Teacher background information


Year 4 Science Content Description

Science Understanding

Physical sciences

Forces can be exerted by one object on another through direct contact or from a distance (ACSSU076 - Scootle )

  • investigating the effect of contact and non-contact forces on the movement of objects in traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s instructive toys and games (OI.5)

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have long used instructional devices and models as play-based learning objects. Instructive toys are objects of play mostly designed for children, that stimulate learning by promoting the development of a particular skill or providing play experiences to learn about a particular subject. Instructional toys may be simplified or miniaturised versions of objects used by adults, or model the activities and practices of adults. The movement of instructive toys can be the result of contact or non-contact forces. Contact forces are the forces that act on objects that are the result of physical touch, such as hands pushing a ball. Non-contact forces are the forces that act on objects that are physically separate from each other, such as gravitational force. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have long-held scientific understanding of the physics of movement and have used, and continue to use, the exertion of contact and non-contact forces to cause movement in instructive toys.

For millennia Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have used instructive toys and games as educational devices and models to stimulate learning of young people. Children’s games and activities have long provided a context for acquiring knowledge, understanding and the development of skills required in later life. Many instructive games and toys involve objects that are moved through the application of both contact and non-contact forces. Several types of contact forces are evident in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ instructional toys and games, including applied force, frictional force and air-resistance. Applied force is force exerted directly on an object resulting in movement of the object, such as a throw, push or pull. Frictional force refers to the force between surfaces that are in contact, while air-resistance is the force in opposition to the relative motion of an object as it passes through the air. Non-contact forces include gravitational force, magnetic force and electrostatic force. The only non-contact force that affects the moving objects in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ instructional devices is gravitational force, the pull of objects towards the Earth’s centre.

Imitation implements often simplify, miniaturise or model objects used, or activities practised by adults. They teach or enhance skills required in adulthood. For example, smaller versions of implements such as boomerangs and spears are made for children to develop skill and accuracy in hunting techniques. A variety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ games are designed to develop skills such as aim and coordination; spears and a target are manufactured to suit the child’s size and ability. The Pitjantjatjara Peoples of the central desert manufacture toy spears from the long stems of bushes and a circular bark disc. The players divide into two groups and applied (contact) force is exerted on the disc to roll it between the groups. As the disc passes, each group in turn tries to spear the moving target, and applied forces are exerted on the spear for its launch. Once launched the forces acting on the spear include contact forces, in the form of air-resistance, and non-contact forces, in the form of gravitational forces, causing the spear to fall. To challenge older children, the disc is carved in an irregular shape, causing it to wobble and roll less predictably and requiring greater skill to accurately hit the moving target.

Similarly, miniaturised boomerangs are made to engage and instruct children in the skill of boomerang throwing. A variety of games with boomerangs are played by both children and adults. The Jagara Peoples of the south-east Queensland region play a game of accuracy called buran that involves the players throwing boomerangs at a target. Similar to spear throwing, the contact and non-contact forces exerted on the boomerang include applied force to launch the boomerang and gravitational force that returns it to the ground or hand. The Jagara Peoples use different boomerangs according to the strength of the wind. Large boomerangs are used in high wind and smaller boomerangs used in light wind, likely due to the impact of air-resistance as a contact force affecting the game.

Australia’s First Nations Peoples played numerous ball games for amusement, often to teach or reinforce kinship or social relationships. In many ball games that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have played for millennia, contact force is exerted on the ball by throwing or kicking. The amount and direction of the contact force applied to the ball determines the trajectory and distance the ball will travel.

The Wurundjeri Peoples of the Yarra Valley area in Victoria have long played the game of marn-grook (a Gunditjmara word that translates to game ball in English) using a ball made from possum fur. Many believe that the game marn-grook was the foundation of Australian Rules football that continues to be played today. The game begins with a player using non-contact gravitational force to drop the ball onto the foot. On contact with the foot, the player then kicks the ball, with the applied force determining the height and direction the ball travels. In western Victoria the best player is determined by who can kick the ball the highest, that is, the player who can exert the greatest contact force onto the ball. The Mabuiag Peoples of Mabuiag Island in the Torres Strait play a ball game called kokan, where the contact force applied to the ball is exerted with the use of a club or bat crafted from a bamboo stick. The game is played on the beach, where the contact force of friction from the sand impacts the speed of the ball.

Many instructional devices that are used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are set into motion through contact force applied by the person. For example, spinning tops made from materials such as the hard shell of a nut, beeswax, plaster or volcanic rock with a hole drilled through the centre and fastened to a stick with resin and twine, are set in motion by twisting between the thumb and forefinger or between the palms of the hands. On the Island of Mer in the Torres Strait the spinning stone tops of the Meriam Peoples are called kolaps. This game can create intense competition among the Meriam Peoples. The winner is the person whose spinning device stays in motion the longest. The applied force sets the spinning top in motion, and competitors prolong the time the object is in motion by sheltering the device from wind, thereby limiting the contact force of air-resistance that slows the device.

Other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ toys and games rely on the non-contact force of gravity. Propeller devices and objects that spin in the air fall to the ground due to gravitational force. The Jangga Peoples of the central Queensland region play a game called bindjhera using leaves from the Acacia tree folded into boomerang shapes. The leaves are set into motion using the contact force from the rising air current over a fire. Once the leaves are beyond the contact force of the air current, gravitational force causes them to spin and spiral back to the ground. The Biyaygiri and Djiru Peoples of the north Queensland coastal region construct propeller and aeroplane devices from the leaves of the Pandanus palm. A piar-piar, is carefully constructed by folding and interlocking four strips of pandanus leaf. It whirls in the air, set in motion by applied contact force causing it to spin, or by non-contact gravitational force, where, on release it spirals to the ground.

This elaboration provides students with the opportunity to investigate the effect of contact and non-contact forces through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ use of instructional devices as toys and in games to develop particular skills or to learn about a subject. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have long-held scientific knowledge of the effect of the application of force. Contact forces, including applied force, air-resistance and frictional force, and the non-contact force of gravity are used to cause the movement of educational objects used as toys and games by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

In the construction of this teacher background information, a list of consulted works has been generated. The consulted works are provided as evidence of the research undertaken to inform the development of the teacher background information. To access this information, please read and acknowledge the following important information:

Please note that some of the sources listed in the consulted works may contain material that is considered culturally offensive or inappropriate. The consulted works are not provided or recommended as classroom resources.

I have read and confirm my awareness that the consulted works may contain offensive material and are not provided or recommended by ACARA as classroom resources.

The following sources were consulted in the construction of this teacher background information. They are provided as evidence of the research undertaken to inform the development of the teacher background information. It is important that educators recognise that despite written records being incredibly useful, they can also be problematic as they are often based on non-Indigenous interpretations of observations and records of First Nations Peoples’ behaviours, actions, comments and traditions. Such interpretations privilege western paradigms of non-First Nations authors and include, at times, attitudes and language of the past. These sources often lack the viewpoints of the people they discuss and can contain ideas based on outdated scientific theories. Furthermore, although the sources are in the public domain, they may contain cultural breaches and cause offence to the Peoples concerned. With careful selection, evaluation and community consultation, the consulted works may provide teachers with further support and reference materials that could be culturally audited, refined and adapted to construct culturally appropriate teaching and learning materials. The ability to select and evaluate appropriate resources is an essential cultural capability skill for educators.

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