Modern Australia – Making of the Modern World (WWI) & Australia and the Modern World (WWII)

GENERIC HINT ONE: Do internet searches for images of specific characters, like “Australian Light Horseman”, or do a generic “Early 20th Century Clothing” type of image search for visual representations of costuming.

GENERIC HINT TWO: Do internet searches for Do-It-Yourself costuming pages for instructions or ideas on how to make your own costumes.

Dressing up in period clothing is one way to really connect with an era. Even for older students wearing a costume for the presentation or even for the day can help them engage with the subject on a deeper level.

Due to the prevailing subject of war with this presentation any military uniforms or even just elements of uniforms like medals etc are a good choice for costumes for this show. Any military connection works, for instance: Soldiers, Air Force or Navy from Germany, Australia, Britain, America etc are all good choices. Specific military portrayals like a Rat of Tobruk or Australian Light Horseman are also appropriate.

World War I Nurses are a particularly recognisable image and it’s not too hard to recreate these uniforms.

Students could make part of their studies about fashions during these time periods and research why certain items of clothing were popular. For example, why did women draw a line down the back of each leg in the 1940’s? Researching things like the shortage of certain fabrics during the war can give students some interesting insight into the war years.

Here are some links to research Fashion, Clothing and Military Uniforms from these periods:

Activity Ideas

Archaeological Dig

This can be done for any time period.

  • Organise a large box or small kiddies pool full of sand or soil.
  • Bury ‘artefacts’ – old cutlery, coins, bits of broken ceramics, old dried out chicken or beef bones, bobby pins, bits of fabric, etc.
  • Students can bring tools from home or you can supply them, maybe from your Art Department – various size paint brushes, clay working tools, etc
  • Students can first investigate and research some archaeological excavation techniques They can then use those techniques to find the buried artefacts. They can then classify these items into areas such as bone, stone, ceramics, etc
  • The students can then try and imagine the stories that are behind these artefacts – Who might have owned this item? What could it have been used for? How did it end up lost and buried? 

Other Activity Ideas

  • As mentioned above, researching Fashion, Clothing and Military Uniforms is an interesting way to investigate the World War I and World War II eras. Students can actually recreate the clothing and wear it, or they could do a collaged or drawn ‘Design Board’ of the various items of clothing or accessories and their purposes. For example: what were ‘Puttees’ and why did soldiers wear them?
  • Students can investigate various forms of wartime communication eg: Morse Code, telegraph, flag signals etc or forms of coded transmissions eg: the Enigma machine. They could then try to communicate with each other using some of these methods or try and decode encoded messages. Here is a link to an interesting page about wartime communication
  • Have students try to identify aircraft using identification charts that were distributed to civilians and military alike. Here is a link to a site with information about aircraft identification charts:
  • You can print out some propaganda posters and have students talk about what impact they might have had on people during that time, asking questions like what emotions may this poster have evoked? There are hundreds of images of propaganda posters from WWI and WWII online.
  • Students can debate the pros and cons of Conscription. Here is a link to the Australian War Memorial Museums page for a classroom activity