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Unit 1 - The Human Landscape

Lesson plan
Activity - Tool Time


The first European settlers to the Canberra region were mostly farmers who established sheep and cattle stations. Farm stations had to be as self-sufficient as possible due to the large distances required to travel to purchase supplies. To maintain their properties, farm labourers used a variety of equipment and had to adapt to harsh environmental conditions. Equipment was often repaired to extend the life of the particular tool and great care was taken to maintain them.


Students hypothesise the use of historic tools and farm equipment used during the European settlement of the Canberra region, and consider similar equipment used in current farming practises today.


  • name and identify the use of historic farm tools used in the Canberra region
  • compare the differences between historical farm equipment and modern farm equipment
  • understand the isolation experienced by early settlers in the Canberra region
  • engage in group discussion


Exhibit title - Patrick Curley's Crowbar
Location - The Human Landscape, section 2

This activity relates to a tenant farmer's crowbar, found at historic Mugga Mugga Homestead, on display in section 2 (refer to map supplied in National Capital Exhibition Interpretation Guide).


  • student activity sheet
  • images of tools and farm equipment commonly used around historic Canberra homesteads


  1. Introduce the topic by setting the scene with the class.
  2. Divide students into small groups and hand out a photographic image of a farm tool used during the European settlement of the Canberra region.
  3. Hand out the activity sheet. The activity sheet aims to promote group discussion through key questions (refer to activity sheet). Remember, there are no wrong or right answers at this stage.
    Key questions:
    • What do you think this tool was used for?
    • Describe the materials used in creating this tool.
    • Name the tool. If you don't know the name, then make one up.
    • Are there similar tools used today?
    • What is the difference between your historical tool and a similar tool used today?
    • Was this a valuable tool to have at a homestead?
  4. Once all of the key questions have been addressed by each group, students present their opinions to the rest of the class.
  5. You can now reveal the actual name and use of each piece of farm equipment to the students, and further engage the group by discussing the differences and similarities of modern farm equipment used by farmers today.
    • Some solutions for the photographic images
  6. 6 To extend the activity, you can create a research project for students based on the development of farm tools and farming equipment over an historical period of time.
Hand drill Hand powered drill for making
holes in wood
Electric drill
Sickle Used for harvesting grain such as wheat. A sickle was also used ‘on the road' to clear a space for a
camp site or to cut the long grass for mattress stuffing
Harvesting machine
Lawn mower
Scythe Same principle as a sickle but a scythe has a long handle to make broader sweeps for cutting more stalks at once and it was considerably harder to use
Harvesting machine
Lawn mower
Axe Cuts into hard material such as wood
Chain saw Hand saw Cuts into hard material such as wood
Electric saw (jig-saw)
Chain saw
Branding iron Heated in a fire and applied to an animal's skin, a branding iron makes a lasting visible mark on the animal to prove its ownership
Plastic ear tags
Poison cart Distributed poison bait for rabbits
Calici Virus
(a fatal viral disease for rabbits)
Brick mould/stock Used to make sun dried clay bricks by handMechanical brickworks where bricks are dried in a kiln (an oven that produces extremely high temperatures)