Learning resources: Engaging with Asia

Portrait photo of Ian Simpson
Ian Simpson is a Learning Designer with the NSW Department of Education and Communities’ Learning Systems

In 2014, all secondary schools in the state will begin teaching the new NSW History K–10 syllabus. In accordance with one of the three cross-curriculum priorities, the new syllabus has a greater emphasis on Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia than before. Two new rich and engaging resources have been produced by the NSW Department of Education and Communities (the Department) to support teachers when programming and teaching the compulsory Depth study 3: The Asian World.

Syllabus bites: Ancient China

The Syllabus bites series is designed to address gaps between current and new Board of Studies NSW syllabuses. They provide teachers with a flexible learning resource that can be used in the classroom to provide students with a range of engaging and interactive learning experiences.

Image: Zhu Yu, Street scenes in times of peace
Zhu Yu, Street scenes in times of peace (1279–1368)

Syllabus bites: Ancient China first explores China’s diverse geography from the vast Gobi Desert to the impenetrable Himalayan Ranges before posing the question:

How much did features like these, as well as the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers, affect the development of ancient China internally, and in its relations with the outside world?

Students next examine, and then try to identify, the hierarchy of key groups in the ancient society from nobles to slaves. An empathy task, in which students use the sources they studied to re-create a day in the life of an ancient Chinese civilian, completes the resource. Throughout, there are a number of relevant websites, videos and quizzes to build knowledge as well as links for the History K–10 syllabus and the Australian curriculum.

Syllabus bites: The First Emperor

Complementing the ancient China resource, Syllabus bites: The First Emperor considers the life, times and achievements of Qin Shi Huang. The States at War section takes a chronological look at the history of ancient China until the victory of the aggressive Qin state and the anointing of Qin Shi Huang as the first emperor.

Students then examine the measures taken to unite the country including the standardising of writing, currency and road widths, the building of the Great Wall of China and the contentious system of ruling known as Legalism. Some of the negative aspects of the emperor’s reign are considered, such his confiscation and burning of books, and the execution of scholars who opposed him. Chinese beliefs in the afterlife are canvassed and pop-up images and text of the site housing the terracotta warriors will help students to understand the philosophy underpinning this vast complex.

In the last section, a historiographical evaluation of Qin Shi Huang’s role in the development of ancient China is undertaken. The records and motives of the grand historian, Sima Qian are analysed as are those of other ancient, as well as modern historical writers.

Two activities then complete the resource. In the first, students are asked to design a tour of modern China, visiting sites that showcase the life and achievements of Qin Shi Huang. In the second, a question is posed:

Was the Emperor good or bad for the development of China?

Students research and prepare their cases before debating each other.

Other resources

But that’s not all! Several other resources are applicable for studying Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia. The following table lists and describes some of these learning objects.

Sites2See: The Chinese in Australia

This page features an interactive created from a 50-metre long painted scroll at the National Museum of Australia, titled Harvest of Endurance, which represents two centuries of Chinese contact with, and emigration to, Australia.

Syllabus bites: Ancient India

This resource is a webpage with information, study guide and resources on the depth study, The Asian world: India, to support the Australian Curriculum in History.

International India

This is a multimedia resource focusing on India's experience of colonisation and globalisation, that asks students to reflect on diversity, democracy and human rights.

Journeys and Connections

This resource displays objects related to stories of migration to Australia. Students locate and research relevant objects in their own community and create a digital story of migration. The resource uses objects from the Australian Journeys exhibition at the National Museum of Australia.

Sites2See: Australia and the Vietnam War

These are online resources for the topic Australia in the Vietnam War Era, including music, images and links to archival video clips from Australian Screen with teachers' notes.

Laptop wrap: Voices of Vietnam

This resource is a page with a focus on developing student opinion of Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War, with supporting activities and links to resources.

Sites2See: Korean War

This resource is a web page containing links to websites, video and other resources about the Korean War including Australia's role in that conflict. Links to background information about the United Nations and the Cold War are also provided.

Sites2See: Korean language and culture

Selected links to sites and activities to explore the language and culture of Korean speaking communities.

Sites2See: Ancient History at the British Museum

This resource links to a collection of resources with themes of cities, religion, buildings, technology, writing and trade. Resources include interactive learning activities such as the workings of a Greek household.

Home front wartime Sydney 1939-45

This resource is about the home front during World War II. Sections are: Empire at war, Sydney under attack, Work or perish, Doing your bit, Love and war, War’s end.

Laptop wrap: Impact of World War II on Australian civilians

This resource is a page with a focus on the impact of World War II on Australian civilians, addressing empathy in History and ethical use of sources, with supporting activities and links to resources.

Coming resources

NSW DEC’s Learning Systems is currently partnering with Sydney Living Museums (SLM), the public-facing identity of the Historic Houses Trust of NSW, in producing a collection of resources to complement the SLM 2014 exhibition, Celestial City: Sydney’s Chinese 1850–1900. The material will consist of a:

  • Stage 3 resource for the topic, The Australian colonies
  • Stage 5 resource for Depth Study 2, Topic 2a, Making a nation
  • video event including students, the exhibition curator and other experts.

These items are designed to be relevant and accessible after the close of the Celestial City exhibition and will be published in 2014.

Keywords: Asia; learning resources; Stage 4; history

How to cite this article: Simpson, I. 2013, ‘Learning resources: Engaging with Asia’, Scan 32(4)

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