Global Education

Teacher resources to encourage a global
perspective across the curriculum

Voyage to the Pacific

Year level: 7-8

Students examine oral histories, language and scientific evidence to learn about interpreting evidence and timeline construction.

Cultural, linguistic and biological evidence indicates people of the Pacific Islands travelled west through South-East Asia.

Cultural, linguistic and biological evidence indicates people of the Pacific Islands travelled west through South-East Asia. Magasjukur2, Creative Commons BY-SA 2.5 licence.


Identity and cultural diversity, Interdependence and globalisation, Sustainable futures

Australian Curriculum links

Learning areas

History

Year 7

How historians and archaeologists investigate history, including excavation and archival research (ACDSEH001)

The range of sources that can be used in an historical investigation, including archaeological and written sources (ACDSEH029)

The methods and sources used to investigate at least ONE historical controversy or mystery that has challenged historians or archaeologists, such as in the analysis of unidentified human remains (ACDSEH030)

Year 8

Theories about the origin and spread of Polynesian settlers throughout the Pacific (ACDSEH013)

Locate, compare, select and use information from a range of sources as evidence (ACHHS210)

General capabilities

  • Literacy
  • Critical and Creative Thinking
  • Intercultural Understanding

Activity 1: Pacific Islander people

Students are introduced to countries of the Pacific and the connections between traditional stories and scientific evidence.

Preparation

  • Maps of the Pacific Islands with and without labels
  • Cards with names of Pacific Islands countries (Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu).


View the map of the Pacific without labels and see how many groups of islands you can name using the prepared labels.
Examine the map of the Pacific with labels, Google Maps or an atlas to check your answers.
Use Google Maps or the atlas to determine the geographical features of the islands.

List some observations about the geography of the islands in comparison to Australia.

Write:

  • What do you know about Pacific Islander people and nations?
  • How do you think people came to be living on these remote islands?
  • What would you like to find out?

Read the traditional and scientific versions of How the islands of Tuvalu were formed (scroll to box).
Contrast the similarities and differences between the two versions.

Write:

  • 3 things you found out
  • 2 things that you find interesting
  • 1 question you have.

Activity 2: Evidence of voyages

Students examine evidence that has been used to develop understanding about the settlement of the Pacific Islands.

Preparation

  • Internet access or copies of resource materials


Read, in groups, one of the following articles:

Re-form into groups of three and share key information from the articles about the theories of how and when the people of the Pacific arrived on the islands.

Gather evidence (different groups might work on each section and re-form to share the information).

A.    Examine the cultural artefacts:
ABC, Catalyst Lapita people (8:53)
ABC, Science Lapita find opens new chapter of Pacific history
The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Pacific migrations – Into remote Oceania: Lapita people 
ABC, Science Coral yields precise Polynesian arrival date 
National Geographic, Pioneers of the Pacific

Create a presentation outlining:

  • how Lapita pottery been used to show connections between different Pacific Islands countries
  • insights that artefacts give about how and when the Pacific Islands were settled
  • what other artefacts would you expect to find at archaeological sites and what these items might tell you.

B.    Examine evidence of navigation, sailing and canoe building skills:
National Geographic Education, Micronesian stick chart 
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, The Ocean shows us the way 
Rainbowtoa: The Art of the Taitai: Polynesian Wayfinder (9:34)
History Channel: Polynesian Discovery Part 1 (8:07)

Create a presentation outlining:

  • knowledge of reading the stars and wave patterns
  • insights that navigational, sailing skills and construction of sea-voyaging canoes give about how and when the Pacific Islands were settled.

C.    Examine biological evidence:
The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Pacific migrations – Maori ancestors
National Academy of Science, Polynesian DNA found in old Native American bones 

Create a presentation outlining:

  • the implications of DNA evidence for explaining how and when the Pacific Islands were settled.

D.    Examine linguistic similarities:
Polynesian Discovery Part 1 (5:10–7:10)
The University of Auckland Austronesian, Basic vocabulary database (map and graph)

Complete the table from the Austronesian basic vocabulary database (section 2).

 handwoman
Samoan  
Hawaiian  
Tahitian  
Maori  
Rapa Nui (Easter Island)  

Present your findings to the other groups. 

Activity 3: Alternative views

Students will examine two different explanations of the settlement of the Pacific Islands and draw their own conclusions.

Preparation

  • Internet access or copies of resource materials

Examine the following sources to learn about alternative views. 

A.    Thor Heyerdahl's east to west theory

Thor Heyerdahl and the Kon-Tiki  (scroll to box at bottom of page)
Kon-Tiki theatrical trailer (4:15)
Kon-Tiki Museum, Teaser for the original Kon-Tiki movie (1:32) 
History, Polynesian Discovery Part 1 (2:39 – 3:20)

Discuss:

  • What evidence convinced Thor Heyerdahl that people from South America had migrated to the Polynesian islands at some time?
  • How valid do you think this evidence is?

Create a map showing the two possible migrations – one from the east and one from the west.
Write a paragraph about what you think is the explanation for each viewpoint and use the evidence to draw your own conclusion.

B.    The Fire Caves of Nanumaga suggesting earlier settlement
Read The fire caves of Nanumaga (scroll to box at bottom of page).
Write a report explaining how the discovery of the evidence of fire in the cave below sea level confirms cultural stories and challenges archaeological evidence of the date of settlement.

Activity 4: Valuing knowledge

Students draw together the various forms of evidence to construct their own map and timeline of Pacific Islands settlement.

Form groups with members from each of the four research groups in Activity 2.
Create a timeline with evidence showing the key dates of settlement of islands in the Pacific.

Discuss:

  • What knowledge was necessary for the ancient Pacific Islanders to travel and live on islands across the Pacific? 
  • How have the stories of Pacific Islanders been confirmed by science?
  • How does the knowledge of ancient settlements change your view of Pacific Islander people?

Consider how knowledge of each country's history could be used to deepen understanding and relations with Australia. 


Extension

Learn more about the stories behind cultural artefacts at:
Australian Museum, Sharing Stories: Pacific collection 

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Cultural, linguistic and biological evidence indicates people of the Pacific Islands travelled west through South-East Asia.
Magasjukur2, Creative Commons BY-SA 2.5 licence.
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Cultural, linguistic and biological evidence indicates people of the Pacific Islands travelled west through South-East Asia. Magasjukur2, Creative Commons BY-SA 2.5 licence.