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Unit 1 - The Human Landscape

Lesson plan
Activity - Lovely Limestone


In December 1820, Joseph Wild, James Vaughan and Charles Throsby Smith became the first European explorers to discover the region today known as Canberra. On advice from his uncle, Smith carried a jar of acid and routinely tested the ground for limestone, considered to be an essential ingredient for building early pioneer houses. The explorers found deposits of limestone and hence the name ‘Limestone Plains' was used to describe the area prior to the National Capital's establishment.


Students work through a simple activity either individually or in small groups to establish a basic understanding of the geological make-up of the Canberra region.


  • understand and successfully complete a set of instructions
  • identify and record the reaction of limestone with a weak acid
  • understand that Canberra's soils contain deposits of limestone and, because of this,
    the ‘Limestone Plains' were considered suitable for colonising by early settlers
  • record and discuss results of an experiment


Exhibit title - Cement Blocks

Location - The Human Landscape, section 1

This activity relates to the large cement blocks located in section 1 (refer to map supplied in National Capital Exhibition Interpretation Guide). The blocks are an artistic representation of Canberra's limestone plains but, due to the powdery nature of limestone, the blocks are made from cement which contains 70% limestone.


  • student activity sheet
  • chalk sticks (2 per student/group)
  • clear glass or plastic jars
  • water
  • white vinegar


  1. 1. Introduce the topic by setting the scene with the class.
  2. 2. Label two glass jars per experiment - A and B.
  3. 3. Half fill jar A with water.
  4. 4. Half fill jar B with white vinegar.
  5. 5. Allow the student to carefully place a piece of chalk in each jar. For safety reasons, students should not touch the vinegar solution.
    • Note: If vinegar comes into contact with an open cut or a person's eyes, repeatedly rinse the affected area with running water and seek medical advice.
  6. 6. Students record their observations on the activity sheet.
  7. 7. Discuss with the class the results of the experiment and the suitability of Canberra's soil for settlement by farmers.