Night Story

poem by Beverly McLoughland , illustrated by Stephen Axelsen

Learning intention:

I am learning to acquire knowledge from different sources so that I can build a deeper and more informed understanding of topics and discuss relevant ideas.

Success criteria:

  • I can connect the ideas of ancient civilisations about star constellations
  • I can identify the role that astronomy has in Aboriginal culture
  • I can use my acquired understanding to view star maps and the night sky in a different way.

Essential knowledge:

More information about using credible sources in research and learning can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Authority.


After students read the poem and view the illustration, ask them what they think the text is referring to. Some may already be familiar with star constellations and should be encouraged to share their knowledge and understanding. Watch the video Constellations: Connect the Dots in the Sky. Discuss the different ideas that different societies and ancient civilizations have had about star constellations over time.


Watch the video Aboriginal Wiradjuri Night Sky Story from Wiradjuri man, Mark Saddler. Explain to the students that Wiradjuri country is in central New South Wales. Ask students to recall from the video different ways that Aboriginal people have used stars (budhu) in the night sky (mulaa wir) to help and inform. Answers may include:


  • To tell time
  • To find the way home (gunyah)
  • To identify seasons
  • To know when animals (balugan) are going to have babies
  • To inform laws and customs
  • To find friends (mudyi)
  • To protect country


Discuss the explanations that Mark gave about Aboriginal people knowing the Milky Way as a billabong (bilabung) and the importance of the constellation story of the emu (dinawan).


Watch the video Through Our Eyes – Dhinawan ‘Emu’ in the Sky with Ben Flick and discuss how astronomy is used to inform Aboriginal people about the right time to collect emu eggs. View the article Kindred Skies: Ancient Greeks and Aboriginal Australian Saw Constellations in Common from The Conversation and read through it together, or allow students to read it independently. Discuss the similarities and differences in the view of star constellations between the two cultures.


Have students go to the website In the Sky and choose their location to view a star map. They should enlarge the image by clicking on it and do the same on the following page. This should bring up a full screen image of the night sky in their area along with overlays of constellations. Students should discuss what they have located and compare it with the constellations they have learned about in this activity. They should then be given some time to explore the map independently and see if they can find any shapes themselves among the stars. Students should save the image of the star map and draw an overlay of their shape using an editing tool. If time allows, have the students share their discoveries with the class.