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Uncovering places

This inquiry unit helps you to explore changes to Victoria's landscape over time, with reference to places that are important to your students and school. Students will consider:

  • how places change over time
  • the personal significance of a chosen place
  • the cultural and historical significance of local spaces.

Download the 'Uncovering places' curriculum outcome documents below to see how this unit aligns with AusVELS standards for levels 1 and 2, and the Australian Curriculum for Years 1 and 2.


  • Read or view stories about the importance of place such as From little things, big things grow, Nadia Wheatley's My place, Jeannie Baker's Window, or 100 dome stories, which reflect on the significance of the State Library's domed La Trobe Reading Room. Discuss the importance of place to all people. Do different people experience the same place differently? Ask your students to illustrate a map of their favourite place.
  • Inspire curiosity about your area’s history by unearthing a secret time capsule hidden at school (for example, in the sandpit). Inside, you may have placed an image, a newspaper article, a recording, a natural object and a man-made object. These items will hold the key to the history of your local area. Encourage students to observe, think and wonder about these items. What are the connections between them? Do students see different connections? Which items have more meaning for the students?
  • Introduce students to the notion of examining the past to recognise and understand the history of their local area through key inquiry questions. Ask students to record what they think, imagine and know about the history of their local area.
  • Explain to students that you will be exploring 'our place' (that is, your local area) over the next few weeks.
  • Watch the Royal Society for Questions & Curiosity video to inspire curiosity and wonder about special places.
  • Choose five key periods in history to explore 'our place' and invite your students to become time explorers. What will they see and hear in 'our place' at these key periods? What will they feel and think?
  • Ask students to illustrate 'our place' and add these drawings to a large class timeline to assess their understanding of the past.


  • Begin to introduce and explore historical terms and vocabulary. Construct a graffiti board to record student definitions.
  • Use Google maps to locate significant people, buildings, sites and aspects of the natural environment in your local community. What do these reveal about the past? Create a walking trail to explore 'our place' with your students. Draw a map or mural of the local community, titled 'our place', and locate the significant spaces within it.
  • Find one beautiful or significant man-made place and one natural place in 'our place' to visit with your class. While they are in the space, ask students to imagine and record their ideas of how this place may have been used over the past 100 years. As a preliminary exercise, watch Nadia Wheatley talk about where she got her ideas for writing My place.
  • Consider the ways 'our place' has changed – what remains from the past, and why? Search the Library's online catalogue and Historypin to locate historical images of landmarks in your area. Students can then compare and contrast the past and present using a Venn diagram.
  • Watch the first episode of My place. Encourage family engagement by asking the student and an older family member to both draw a picture of the same place from their childhood, for example their school. Students can compare their past experience of a place with their present experience, and consider what this place may be like in the future.


  • Offer time for students to create their own personal time capsule – a story keeper for their own place. Explain that they will be using objects to tell stories about places.
  • Demonstrate how to search the Library's online catalogue to find digitised newspaper articles that explore an event in the local community. What processes do journalists follow when writing an article? Encourage students to use these techniques to write an article about an event in their life that occurred in their chosen place. They can add their article to their time capsule.
  • Demonstrate how to search the Library catalogue to locate a realia item. Discuss the historical significance of this item. Ask students to think about an object they could put in their time capsule to tell other people something about themselves and their place. Using the five senses writing template, ask students to plan and compose a descriptive writing piece about their chosen object to add to their time capsule.
  • Invite local Indigenous people, migrants, councillors, members of local history groups, librarians and other guest speakers to provide further insight into the history of 'our place'. Ask students to write an account of guest speakers' perspectives.
  • Ask students to create a collage of the view from their bedroom window, and add this to their time capsule.
  • Watch Professor Alistair Thomson discuss oral histories, and explore the contents of the Library's oral history collection. Support students to create their own oral history of 'their place', using a voice recorder, to add to their time capsule.


  • Have students consider how we protect places of historical significance in 'our place'. Engage students in the following challenge: several local places of historical significance are under threat, because developers want to remove them to make way for new housing (you may want to select examples of real places for this exercise). Ask students to form teams and develop their arguments for protecting these significant places. Create digital stories to present the arguments.


  • Invite students to share their time capsules with classmates.
  • Talk with small groups of students to find out what they used to think about 'our place', what they now know, and what they would like to explore in the future.
  • Invite the school community to a screening of the students' digital stories.
  • Revisit the drawing activity from the Engage section. Ask students to extend these illustrations to imagine what 'our place' will look like in the future.