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Where is Australia?
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Beach Sand
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Q: Some beaches have very white sand while others do not. Why is this?
A: The sand is made of different minerals.

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White sand beaches (such as those near Perth, the Bahamas, and many other places) are composed of bits of shell and corals which were brought from the ocean shelf to the shore by waves. These shells and corals are made of pure calcite which is nearly always white.

Beaches whose sand is not white (say a yellowy-brown colour) are formed by quartz sand -the raw material for glass- and a few other minor minerals which were eroded from the land and brought to the shore by rivers.

Pure quartz is clear, but there are commonly impurities and coatings on the grains, and with the other minor minerals the sand looks yellowy-brown.


Find the meanings of the following words…

a) calcite         b) quartz           c) mineral           d) eroded         e) impurities       

Talk about or Write about

White, fine-grained beach sand is pleasant to look at and feels good to walk upon.

Do you prefer such a beach or one that is not made up of white sand but instead is covered with many thousands of small shells of different colours, shapes and sizes?
What are the pros and cons of these two kinds of beaches?


Blood to the Brain

Your heart works against gravity to pump blood to your brain. If you do a handstand -thereby putting yourself upside down- gravity works with the heart to carry blood to the brain. This results in an increase in blood pressure in the brain which can make you feel a little ‘funny’ and even cause a black-out.

Why doesn’t a giraffe, with its extremely long neck, black-out when it bends over to take a drink of water? …see under pic for the answer.

It’s because a giraffe has an extra-large, very strong heart –needed to pump blood up its long neck to its brain against the force of gravity. When a giraffe’s head is lowered, in spite of the tremendous increase in pressure from the large strong heart pumping blood forcefully to the brain, together with gravitational forces, the animal does not black-out because it has evolved certain adaptations; these include extremely elastic blood vessels, special valves in their neck veins and a network of tiny veins to compensate for the sudden increase in blood pressure.

Not all animals have these kinds of adaptations. A rabbit for example will die if held head upwards, since it simply can’t pump blood to its brain in that unnatural posture.

Talk about or Write about

1. This article talks about two of our most important organs, the brain and the heart. You know that the brain relies on the heart to provide it with blood but the heart needs the brain just as much. How might it be that the heart relies upon the brain in order to function?

2. Some people have a condition called high blood pressure while there are others whose blood pressure is low. From what you read above do you think you could guess possible causes for both these medical ailments?

3. Giraffes have evolved special adaptations to enable them to keep their head lowered. Rabbits, though, haven’t acquired the ability to keep their head raised…why have they not?


How to tell if an Egg has been Boiled

Question: How you might you tell whether an egg is boiled or not without breaking the shell, or using any equipment other than a flat surface?

Answer: Place your egg on a flat surface and spin it. A cooked egg will revolve much faster and continue turning longer than a raw one. Indeed it is difficult to make the raw egg turn. The difference between these two behaviours is, not surprisingly, because the boiled egg is solid and the raw egg contains liquid.

It is easy to spin a rigid body like the boiled egg, because it turns as a whole. Nearly all of the force you apply to the cooked egg contributes to the rotation of the egg.

The raw egg, however, has liquid contents. The liquid centre of the egg, attempting to stay at rest, resists rotation and acts as a brake on the rotation of the egg. Thus the energy you give to the egg is lost in overcoming friction between the liquid contents and the shell, rather than contributing to the rotation of the egg as a whole.

Talk about or Write about:

The Earth spins on its axis, one rotation taking 24 hours. (23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4.2 seconds to be exact).
As you know, most of the Earth’s surface is water (oceans, seas, lakes). Also, lying just below the Earth’s crust there is a layer of molten rock -composed mainly of liquid iron and nickel.
So in this way our planet is not unlike the raw egg with its liquid contents.

If the Earth’s surface was completely solid do you think it would spin easier and perhaps faster than it does? (do some research and see what you can find out)


Famous Scientist: Archimedes

Archimedes was born in Syracuse, the largest Greek settlement in Sicily, in 287BC. He was a physicist and mechanical engineer but was best known in the ancient world as an inventor.

Archimedes proved the law of the lever and invented the compound pulley. With these machines, it is possible to move a great weight with a small force. Archimedes reportedly once boasted to Hiero, King of Syracuse: “Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the entire earth.” He was referring to the way levers and pulleys can help people move objects many times their own size. The king challenged him to prove his boast. Archimedes is said to have used a system of pulleys to move a ship fully loaded with passengers and freight.

In his investigations of force and motion, Archimedes discovered that every object has a centre of gravity. This is a single point at which the force of gravity appears to act on the object.

Archimedes did much of his work for King Hiero. In one famous story, the king suspected that a goldsmith had not made a new coin of pure gold, but had mixed in some less costly silver. The king asked Archimedes to find out if the goldsmith had cheated.

Archimedes found the answer to this problem while taking a bath. Archimedes noticed that water spilled out of a bath as he placed his body into it. By measuring the amount of water his body displaced, he could measure his body’s volume. He concluded that any object placed in the bath would displace a volume of water equal to its own volume.
Archimedes compared the amount of water displaced by the coin to the amount of water displaced by an equal weight of pure gold. The coin displaced more water, and so it was not pure gold. The goldsmith had cheated.
Archimedes was so excited when he found the answer that he ran into the street without dressing, shouting “Eureka!”

Talk about or Write about

1. Would you say that the centre of gravity of planet earth is at earth’s centre?

2. If an object is made of a heavy substance at one end and a light substance at the other end is its centre of gravity nearer the heavier end or the lighter end?

3. Give definitions for lever and pulley.

4. Archimedes found that the coin made of pure gold displaced a different amount of water from the coin that was made of a gold-silver mixture, even though the coins weighed the same. This is because the coins were of different density. What is density?

5. Providing they both sink, is it possible that a small, heavy object could displace as much water as a lighter object that is twice its volume? 



Gordon Gould was born in New York City in 1920. As a child, he idolized the great inventor Thomas Edison. Later, Gould himself would conceive and design one of the most significant inventions of the 20th century, the laser.

In 1957 Gould was working in the Physics Department at Columbia University, USA. One Saturday night, he was inspired “in a flash” with a revolutionary idea:
Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation’, or the ‘laser’.

Gould reasoned that a light-wave amplifier would be much more powerful than a maser (which amplifies microwaves), since every photon of light has a hundred thousand times more energy than a photon of microwave energy.

By the end of that weekend, Gould had designed a device that he predicted could heat a substance to the temperature of the sun’s surface in a millionth of a second.

By the time the first of his laser patents was issued in 1977 Gould’s laser technology was already being used in countless practical applications, including welding, scanning and surgery.

Talk about or Write about

1. There are some people who are wary of using microwave ovens to heat food. Why do you suppose this is?

2. Why might it have been so long (20 years) from the time of Gould’s idea to the time his first laser patent was issued?

3. Which of the following laser applications would you think will most benefit humanity: welding, scanning, surgery?

4. What similarities are there between microwaves and lasers?

5. What differences are there between microwaves and lasers?


Does the Moon affect life on Earth?

If there were no moon, the tides would be only about 30% of what they are now
…and the tide cycle would perfectly match the daylight cycle (explanation below).

Tides are the rises and falls of large bodies of water (oceans, seas, lakes and rivers); they are caused mainly by the gravitational interaction between the Earth and the moon (the sun has a smaller effect on tides). The oceans bulge out in the direction of the moon. Since the earth is rotating while this is happening another bulge occurs on the opposite side, since the Earth is also being pulled toward the moon (and away from the water) on the far side. So two tides occur each day.

Notice that the tidal cycles have nothing to do with the day-night cycles we experience. Tides are caused by the moon’s pull; day-night cycles are caused by Earth’s rotation on its axis -now we get the sun’s light, soon people in places west of ours will get it (and we’ll experience night).

Many of the most primitive animals live in tidal zones of the ocean, and depend upon the tide cycles being out of tune with the day-night cycles to survive; so if there were no moon, ocean life would be affected. Some animals would perish without a moon; newer life forms -able to adapt to the two cycles being more ‘in sync’- may well evolve.

The moon enables nocturnality (night time activity, daytime sleep) which is important for both predators and prey. Without nocturnality our Earth at night would be a different place for many species (mammals, reptiles and birds among them); hunting, feeding and sleeping habits would be altered.

So yes, the moon certainly does affect life on Earth.

Talk about or Write about

1) The moon’s pull on Earth’s large bodies of water is greater than that of the sun. Given that the sun is much bigger (far greater mass) than the moon how can that be?

2) Our large expanses of water ‘move toward’ the moon. What stops solid materials (mountains, rocks etc) from also moving?

3) Many of the most primitive animals live in tidal zones of the ocean. What would you say is meant by tidal zones?

4) Which ocean creatures would you say are least affected by the moon?

5) What would you say ‘in sync’ means?

6) Which of a nocturnal animal’s five senses do you think would be the most highly evolved?…explain. Which other senses may also be more highly evolved than ours?

7) Here is some real ‘food for thought’! Would it be harder for diurnal animals (squirrels, songbirds…) to have to adapt to permanent night time living or harder for nocturnal animals (koala, possum…) to be forced to adapt to permanent daytime living?



This lesson is designed to train children to observe what happens when a force is increased and to introduce the idea of the force of gravity that causes the mass of objects.

A force is a push or a pull. A force can make an object start moving, stop or change direction. In this lesson you will use forces to start things moving and find out why they stop moving.

1. Put a coin on a flat table. Will it move sideways by itself? [No] What can make it move sideways? [A force] Pick up the coin. Can it move by itself? [No] Let it go. What happens?[It falls] Why did it move? Did you make it move with a force? [No] Did anything push it?[No] Did anything pull it? [Yes, it was pulled down by the force of gravity]

2. Slide the coin down a ruler that’s on a slight slope. Why does the coin slide down? [It is pulled down by the force of gravity] Why does it slide slowly? [There is some push on the coin by the sloping ruler] Make the slope steeper. Slide the coin down. Why does the coin slide down more quickly? [The coin is pulled down by the force of gravity. The sloping ruler pushes up less on the coin] With the coin on the ruler, turn the ruler over. What happens to the coin? [It falls very fast] Why does it fall so fast? [It is pulled down by the force of gravity; the ruler does not push up on it at all so there is nothing to stop the coin from falling] An object falls down when the force pushing up on it is less than its mass.

3. The earth pulls all things towards it. This pull is called the force of gravity.

4. When you hold a coin in your hand is there a pull down on the coin? [Yes] What do you call this force? [The mass of the coin] The mass of the object is the pull down caused by the force of gravity. Does the coin move down? [No] Why not? [The coin does not move down because your hand pushes up the coin. The pull down on the coin is equal to the push up by your hand, so the coin does not move] When an object does not move this is because the pull down is equal to the push up on it.

Extra Activity:
Make a slope with a ruler. Slide a 20 cent coin down a slope to hit a 10 cent coin that’s been placed on the table near the bottom of the ruler. Note the height of the slope and how far the 10 cent coin moves. Change the height of the slope a few times but keep the 1o cent coin in the same place near the bottom of the ruler.
Make a Table of Results…    Height of slope     Distance 10 cent coin moves

What did you notice about the speed of the 20 cent coin when the height of the slope increased? [It moved faster] What did you notice about the distance the 10 cent coin moved when the height of the slope increased? [It moved farther] Why did these increases occur? [The force of the 20 cent coin hitting the 10 cent coin increased as the height of the slope increased]

Repeat the experiment above but use a 10 cent coin sliding down to hit a 20 cent coin. What do you see? [The 20 cent coin is pushed less distance along the table]

Can you explain why a ripe mango or orange fruit drops to the ground from the tree?

Talk about or Write about

1. What is a force? [A push or a pull] 2. Can a force start things moving? [Yes] 3. Can a force stop things that are moving? [Yes] 4. Can a force make a moving thing change direction? [Yes] 5. Which ball hits your hand with the greatest force, a heavy ball or a light ball? [A heavy ball] 6. A ball thrown high or ball thrown low? [High] 7. Coconut on a tree… is there a force pulling down the coconut? [Yes] 8. What is the force called? [Mass] 9. Is there a force pushing up? [Yes] 10. What is pulling it up? [The tree] 11. Which force is bigger? [If the coconut stays on the tree then, force down = force up]


Reproduction: An Interesting Fact

In former times -before the great advances in medicine- it was not uncommon for babies to survive just weeks, days or even minutes.
To reach puberty (reproductive age) then, was something of a feat, especially during times of widespread disease.

In 1665/66 the Great Plague of England killed 100 000 people but the most devastating pandemic in human history -the Black Death- had occurred earlier, between 1348-1350; it wiped out about a third of Europe’s entire population.

Now, there are around 7 billion people inhabiting our planet at this time. Each of these 7 billion -including you- can truthfully say, “Every single one of of my ancestors survived to reproductive age.” (If just one had not, you could never have been born).



In 1674, using a single-lens microscope of his own design, Anton van Leeuwenboek was the first to observe bacteria.

Bacteria are single-cell micro-organisms.
They are usually a few micrometres long (a micrometre is a thousandth of a millimetre) and have many different shapes including spheres, rods and spirals.

 Bacteria live in every possible habitat on the planet including soil, underwater, deep in the earth’s crust and even such environments as acidic hot springs and radioactive waste. There are about a million bacterial cells in a millilitre of fresh water.

Not all bacteria are harmful. Bacteria are vital in recycling nutrients and are important in processes such as wastewater treatment and the production of antibiotics (in laboratories) and certain chemicals. There are 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells in the human body, with large numbers of bacteria on the skin and in the digestive tract. Although the great majority of these bacteria are harmless (or even helpful), a few can cause infectious diseases, including cholera and anthrax. The most common bacterial disease is tuberculosis.

Questions  (answers in red)

1. What is a micro-organism?     an extremely tiny life-form

2. A little bit of maths for you….about how many bacteria are there in a litre of fresh water?      about a billion (a thousand million)

3. The first line of the 2nd paragraph contains the word vital. What does this mean?    necessary, essential, extremely important

4. There is a large number of bacteria in the digestive tract. What is the digestive tract?   the path in our body through which food passes


The Human Heart

When you drink a glass of water you consume, let’s say, 250 ml.

Four glasses, then, contain a litre (think of the litre of milk you buy at the supermarket).

Imagine, and try to ‘see’, sixteen glasses of water, placed alongside one another in a row; these sixteen glasses contain 4 litres of water.

Forty glasses of water placed alongside one another contain 10 litres of water.

One hundred and sixty glasses of water placed alongside one another contain 40 litres of water (40 litres of petrol would take you a long way in a car). Try to visualize these one hundred and sixty glasses of water side by side in a straight line.

Now let’s do a little multiplying.

Visualize ten such rows of one hundred and sixty water-filled glasses; that’s a lot of glasses -1 600 – (400 litres of water).

Now try to see one hundred such rows of 160 glasses -16 000 – (4 000 litres of water).

Lastly, see how you go at imagining one thousand such rows of 160 glasses; that’s 160 000 glasses, containing 40 000 litres.

OK, we’re going to change the contents of these 160 000 glasses from water to……… blood.

We now have 160 000 blood-filled glasses…40 000 litres. A lot of blood? Yep, sure is…

And that’s how much blood the adult human heart pumps around the body each day!

  – 40 000 litres of petrol would power the average car around the world 10 times – 


Science Research Puzzles
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Space & the Universe
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Australian Dinosaurs (1)
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                                                   image courtesy and © Dann Pigdon

Dinosaur remains have been found in the opal fields of South Australia and New South Wales.
Kakuru is represented by a single almost-complete tibia (lower leg bone) from Andamooka in South Australia. The word “Kakuru” means “rainbow serpent” in the local Aboriginal language, probably because the opalised fossil sparkles with many colours. Other South Australian fossil material includes a juvenile hypsilophodontid vertebra from Andemooka, and an ankle bone of a large ornithopod, perhaps something like Muttaburrasaurus, from Coober Pedy.

Talk about or Write about

1. When people learn that dinosaurs lived in Australia many don’t realise that our land looked nothing like it does now. The Australian continent had not long broken away from Antarctica and would have had a different size and shape than what it has today. Also, there was a large inland sea occupying about a third of Australia’s land area. So what does it actually mean to say that dinosaur remains have been found in South Australia?

2. What do opals and rainbows have in common?

3. Looking at the image above, how tall and how long would you say Kakuru was?

4. What would you estimate the height and length of Muttaburrasaurus to be?

5. Of the four dinosaurs in the picture, three are bipeds and the other is quadrupedal. What does this mean?

6. What modern-day creature does Kakuru most remind you of?

7. If you were lucky enough to find an opalised dinosaur fossil would you value it more for its beauty or its rarity? What would you do with it?


Australian Dinosaurs (2)
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Mixed Topics (green headings below)
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Communications and the Media

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Talk about or Write about    –answers in red

1. What is meant by the word communication? Transmitting thoughts, ideas, knowledge, intentions etc to others.

2. Give some everyday reasons people need to communicate. What would you like for breakfast? When will you be home? May I watch television? Would you like to come to my party? etc etc.

3. It is easier for people to communicate with each other than it was in ancient times. Why is this? Early people needed to rely on hand gestures and speech. Then came primitive communications such as smoke signals and bongo drums. Now we can send text messages, emails, ‘snail mail’, use telephones and produce newsletters. We also have the print and electronic media.

4. How would your ability to communicate be affected if you were deaf? You could not hear voices (including phone), hear things on the radio, TV, etc.

5. How would your ability to communicate be affected if you were blind? Could not see others’ faces, read texts, magazines or books;  could not watch watch television, movies or see a computer screen.

6. How would your ability to communicate be affected if you were unable to speak? Could not talk face to face or on the phone.

7. How would your ability to communicate be affected if you had no fingers? Could not send text messages, send emails, write letters or postcards.

8. What prevents people from different places in the world from having good communications with each other?   1. Different languages.  2. Some have limited access to print and electronic media.

9. How could this problem be overcome? 1. Have a universal language (such as Esperanto) -though English is emerging as the major world language. 2. Redistribute wealth more evenly among all nations and create better educational opportunities in poorer countries.

10. Are there advantages in preserving the world’s many languages? Yes. Languages enrich cultures; they are interesting to study; we can borrow words from other languages and incorporate them into our own.

Communications and the Media Quiz  –answers in blue

1. Two forms of media are the electronic media and the p _ _ n _  media.    print

2. Newspaper editors check the work of  _ u _  editors.       sub

3. Individuals can advertise in the C l _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ section of newspapers.      Classified

4. Television and radio advertisements are also called c _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _. (plural)    commercials

5. Sending advertising direct to customers is called _ _ _ _ _ _ marketing.     direct

6. People who write stories for newspapers are called  _ e p  _ _ _ _ _ _. (plural)     reporters

7. Most newspapers have a ‘Letters to the E _ _ _ _ _’ page.        Editor

8. An anonymous letter writer does not like to us their _ _ _ _.        name

9. Towers are used to transmit s _ _ _ _ l s from mobile phones. (plural)       signals

10. People can present their point of view on T _ _ _  b _ _ k radio shows. (two words)  Talk back

11. Formerly, dots and dashes were used in M _ _ _ _  C _ _ _ communications. (two words)   Morse Code

12. Long ago American Indians tribes used smoke s _ _ _ _ _ _ to communicate with one another.         signals

13. N _ _ _ l _ _ _ _ _ _ are often used to communicate club news. (plural)    Newsletters

14. Sometimes announcements are made over a Public A _ _ _ _ _ _ System.      Address

15. Email has partly taken the place of mail sent through the P _ _ _ _ _ system.    Postal

16. Some advertisers use giant B _ _ _ boards to advertise their products.         Billboards

17. In public places people should not speak l _ _ _ _ _  into their phones.        loudly

18. P _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ produce books, magazines or newspapers. (plural)         Publishers

19. Ancient Egyptians communicated by drawing p _ _ t _ _ _ _ called pictographs. (plural)         pictures

20. Cyclists communicate their intentions with _ _ _ _ signals.        hand


World Cities 

Chloe and her little brother Jack are going on a world trip with their family next year and they’ll be visiting 10 major cities.

The cities are: (1) England’s capital (2) France’s capital (3) Switzerland’s largest (4) Poland’s capital (5) India’s largest (6) China’s largest (7) Japan’s capital (8) Canada’s largest (9) Brazil’s capital (10) New Zealand’s largest

Answer true or false:

a) One city begins with A and one begins with Z.          True (Auckland, Zurich)

b) Two of the cities begin with vowels.           False (Auckland)

c) Two of the cities begin with T.          True (Tokyo, Toronto)

d) One city begins with the same letter as its country.      True (Brazil/Brasilia)

e) Three cities are in the southern hemisphere.      False (Brasilia, Auckland)

f)  Four of the cities have 6 letters in their name.   True (London, Zurich, Warsaw, Mumbai)

g) Two of the cities have 4 syllables in their name.       False (Brasilia)

h) Seven of the cities have 2 syllables in their name.        True (London, Paris, Zurich, Warsaw, Mumbai, Shanghai, Auckland)

i) Three of the cities are in Asia.     True (Mumbai, Shanghai, Tokyo)

j) More than 7 of the cities are on the coast.     False (Mumbai, Shanghai, Tokyo, Auckland)



Europe is one of the seven traditional continents.

Though it’s the second-smallest continent in area (Australia is smaller) it is the third-largest (after Asia and Africa) in population.

Europe gets its name from Europa who was a princess in Greek mythology. Originally Europa stood for mainland Greece but by 500 BC its meaning had been extended to lands to the north.

Eighty to ninety per cent of Europe was once covered by forests, which stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Arctic Ocean.

Though over half of Europe’s original forests disappeared through the centuries of deforestation, it still has over one quarter of its land area as forest.

Talk about or Write about      (suggested solutions in red)

1. What do you think might be a reason(s) why Europe, a small continent in area, has a large population?      suitable lands to cultivate and inhabit; (others)

2. What might have been the reason that the name Europa came to extend northwards from Greece?     Greek influence may have spread north

3. What do you think could have been reasons for Europe losing so much of its forests?     people needed more land for farming and settlement

4. What kind of animal and plant species may have been affected by Europe’s loss of forest?     birds, tree-dwelling mammals, plants needing shade, etc

5. a) Perhaps you have a European heritage. Would you care to share that with us?
b) Have you visited Europe? If so, where did you go and what were some highlights?


Famous People in History Quiz

1) What was the first name of Bonaparte, the French military and political leader?

2) _______ Polo walked from Italy to Asia where he had a series of adventures; he returned after 24 years.

3) Vice Admiral Horatio _________ won several military victories for Britain, including the Battle of Trafalgar.

4) This ancient Greek philosopher was a student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle.

5) Julius ________ was a military and political leader in ancient Rome.

6) Louis_______ invented a method of reading for blind people.


1) Napoleon   2) Marco   3) Nelson    4) Plato   5) Caesar    6) Braille


Our World (Puzzles)
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Gen Knowledge Research Crosswords
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Prodigies, Savants and Geniuses
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Stephen Wiltshire The Human Camera

Stephen Wiltshire is an autistic savant artist who has an amazing talent for drawing detailed and accurate sketches of cities after having only observed them once, briefly.

As a child Stephen was mute, and did not relate to other people. At age three, around the time he was diagnosed as autistic, his father died in a motorcycle accident. Stephen had no language and lived entirely in his own world.

At the age of five, Stephen was sent to school in London where it was noticed that the only pastime he enjoyed was drawing. It soon became clear that he communicated with the world through drawing; first animals, then London buses, and finally buildings. At the age of eight, he started drawing imaginary cityscapes and cars. His teachers had always encouraged him to speak (sometimes by temporarily taking away his art supplies so that he would be forced to ask for them). Stephen responded by making sounds and eventually uttered his first word – “paper”. Stephen’s ability to speak gradually improved and by the age of nine he could speak fully.

When he was ten, Stephen drew a sequence of drawings of London landmarks, one for each letter, that he called a “London Alphabet”. The drawings featured places from the Albert Hall through to the London Zoo.

Now an adult Stephen can look at a scene once and then draw an accurate and detailed picture of it. He once drew the whole of central London after a helicopter trip above it.

In May 2005 Stephen produced a panoramic memory drawing of Tokyo on a 3 metre canvas following a short helicopter ride over the city. Since then he has drawn several other major cities, all after brief flights over them in a helicopter.

After viewing Rome from the air for just 20 minutes Stephen drew the many hundreds of buildings and streets below him, all in great detail, including the exact number of columns in the ancient temple, the Pantheon.
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                                      See Stephen sketching Rome here. 

Talk about or Write about

1. Stephen is an autistic savant artist. What other types of autistic savants are there?

2. What challenges might Stephen have faced as a very young child who could not speak?

3. Would you say that Stephen is a genius? What is a genius?

4. Who benefits from Stephen’s special gift with drawing?

5. What could possibly explain Stephen’s amazing photographic memory for detail? (in other words, how might his brain differ from ours?).


Zerah Colburn The Human Calculator
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Zerah Colburn (1804-1839) was a child prodigy of the 19th century
who gained fame for his astonishing mental feats with numbers.

Zerah Colburn was born in Cabot, Vermont (USA) in 1804 and educated at Westminster School in London.

Apparently Zerah had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot.

He was thought to be mentally retarded as a very young child. However, after six weeks of schooling his father overheard him repeating his multiplication tables. His father wasn’t sure whether or not he learned the tables from his older brothers and sisters but he decided to test him further on his mathematical abilities and discovered that there was something special about his son when Zerah correctly multiplied 97 by 13.

When he was seven years old he took six seconds to give the number of hours in thirty-eight years, two months, and seven days.

By age eight Zerah was able to carry out amazing feats of mental arithmetic. When asked the question, “How many seconds in 2 000 years?” he replied, “730 000 days …which is 1 051 200 000 minutes …which is 63 072 000 000 seconds.”

Zerah’s abilities developed rapidly and he was soon able to solve such problems as the product of 12 225 and 1 223, or the square root of 1 449.

Zerah could solve complex problems. For example, to find whether the number 4 294 967 297 is prime or not Zerah calculated in his head that it was not because it can be divided by 641.

His father soon began to capitalize on his boy’s talents by taking Zerah around the country and eventually abroad, demonstrating his son’s exceptional abilities.

Although Zerah’s schooling was rather irregular he also showed extreme talent in languages.

Zerah Colburn died in 1839 aged just 35.

Talk about or Write about

1. Zerah had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. Do you think this may have assisted him with his numerical mental powers?

2. When Zerah was seven years old he took six seconds to give the number of hours in thirty-eight years, two months, and seven days.
Using a calculator, time yourself to see what Zerah’s answer was. How many seconds did it take you?

3. When he calculated how many seconds there are in 2 000 years Zerah arrived at the answer 63 072 000 000. Can you say this number?

4. His father soon began to capitalize on his boy’s talents by taking Zerah around the country and eventually abroad.
What do you think the clause in bold letters means?


Inventors and Inventions
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What is an Invention?

An invention is a new idea, sometimes a new way of solving a problem.

Many inventions have little or nothing to do with science. Games, for example, are inventions.

When we think about the great inventions of the world, we find that they are either very simple, basic things like the wheel or very complex things like the computer.

No one knows who made many of the earliest inventions – like clothes, the lever, the wheel, how to make and keep fire, to name just a few.

There are two types of inventions that are important. The first is a breakthrough invention; examples are the telephone, fireworks, the laser, and the helicopter. The second type of important invention is an improvement such as making something more safe, making it cheaper, or making it faster.

Many of today’s inventions are different in essence from inventions of, say, a hundred years ago. In recent times there has been a rapid movement away from mechanical creations into the era of electronics and digital technology.

Not so long ago it was possible to see exactly what a new machine did. Today’s inventions, though, are very often ‘hidden’ in silicon and software, with only a fast-moving display on a screen as any evidence that something very clever has been achieved.

The differences between our (human) way of life and that of other creatures have come about largely through our inventiveness.

Talk about or Write about
(Justify your responses with explanations and examples wherever possible).

1. Name three inventions for which the inventors would have required a knowledge of science and three for which no knowledge of science would have been required.

2. Can you think of any large inventions that are not games and do not require their makers to have any knowledge of science?

3. Can you think of one breakthrough invention, not mentioned above, and one invention that was an improvement on something else?

4. What is an example of a recent invention that can’t be seen?

5. Give some examples of inventions that have made our way of life different from the way other creatures live their lives.


Ideas and Methods

If you want to invent, look at what is wrong with things you use now.

It is often said that every inventor dreams of making a better mousetrap.

The US Patent Office alone has more than 4 000 mouse-catching devices on file and patent offices around the world continue to report the improved mousetrap as the most commonly registered entry.

Many inventors lack the skills they need to let people know what they have created and why their invention is better than previous inventions.

You may be able to invent without understanding reading, writing, maths, history and science. However you are not likely to profit from inventing without sound skills in most of these areas.

You need to be able to read well to learn new skills. A good idea is useless if you do not have the writing skills to be able to tell other people how and why your invention is valuable. You often need maths to figure out how to make your invention and you always need maths to figure out the cost to make and sell the invention. You almost always need science to make the invention at the lowest cost; it is important to be able to make the invention at a price that people can afford.

Before creating something you should meet with different people. Talk with them about how they would use your invention. What do they like about it? What don’t they like about it? This will help you decide if your invention is worth pursuing or not

Talk about or Write about
(justify your responses with explanations and examples wherever possible)

1. Why might mousetraps be such a popular invention?

2. Apart from the mousetrap, can you think of another simple invention that inventors try to continually improve?

3. If you were interested in inventing a machine that could clear city streets of litter more effectively than current methods say which people you would need to speak with about your proposed invention. Include those whose permission you may need as well as those whose opinions you would seek regarding the positive and negative attributes of your device.

4. What could an inventor do if he/she was not skilled in marketing their invention?

5. If someone is planning on inventing a new type of golf club whose advice should they seek prior to redesigning the current model?



If someone has a good idea or invention, they may not want others to copy it. They need a patent so no one can copy their idea and make money from it.

To stop someone from copying their invention, inventors apply for a patent from the government. The government gives them a patent if their invention is new and useful.

When a patent is granted no one can copy that object, pattern or design.

Anyone can apply for a patent, as long as the idea is new.

A patent cannot be written material; books are protected by copyright not patents.

The life of a patent depends on what kind it is, but it is usually at least ten years.

A lawyer can help an inventor find out if anything about their invention is already protected by another patent and can also assist by helping them to fill out the right papers for a patent.

If an inventor has an idea for a new or improved product, he/she needs to know:
(1) Is there a patent?
(2) Can all or just part of it be claimed as new?
(3) Which parts are new?

Talk about or Write about
(justify your responses with explanations and examples wherever possible)

1. What could happen if there were no such things as patents?

2. How likely do you think it is that two people might apply for a patent for exactly the same invention?

3. Why would someone want to copy another person’s invention?

4. Why might governments welcome new inventions from their people?

5. What might be something that an inventor might wish to improve only a part of?


Looking for a Better Way 

You don’t have to be a genius to be an inventor; it just takes thought and creativity.

Every invention starts out as an idea and, because everybody has ideas, anyone can be an inventor.

Inventors set out to create new products and this often occurs in their field of work.

The first requirement is to spot a need that can be met in an innovative way; the ability to come up with a new idea follows.

An inventor’s greatest asset is to be able to look at a problem with ‘new eyes’ and to see past the usual way of doing things.

Inventive people are always searching for a better way.

Talk about or Write about
(justify your responses with explanations and examples wherever possible)

1. Which do you think is the best ‘gift’, intelligence of creativity?

2. Why do inventors try to look at problems with ‘new eyes’?

3. An inventor might come up with the idea that it would be better if aeroplanes take off and land vertically, like helicopters do. Would this person require a thorough knowledge of science? If so, what branch of science?

4. If someone wanted to think up an idea for a new invention that would help reduce pollution in our rivers, would they need a lot of intelligence, a lot of creativity, a lot of compassion for the environment or all three?

5. Can you think of a good idea for a new invention?


Time Savers

Our ancestors were forced to light their houses with candles. We still use candles but these, instead of being made by hand using the old and very slow process of dipping, are moulded, and one machine, which a child can attend to, makes seven thousand candles in an eight-hour day.

The time saved by machinery in the making of matches is even more startling than that saved in the manufacture of candles; the match-cutting machine cuts 6 375 matches in the same space of time that a person could shape three matches by hand.

Almost every article in common use was once handmade; and while handmade goods were, and are, strong and durable, they took so long a time to make that they were expensive. Take, for instance, a pair of boots. To make even the cheapest and commonest pair of men’s boots took fifteen and a half hours of steady work. The invention of boot-making machinery enabled a person to make ten pairs of boots in the time previously taken to make one, with the result that boots can now be sold for less money.

In coalmines, a miner formerly spent a hundred and seventy hours to produce fifty tonnes of coal by hand, whereas the same work can be done by one man with the aid of machinery in one third of the time.

Talk about or Write about
(Justify your responses with explanations and examples wherever possible).

1. Machinery has made the manufacture of many products much easier and quicker. Do you think anyone has suffered as a result of the increasing use of machines?

2. New kinds of jobs were created when machines began to be used to produce goods. What do you think these were?

3. Which would give the truer cut, a match-cutting machine or a person shaping matches by hand? Explain your answer.

4. Why are goods that take a long time to make expensive?

5. Clearly, there are many ways in which machines have advantages over humans. Can you think of any disadvantages of machines?


Machines v People

Biscuits are made by machinery. If you visit a biscuit factory you will see all the ingredients being mixed by machines; they are never once touched by the human hand. The way in which they are baked is very interesting. The biscuits, lying on a sort of endless band made of wire gauze, go into a very long oven, pass slowly through it without stopping, and come out at the other end, perfectly baked.

Nearly all our food, especially the tinned and bottled goods that form so large a part of it, is prepared by machinery. All our drinks are bottled by automatic machines. There is a very cleverly made machine that seizes empty bottles, clutches each by the neck, and fills them at the rate of twenty-four thousand a day. Another machine corks bottles at the rate of three thousand an hour. Consider what an army of people it would take to do such work by hand labour!

In the old days all washing of clothes had to be done by hand, and the laundresses had to work very hard for very little money. But visit a modern steam laundry, and you will see machinery that will wash and finish collars and cuffs at the rate of two thousand an hour; that will wash two hundred shirts in the same time, and gloss and iron them at the rate of one every minute. There are even machines for marking linen, one of which does the work of six people.

Talk about or Write about
      (Justify your responses with explanations and examples wherever possible).

1. Imagine you are living in times before modern machinery was used. You are a worker in either a biscuit factory, a soft drink factory or a laundry.

– Describe your work.

– Describe your working environment.

– What could go wrong at work?

– How would you feel at the end of the day?

– What kind of pay might you receive (dollars per hour)?

– What is the best thing about your job?

– What is the worst thing about your job?

2. Now you are living in the present. You are a worker in either a biscuit factory, a soft drink factory or a laundry.

– Describe your work.

– Describe your working environment.

– What could go wrong at work?

– How would you feel at the end of the day?

– What kind of pay might you receive (dollars per hour)?

– What is the best thing about your job?

– What is the worst thing about your job?

3. Now compare the ‘old’ factory with the modern-day factory.

– Which is cleaner, has less dust etc?

– Which has the better light?

– Which has the better air-conditioning/heating?

– Which is noisier?

– Which is safer?

4. Research: Type key words into a search engine to see what you can discover about the processes and machinery involved in bottling. Can you discover who invented the machine that inserts corks into bottles?

5. Research: Try to find out who invented the washing machine.


Faster and Better

A hundred years ago all nails used by carpenters were handmade, and whole towns were engaged in nail making—men, women, and children. It was not only cruelly hard work, but was one of the worst paid of all jobs, and nail makers always lived on the edge of starvation. Then inventors set their brains to work, with the result that we now have a machine which makes nails at the rate of a thousand a minute. The cruel old trade of nail making by hand is now gone, and nails are cheaper and better than they ever used to be.

Bricks are still moulded by hand in some small, out-of-the-way places, but the handmade brick cannot compete with the machine-made. The machine will mould thirty thousand bricks in ten hours, whereas the most skilled workman could not make even a tenth of that number in the same time.

A machine for folding, wrapping, and addressing magazines was invented by George Richards, an American publisher. This machine occupies a small room, yet does the work of a hundred people. Piles of newly printed magazines are fed in on one side of the machine, and a moment later come out upon the far side rolled, wrapped and addressed, rushing along a conveyor belt and falling gently into their appointed sacks. The machine handles the magazines at the rate of several thousand an hour. Equally
ingenious is a smaller piece of mechanism, about the size of a typewriter, which ‘licks’ stamps and puts them on the packets at the rate of eight thousand an hour, and, while so doing, counts every stamp used.

Talk about or Write about
(Justify your responses with explanations and examples wherever possible).

1. What would be one of the hazards of making nails by hand?

2. Why do you think it is that machine-made nails are better than hand-made nails?

3. What would be one of the hazards of making bricks by hand?

4. Some benefits of George Richards’ machine are mentioned in the passage. Can you think of any benefits that are not mentioned?

5. Who could have been disadvantaged by the introduction of the two machines referred to in the third paragraph?


World’s Youngest Inventor

The youngest known inventor is Jacob Dunnack of the USA. As a six year old, Jacob invented a toy plastic baseball bat, the Batball. With a unique design, the top of the bat opens and closes securely so that baseballs may be stored inside it at the conclusion of the game. Jacob’s Batball is 55cm long and it has an oversized barrel. It comes with three balls, which are coloured yellow to make it easier to keep your eye on them. The Batball is designed for ages three and up.

Chelsea Lanmon of the USA may be the youngest female inventor. At the age of nine she invented a plastic baby’s nappy (or diaper) that has a peel-away pocket. The pocket contains a disposable baby wipe and baby powder puff.

When Akhil Rastogi’s mother suffered nerve damage in one hand, seven year old Akhil had to pour the milk at the family dinner table. It was difficult for the small boy not to spill the milk and he used two hands as he tried to lift the jug higher and higher. This became very frustrating for Akhil. “There has to be an easier way,” he thought. Akhil got a wad of clay and in about three hours fashioned a screw-on spout with a channel running down the middle. No more spills. He entered his milk spout at a school fair and won first place. The judges suggested he patent his invention. At age 11, he became one of the youngest people ever granted a patent. Akhil, who now has a line of products (including a tape dispenser and a device to help teach blind students) hoped to market his plastic spout to elderly and disabled people, although he believed “even regular adults” would buy it. He thought his milk spout should sell for about 50 cents and he planned to use any profits to help pay his college tuition.

Talk about or Write about
(Justify your responses with explanations and examples wherever possible)

1. Why could it be that the Batball, or something bigger but similar, may not be suitable for adult baseballers?

2. Who do you think has benefited most from Chelsea Lanmon’s invention?

3. From the story about Akhil what would you say are some of the qualities he possesses?

4. Some of Akhil’s inventions might bring him more than just monetary rewards. Why might this be?

5. In considering Jacob’s Batball, Chelsea’s nappy and Akhil’s milk spout, which of the three young inventors would you say showed the most creativity?


Gen Knowledge, English, Maths (1)
(Worksheets for classroom or home)
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Gen Knowledge, English, Maths (2)
(Worksheets for classroom or home)
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Christmas around the World (1)
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Christmas around the World (2)
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Judgements & Decision-making
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Neighbour and his Dog

Recently a new family moved in next door to you.

In a welcoming gesture your parents invited them to your house for afternoon tea and a pleasant time was had by all.

Now, a week later, you and a friend are playing at the park when you see a man nearby with a dog on a leash; you quickly recognise the man as your new neighbour but he doesn’t see you. The only other people at the park are two picnicking families, over on the far side.

You notice your neighbour starts beating the dog with a stick and the poor animal squeals pitifully. As you look on in dismay the man sees you watching and it’s clear that he recognises you. Noticing your horror the man says, “It’s the only way he’ll learn.”

What is the best thing you can do?


Cleaning Lady

During my second term of school, our teacher gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?” Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, grey-haired and in her 60s, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper leaving the last question blank. Before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. “Absolutely,” said the teacher. “In your careers you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say ‘hello.’” I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

Talk about or Write about

It’s possible that Dorothy the cleaning lady felt a greater sense of belonging after the quiz….(i.e. more a part of the school community). She might now have had more interactions with the students and enjoyed her job more -whereas before she could have felt lonely, detached and depersonalised.

1) Was there a time (perhaps starting at a new school) when you felt depersonalised?

2) Why is it important to acknowledge people rather than ignore them?

3) Here are two quotes from Mother Teresa: “The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.” and “One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.”
Which of these quotes can best be applied to the story about Dorothy? (explain your answer)

4) We all have a need to belong. Why is this need so strong in us?


Not enough Money

Anton Guillemo is a fairly shy boy in your class. Though he sits not far from you he’s not someone you know very well.

You know that Anton’s family is not too well off. He was the last person in class to buy the required textbooks and, even after the big Fundraiser, his family could not afford to pay for Daniel to go on the recent school excursion to Canberra.

Outside class you overhear a boy say to his friend, “Anton Guillemo dresses awfully.” You observe that Anton overhears the remark and is obviously very upset.

What is the best thing you can do?


Energy Girl

Today at school the very popular, sporty girl Felicia Aeberhard told you and other friends that she loves energy drinks and she’s sure that these drinks -despite all the caffeine they contain- do no harm at all….rather, they enhance performance in sport and study and are good for general well-being.

Natasha goes on to say that sometimes she has several of these drinks a day. You notice that some of those listening to Felicia give nods and smiles of approval.

Just last week, however, you read an article that began,

“In recent years, an increase in consumption of energy drinks containing caffeine has led to concern by teachers and parents of the possible effects of caffeine on children. They are afraid that caffeine will make their children behave in ways that are unusual or harmful for them.”

What is the best thing you can do?


Wise Old Owl

A wise old owl lived in an oak.
The more he heard the less he spoke;
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why aren’t we all like that old bird?

Talk about or Write about

1) Why is it wise to listen more than to talk?

2) When is it especially important to listen?

3) What is gossip? Is gossip always negative?


Clever Boy

Karl Grunder is a gifted student. He regularly tops class tests in maths, science and English and the teachers are always saying what an excellent student he is.

You become aware that the ‘cool’ group in class has started teasing Karl about being so smart. In the playground you notice that Karl seems to be spending a lot of time by himself and he appears to be quite unhappy.

Soon Karl stops trying in tests (he’s even putting in wrong answers -deliberately). You know this because Karl’s mother told your mother.

What is the best thing you can do?


Zofia’s Kittens

Zofia’s family recently arrived from South America and don’t speak much English.

Zofia herself can speak a little English but, as she hasn’t been at your school very long, hasn’t yet developed any firm friendships.

You hear the popular Carmella Zeni say to some other girls, “Zofia smells,” and you notice that this group is not friendly to Zofia in the playground. Feeling sorry for Zofia you befriend her and, before long, you’re invited to her house and she to yours.

Some months pass and one day Zofia brings a cute little kitten to school. It is a fluffy little ball of white and has big, light-blue eyes. All the students -and the teacher- pat the kitten and generally make a very big fuss of it. When Zofia says that her parents breed these cats she is, suddenly, someone everyone wants to know. Zofia, finally, is accepted and liked and she’s now welcomed into all the playground games.

But there’s something no one but you is aware of…the cats bred by Zofia’s parents are cooped up in small cages with barely room to move.

What is the best thing you can do?


Ethics, Values and Morals
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21 Rules for Living in the 21st Century

1. I will get enough sleep and rest.                2. I will get enough physical exercise.

3. I will seek wisdom by reading widely.                      4. I will follow my passions.

5. I will develop my talents.                6. I will look after my health and hygiene.

7. I will eat and drink foods that are nutritious and beneficial to my health.

8. I will live moderately.                                9. I will respect others’ opinions.

10. I will be courteous.      11. I will act with caution and safety.

12. I will not act in any way to cause hurt or harm to another.

13. I will be honest in all my words and actions.

14. I will use reason rather than blind faith.

15. I will take time out to enjoy myself.      16. I will help and assist where I can.

17. I will treat others as I wish to be treated.

18. I will defend myself against unwarranted attack.

19. I will care for the environment.      20. I will place a high value on learning.

21. I will contribute positively to my community.

Talk about or Write about

1) If you could add one more rule to this list what would it be?

2) Choose any rule from above and tell about a time when you or someone else put it into action.

3) Tell about a time when you should have used one of these rules but didn’t.

4) Why is it important that we live by a set of rules?


Can of Oil

Wherever he went, the old man carried it with him. If he found a door that was squeaking, he would put a spot of oil on the hinges; if a neighbour’s sewing machine wasn’t running smoothly, he was always ready with his oil can; and all the boys in the neighbourhood knew where to go if their bikes were needing attention.

As the old man went through life, he and his oil can were always there to make life pleasanter and easier for those with whom he came into contact.

Perhaps some of the people we meet have problems that make their life difficult.  And perhaps, like that old man, we can lubricate it with the oil of kindness, gentleness and thoughtfulness.

If we have our own can of oil ready for such occasions, what a difference it can make!

Talk about or Write about

1. What adjectives can you think of to describe the character of the old man with the can of oil?

2. The old man made others’ lives better by carrying around a can of oil. A person with a special talent (drawing, singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument, ….) can enrich others’ lives and lift their spirits by putting their talent on show willingly and freely, expecting nothing in return. Do you know anyone -child or adult- who has done this? (if you don’t know of anyone personally you may be able to think of a celebrity who has brought pleasure and joy to others).

3. The can of oil in this passage is used firstly in a literal sense and, at the end, in a metaphorical way. What is the difference between literal and metaphorical?

4. Smiles, nice manners and random acts of kindness are three ways we can lubricate the lives of others. What are random acts of kindness?


Some General Principles to Live By

1. Pay attention to two-year-olds and puppies. They know what’s important.

2. Look at sunsets; smell the flowers; listen to the birds; embrace the people you care about.

3. Take responsibility for meeting your own needs but don’t do it in ways that keep others from meeting theirs.

4. Listen to your body and take care of it.

5. Follow your dream. Life is exciting when you’re pursuing your own goals.

6. Learn from your mistakes and failures.

7. Peace is possible and it begins with you and me.

8. One of the greatest paradoxes in life is that you get more when you give more.

9. Relationships are more important than things.

10. The greatest challenge you will ever have is to be yourself.

Talk about or Write about

(1) Can two-year-olds and puppies really know what’s important?

(2) Look at Principle number 2. What do we spend too much time doing that is the opposite of these things?

(3) Explain Principle number 4. Give an example of how we could do this.

(4) Considering Principle 6, can you think of a mistake or failure that you learned from?

(5) How do we get more when we give more? (Principle 8.)

(6) How and why are relationships more important than things? (Principle 9)

(7) Why can being yourself be such a great challenge? (give an example)



Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.


Choose a passage from Desiderata and say why, for you, this passage has particular meaning.


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Click here to meet Nick

An Australian to Inspire Us

Nicholas James Vujicic, (born on 4 December 1982) is an Australian preacher and motivational speaker born with Tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by the absence of all four limbs. As a child, he struggled mentally and emotionally, as well as physically, but eventually came to terms with his disability and, at the age of seventeen, started his own non-profit organisation, Life Without Limbs. Vujicic presents motivational speeches worldwide, on life with a disability, hope, and finding meaning in life.

The eldest child of a Serbian family, Nicholas was born in Brisbane, Australia. He was limbless, missing both arms at shoulder level, as well as legless. His feet were toeless except for two toes on one foot. Initially, his parents were devastated, though Vujicic was otherwise healthy.

Originally prohibited by Victoria state law from attending a mainstream school because of his physical disability, even though he was not mentally impaired, Nick became one of the first disabled students integrated into a mainstream school, once the laws changed.

Young Nicholas was bullied at school and became depressed. After praying to grow arms and legs, Vujicic eventually realized that his accomplishments could inspire others – and became grateful for his life. A key turning point came when his mother showed him a newspaper article about a man dealing with a severe disability. Vujicic realized he wasn’t unique in his struggles and began to embrace his disability.

He began to master the daily tasks of life. He learned to write using the two toes on his left foot with a special grip that slid onto his big toe. He learned to use a computer and type using the “heel and toe” method. He learned to throw tennis balls, play drum pedals, get himself a glass of water, comb his hair, brush his teeth, answer the phone and shave.

In year seven he was elected captain of his school and worked with the student council on fund-raising events for local charities and disability campaigns. When he was seventeen, he started to give talks at his prayer group, and eventually started his non-profit organisation, Life Without Limbs.

In 2005 Nick was nominated for the “Young Australian of the Year” Award.

He currently lives in California, USA.


Nick graduated from Griffith University, New South Wales at the age of 21. Subsequently he became a motivational speaker, travelling internationally and focusing on teen issues. Having addressed over three million people in over 24 countries on five continents, he speaks to corporate audiences, congregations and schools.

Nick promotes his work through television shows and through his writing. His first book, Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life (Random House, 2010) was published in 2010. He markets a motivational DVD, Life’s Greater Purpose, a short documentary filmed in 2005 highlighting his home life and regular activities. The second part of the DVD was filmed at his local church in Brisbane – one of his first professional motivational speeches. He markets a DVD for young people titled: No Arms, No Legs, No Worries: Youth Version.

He starred in the short film “The Butterfly Circus” which won the Best Short Film award at the Method Fest Film Festival, where Vujicic was also awarded Best Actor in a short film. Butterfly Circus also won the Best Short Film at The Feel Good Film Festival in Hollywood in 2010.


So that we can make this site as classroom-friendly as possible we would be pleased to hear from teachers who have tried any of our ideas, suggestions or lessons with their classes.
Just a very short note mentioning year level, idea/suggestion used, whether it was a written exercise, class discussion or debate, and any other useful feedback would be appreciated.
(school name optional but State would be of interest)
                       Send feedback to info[at] 


If using material from this website please attribute source:

           Australian Teacher:


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