Were Aboriginals the world’s first astronomers?
Aboriginal Astronomy is fast becoming an area that our students want to know more about. Through Dreamtime stories, Aboriginal science is becoming more mainstream, and it is our job as educators to be able to share this knowledge.
Scientists believe that Australian Aboriginal people could have been the world’s first astronomers. Aboriginal people created sundials and calendars that link the movement of the stars to seasons. They also used this aboriginal astronomy knowledge to determine when certain animals are laying eggs or ready to hunt. There is so much to learn about Aboriginal astronomy.
Aboriginal Astronomy in the Australian Curriculum
In the Australian Curriculum, an understanding of Aboriginal Astronomy is a suggested teaching elaboration. However, I found trying to find information or aboriginal astronomy stories on this topic to share with my young students was a challenge. Most information was in a news format, and still needed a teacher’s touch to make it digestible for young readers. This is such a shame because the stories are truly fascinating.
The Emu in the Sky
The Emu in the Sky is a Dreamtime story that explains how the giant emu shape came to be in the sky. In modern science, the Milky Way is the galaxy that our sun and solar system are a part of. The movement of the Milky Way has been watched over thousands of years by Aboriginal people all over Australia. Its location in the sky is linked to when emus are laying eggs when they are nesting, and when they are ready to hunt. The emu shape is created by the black clouds (not the bright constellations – as in much of Western science).
I found myself drawn into the Dreamtime story, and every snippet of information about aboriginal astronomy that I could find – my students found it equally as fascinating. It’s just a shame we are at school during the day and can’t see the emu in the sky and during lesson time.
Next time you are outside at night, see if you can find this magnificent piece of Aboriginal history and astronomy.
You can find some great videos for kids on aboriginal astronomy btn