Science and stories: Cristy Burne’s top six activities for book and science lovers

It’s no secret I love science and stories. The two aren’t so very different: they both rely on discovering new things, they both require wonder, and they both rock August, that mega-month when National Science Week and Children’s Book Week unite.

My favourite way to inspire ideas and wonder is to check through the latest science news, and the last few weeks have provided loads of inspiration. So have a look on your lunchbreak, on the bus, over breakfast, and see what kind of fun science-and-book activities you can come up with. The kids will love them.

Here are my top six activities for teachers to use with their book and science lovers in the classroom this month.

1. Design your red planet submarine
We’ve just discovered a giant underground lake on Mars! Now we need to find out what’s in it. Imagine you’re in charge of designing the Mars Submarine Explorer. Draw it and label the features that’ll help you in your adventure. Then, when you’re ready, jump in and take it for a ride … Write down what happens and let us know what you discover!

2. Forget the Floss, dance the Peacock Spider

Kick off your day with a peacock spider-inspired dance routine to get your creative juices flowing. And while you’re busting moves, marvel at the fact that these incredible arachnids were only discovered last month and they live right here in Western Australia … How lucky are we?! When you have your breath back, imagine how it felt to be the first person in the world to see these spiders in action … Write a scene where you’re that person, sneaking through the bush on the trail of a new and amazing discovery.

3. Billionaire inventor
Ten of the 20 fastest-rising billionaires in the world work with new technologies. Imagine you’re an insanely rich technology entrepreneur. Now imagine you want to spend a wad of cash on a new project. What type of technology will you choose? A robot? A spaceship? A helpful gadget? A crazy invention? Sketch out your project and write an advertisement that explains what it will do. How will you encourage us to part with our money so we can own the Next Big Thing?

4. What if rhinos roamed Australia?

Rhinos are critically endangered, so why not introduce them to Australia? I love this plan! And it’s amazing for story ideas … What if rhinos roamed with kangaroos? What if your part-time job was caring for a rhino herd? What if poachers came to hurt your rhinos? What if we could have pet rhinos? Or use rhinos instead of lawnmowers? Brainstorm some ideas for what might happen in your story.

5. Create an emergency whistle

Hiking in the bush is a fantastic way to learn more about the world around you. There are insects and flowers and birds and trees, and there’s also survival, if things go wrong. When you read my latest book, Off the Track, you’ll learn the best way to stay safe in the bush is to be prepared. You can also learn a sweet trick that just might save your life. Spoiler alert: the trick is how to make a super-annoying whistle from an ordinary piece of paper. And remember, it’s not just super-annoying, it’s also educational! Yay, the science of sound!

6. Spot the Sea Lion

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPSW) of South Australia needs your help! Sea lions have recently been classified as an endangered species and with thousands of drone images captured the NPSW have launched a website where you can learn how to identify the sea lions and then spot the animals and tag them as either males, females, or pups. It’s like a Where’s Wally for sea lions!

Cristy Burne’s latest book Off the Track is available now. To order bookmarks and activity sheets, email

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