Henry's life

[Episode 14 | 1878 : Henry]

Henry and his friend Franklin experiment with a hot air balloon. After blowing up his schoolhouse with an experimental self-lighting candle, Henry is expelled from school. He goes to work in his uncle's saddlery.


The Australian curriculum: History

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The Australian Curriculum: History aims to ensure that students develop: 

  • interest in, and enjoyment of, historical study for lifelong learning and work, including their capacity and willingness to be informed and active citizens 
  • knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the past and the forces that shape societies, including Australian society 
  • understanding and use of historical concepts, such as evidence, continuity and change, cause and effect, perspectives, empathy, significance and contestability 
  • capacity to undertake historical inquiry, including skills in the analysis and use of sources, and in explanation and communication.

History activities [2]

Activity 1: School
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Subtheme(s): Multiculturalism; Relationships; Social order and education

Henry is expelled for blowing up his school after miscalculating the strength of one of his inventions. His school, typical of public education of the times, is portrayed as a small one-room building with only one teacher. While Henry attends school, his Chinese friend, Franklin, works for his father and does not receive a formal education.

  • Ask students what they think going to school was like in the 1870s. When discussing schools during this time in Australia, ask students the following questions:
  1. Who would have attended school and who was excluded?
  2. What were schools like, how were they built?
  3. How many rooms would a typical school in Henry's era have?
  4. How many students were in a typical class?
  5. What were their ages?
  6. What types of subjects did they learn?
  7. What materials did they use to write with?
  8. What was the typical routine for a school day and school year?
  • The following websites may be useful:
  1. 'Sovereign Hill Education, 1850s School Life, Research Notes for Primary Schools', http://sheducationcom.ascetinteractive.biz/uploads//SovHill%20Schoollife%20notes%20ps1.pdf
  2. Scholastic, 'The Olden Days', http://teacher.scholastic.com/lessonrepro/lessonplans/oldendays.htm#school
  • Using a Venn diagram, ask students to compare and contrast a school of 1878 with their own school.

  • Introduce students to the digital museum box tool on the Museum Box website at http://museumbox.e2bn.org/. The tool assists students to collect images, data and facts to help them create their reflection. Students can collect information on an event, person or historical period by placing items in a virtual box. You can display anything from a text file to a movie.
  • Ask students to collect data on early education in Australia. Have students create a web page, Word document or slideshow presentation using the title Schools then and now. Students can use images and graphs that they find in their research to visually illustrate the differences.
  • Students could use the questions and answers from their research to write quiz questions for a game where the class is divided into two teams. The teams are scored on how many questions each team answers correctly.


Activity 2: Children at work
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Subtheme(s): Multiculturalism; Relationships; Social order and education

Many children worked in the 1870s and this clip shows both Henry and Franklin working for their respective families. In the late 19th century, laws about when and how long children could work were very different to today. In this clip, the children are shown counting out repetitive tasks, showing the menial nature of some types of manual work that children were expected to perform.

  • As a class, discuss the type of work that Henry does in the clip. Ask the students to think about the physical nature of his work. Ask students the following questions:
  1. How many times does Henry repeat the same task in his work? 
  2. Why did children need to help their parents?
  • Ask students to research different types of work performed by children in Henry's time. The following websites are a good starting point for teacher research and could be used by upper-primary students. 
  1. Australian Human Rights Commission, 'Children's Rights', www.hreoc.gov.au/human_rights/children/index.html
  2. Scholastic, 'History of Child Labour', www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=5428
  3. The Victorian Web, 'Child Labor', www.victorianweb.org/history/hist8.html
  • Ask students to compare the type of work children did in the early days of Australia to the work they are expected to do today. Make a list of 'chores' that children did and still do in a two-column table, one column headed 'Past' and the other 'Present'.
  • After students have researched the types of work undertaken by children in the 19th century, read a passage that describes the conditions of child labour from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, to the class. You may find similar passages in other Dickens's novels. Most of his works are available for free download from the University of Adelaide website, eBooks@Adelaide, http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/

  • Ask students to consider, if they were a child in the 19th century, what their day or week would entail. Ask them to write a diary entry for a day in the life of a child worker from Henry's era. Ask them to reflect on how it might feel to work long hours, and ask them to describe their tasks. 
  • Alternatively, older students might write a letter to the newspaper outlining the rights of children and argue 'for' or 'against' child labour.


Student Activity Sheet H14.2: Children at work

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