing Bushfires with Students
Australian organizations have provided some really wonderful resources for their parents and teachers to discuss this topic with students. From learning about bushfires to preparation, responding, and recovering from the fires… suggestions and lessons are shared on the Bushfire Education site.
The NSW Government site shares advice to assist parents, teachers and students also. They even include a video about the importance of supporting children through the crisis.
Donations and Organizations
For most of us, we are looking for ways to help with our donations. Here are some links to reputable organizations that are currently fighting the fires or helping the animals hurt by the fires.
Adam is a great teacher, friend, and colleague. He is also the founder of Yellow Day. This is a special day to show kindness. This year all the proceeds from the Yellow Day t-shirt campaign will go to WIRES Wildlife Rescue Australia to help animals affected by the fires.
Animal Rescue Collective Craft Guild: This organization is making blankets, joey pouches, and koala mittens to help the injured animals. If your class is crafty, this might be a really neat option for helping.
One last thing to keep in mind if you are wanting to reach out to a class in Australia to help, this time of year is Australia’s summer holiday. They will return to classes in February.
Let’s send our love and support to our friends Down Under.