• Audience
    Secondary school, Tertiary
  • Learning stage
    Stage 4, Stage 5, Stage 6
  • Learning area
    English, Geography, Science
  • Type
    Learning journey, Teaching resources

On this page...

Learning journeys offer a scaffolded approach to exploring a topic both in the classroom and at the Museum. Follow our learning journey to deepen your students’ knowledge and understanding of natural selection, evolution and Australia through time.

The diversity of life on Earth is the result of the process of evolution by natural selection. Our understanding of the relationship between species, both living and extinct, has been shaped by scientific evidence. The story of life on Earth, including the human story, can be told because of fossils and archaeological discoveries, oral traditions, and modern genetic technology. Learn more about the evidence supporting the Theory of Evolution and how Australia has changed through time.

Through this learning journey, students will:

  • describe scientific evidence that present-day organisms have evolved from organisms in the past
  • relate the fossil record to the age of the Earth and the time over which life has been evolving
  • deepen their understanding of First Nations peoples
  • use a digital technology to communicate their findings

NSW syllabus links: SC4-6WS, SC4-8WS, SC4-9WS, SC5-5WS, SC5-7WS, SC5-9WS.

Prepare your students

  • An Acknowledgement of Country is a statement that pays respect to the Traditional Custodians of the Country that you are learning or meeting on and recognises their ongoing relationship with Country. The Australian Museum respects and acknowledges the Gadigal people as the Custodians of the land on which the Museum stands.

    Which First Nations Country or Nation was your school built upon? If you are unsure contact a local First Nations organisation to find out. You might like to start with the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group.

    Ask your students to write an Acknowledgement of Country for your school. To get them started, read more about why an Acknowledgement of Country is important and how to write one in this ABC article.

  • Evidence from the past
    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been living on and looking after this land for tens of thousands of years. Research the term oral traditions and oral histories in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and discuss why these sources of scientific, historic and geographic evidence are so important to our understanding of Australia through time.

    Ask your class what they think of when they hear the words evolution, archaeology and palaeontology. Record and discuss answers, and address any misconceptions. You may need to write up a class definition, based on your discussion.

  • Natural selection and fossils
    Review the meaning of habitat and adaptation and introduce the concept of selection pressure.

    Research an animal species to complete the following:

    1) Identify its habitat
    2) Identify three selection pressures (e.g. predators, competitors, disease) that may affect its survival
    3) Describe how one of its adaptations helps it to survive.

    Review the different types of fossils and how they form using our fossil classification poster.

    Pre-read our Australian through time activity if you would like to make a digital story at the Museum. Get students to practice how to make a video, website or other type of digital presentation with Adobe spark.

  • Revise key concepts
    Review the meanings of the key words and discuss with the class what they expect, or hope, to find at the Museum that will help them to better understand the history of life and First Nations' cultures in Australia.

    You are now ready to visit the Australian Museum!

At the Museum

  • Complete our Australia through time activity. Students will create a digital story as they move through the Museum's exhibitions to find evidence from Australia's past.

    Alternatively, use our Surviving Australia conversation starters or our Surviving Australia exhibition insights to learn more about adaptations and the evidence that supports evolution.

    These activities are designed to encourage your students to connect, share and reflect on this topic through the specimens and items on display.

    We recommend that your students work in small groups, however, how you implement and manage the activities is up to you.

    Surviving Australia Exhibition
    Meet the megafauna Image: James Horan
    © Australian Museum

  • Complete the Australia through time activity and get students to create their own digital story. Learn about Australia’s evolving landscape, the history of First Nations’ peoples, dinosaurs, megafauna, and other extinct organisms, using fossils and archaeological evidence in the Museum collection.

Back in the classroom

  • Digital story
    Use Adobe spark and your notes, photos and videos from your Museum visit to make a video or website about Australia's past environments.

  • The Tree of Life
    Think of your favorite animal and use the online evolutionary tree OneZoom: tree of life explorer to answer these questions:

    – What is its scientific name and conservation status? Why is it under threat?
    – What is your animal's closest living relative? Identify the features these two animals have in common, and what features are unique.
    – Can you think of some evidence that may have been used to place animals at their position on the Tree of Life?

    Fossil sites of Australia
    Select one of Australia's fossil sites from our website. Create a profile for this fossil site by responding to these questions.

    – Where is this fossil site?
    – What animals were found there? Describe them in detail and what period in time they are from.
    – What does the site tell us about Australia’s past?

  • Persuasive writing: role of museums in scientific discovery
    What role do you think Museum collections play in the development of scientific theories and our understanding of the past? Write a persuasive article about how museums can aid in the advances in science or emerging science and technologies. The Australian Museum collections is a good starting point to investigate why we have collections.