In this unit, students immerse themselves in the Creation stories from Quandamooka Country. They will explore the symbiotic relationship between dolphins and First Nations peoples. Students will develop an understanding of how dolphins and other animals use echolocation and electric reception to navigate their environment and communicate with each other. They examine the impact of colonisation on ecosystems in Australia.


At the heart of Jajoo Warrngara are the communities that lead the work on Country. We would like to acknowledge the storytellers Uncle Joshua Walker and Uncle Raymond Walker, who have shared their cultural knowledge, and pay our respects to the Elders past and present. 

Uncle Raymond Walker (Dege – meaning white hair) and Uncle Joshua Walker (Gilan – meaning grey hair) are proud Noonuccal Elders who hold strong and historical connections to Country and the community of Stradbroke Island. They both acknowledge their Grandmother Oodgeroo Noonuccal, and her generosity in sharing with others to enhance the appreciation of Aboriginal Culture. They continue to pass these stories down to their families, through yarning, dancing and creative expression. 


These tailored classroom protocols have been developed by Tribal  Custodians and Elders Uncle Joshua and Uncle Raymond. This guide directly relates to the Quandamooka community’s knowledge and stories, which have been generously shared with SharingStories Foundation. The related teaching resources have been developed in collaboration with the Quandamooka community. Quandamooka Community Protocols

Essential Questions 

  • In what ways do animals have cultural and spiritual significance in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities? How are these relationships protected and maintained?
  • How did the symbiotic relationship between dolphins and humans in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities contribute to sustainable fishing practices?
  • What are the current efforts being made to protect marine life on Quandamooka Country and contribute to cultural revitalisation and ecological conservation?
  • How do vibrations create sound waves, and what are the fundamental properties of sound that contribute to our understanding of how it travels and interacts with the world around us?
  • What is echolocation and which animals use it to navigate their environment and communicate with each other?
Links to Resources

Cultural Protocols

View the teaching protocols for this unit.

Teacher Resources

Record your findings in the Science Report.


Students learn about the special relationship between dolphins and the Quandamooka peoples. They investigate symbiotic relationships, echolocation and electric reception. They gain insight into the impact of colonisation on ecosystems in Australia.


Quandamooka (Noonuccal) Elder Uncle Joshua Walker share traditional story from his Country.
Quandamooka Elder Uncle Joshua Walker welcomes you to Quandamooka Country.

Buangans (Dolphins) Lesson 1

  • Watch the Quandamooka Welcome from the Quandamooka community which can be accessed in the media section of the Jajoo Warrngara portal.  
  • Using the Map of Indigenous Australia | AIATSIS identify where Quandamooka Country is, and in which Country your school community is located. 
  • Form a yarning circle to discuss the film and the note above. Some questions to support your discussion are as follows:
    What is a Welcome to Country?
    Why do you think it is important that we engage with the Welcome film before studying First Nations histories and cultures?
    How is the landscape in the film different from or similar to the Country where our school community is located?
    What plants, native foods and animals do you think live on Quandamooka Country? How can you find this out? 
  • Read out the following paragraph to the students in the Yarning Circle. 

Quandamooka Country is home to the 'buangan' (dolphin). It is deeply significant to the area. In historical fishing practices, the  Noonuccal, Goenpul and Ngugi peoples would strike the sea water with their spears - attracting the bottlenose dolphin which would swim up to the shore. In doing so, the dolphins would chase mullet into the fish traps, meaning both the dolphins and people could enjoy a feed of fish! Sadly, It is believed that this connection was lost during colonisation, when settlers began overfishing the seas and catching (and killing) dolphins in their nets. 


  • In the story above, the connection between the Noonuccal, Goenpul and Ngugi peoples was a 'symbiotic relationship'. Symbiotic relationships are mutually beneficial interactions between two or more species, where they rely on each other for survival, support, or resources, forming interconnected ecological partnerships. 
  • Using the internet, research the various examples of symbiotic relationships in nature.
  • In notebooks, create a list identifying the different types of symbiotic relationships, such as mutualism and commensalism. Write the definition of each in two or three sentences. 


  • In addition to guide dogs, what other examples are there of people collaborating with animals to accomplish specific tasks or goals? How do these partnerships demonstrate the capabilities and unique contributions of animals?
  • In what ways did colonisation impact the relationship between First Nations peoples and the environment? 
Mark as complete

Buangans (Dolphins) Lesson 2

  • Watch the Creation Story from the Quandamooka community on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) which can be accessed in the media section of the Jajoo Warrngara portal. 
  • Form a yarning circle to discuss the story. Some questions to support your discussion are as follows: 

What are your initial thoughts and feelings about the film?
What did you notice about the landscape of Minjerribah?
What can we learn about First Nations cultural beliefs and values regarding the creation of the waters?
How does the Creation story showcase the deep connection between First Nations Peoples and land, skies and seas?
When Uncle Joshua mentioned sonar location, what did he mean by that?
Apart from dolphins, which other animals are known to use similar forms of communication?
What do we know about how this happens and how sound is created? 

Sound is a type of energy made by vibrations. When an object vibrates, it creates a pressure wave by causing movement in surrounding air molecules. These molecules bump into the other molecules close to them, causing them to vibrate. These vibrations transmit through the air to our ears! 

You can witness sound waves in motion when you pluck a rubber band on a guitar box, observe dancing sprinkles or talk on a tin phone. Sometimes you can see sound waves - other times, the vibrations are too small or too fast to observe. 

Sound waves can also bounce off surfaces and travel in all directions. Echoes are created when sound is reflected back. 


  • Students are to engage in a set of sound experiments and research stations. 
  • Divide the class into working groups of three or four students. 
  • Each group is to start at a station. Some groups will work on self-led, hands-on experiments, while others will investigate information about sound waves, echolocation, and other forms of communication. 
  • Set up three workstations, each with its own materials. In small groups, students investigate sound waves on the internet and conduct two simple sound wave and vibration experiments.
  • Station 1: Internet Research
  • At this station, students will investigate the fundamental principles of sound production. They will explore various experiments online which explain sound waves and the factors that impact our perception of sound. They record and share these findings with the group and make suggestions for future class experiments.
  • Station 2: Hands-on Experiment: Dancing Sprinkles

Materials needed

  • Rubber band
  • Cling wrap 
  • Bowl 
  • Sprinkles or hundreds and thousands
  • Small bowl 


  • Stretch a piece of cling wrap across the top of a large bowl.
  • Use a rubber band to hold the cling wrap in place.
  • Ensure the cling wrap is as tight and flat as possible with no loose areas or holes. 
  • Place the bowl on a tray or surface (to catch any dancing sprinkles so you don't mess up the classroom!) 
  • Instruct students to put their lips as close to the edge of the bowl as they can without touching it.
  • First, ask them to hum as loud as they can, observing what happens to the cling wrap (without the sprinkles). 
  • Now, add a teaspoon of sprinkles to the cling wrap surface. 
  • Ask students to try humming again, watching the sprinkles closely. What happens?
  • Experiment with variables, such as humming louder and softer. Ask students to vary their pitch (humming higher and lower). What happens if the cling wrap is not pulled tightly? 
  • If possible, try putting the bowl in front of loudspeakers and observe what happens. 
  • Record your findings in the Science Report worksheet provided. 
  • Station 3: Tin Phones

NB Students will be required to use a hammer and nails for this experiment. Please note any health and safety requirements for your classroom and students. 

Materials Needed:

  • Two recycled tins
  • Piece of string 
  • Nail 
  • Hammer
  • Masking tape 


  • Students will require two empty tin cans per group. (Any recycled tin will do tomato/spaghetti/corn etc) 
  • Make a hole by hammering a nail through the bases of both the cans, just large enough to thread the string through. Thread one end of the string through the first can and tie a knot to stop the string from slipping though. 
  • Thread the opposite end of the string through the base of the second can, again tying a knot. 
  • Place duct tape or masking tape around the edges of each can to cover any sharp metal. Find a space outside or in the classroom to test the phone.
    What happens when you pull the string tighter?
    When the string is slack?
    Can you hear each other?
    How is this happening?
  • Record your findings in the Science Report worksheet provided 
  • The above experiments are simply ways of demonstrating sound. Encourage students to investigate other experiments which measure, test or observe soundwaves. 


  • In a yarning circle, students share their findings with the class. Some other questions to further stoke their curiosity:
  • What might affect sound when it travels under water? 
  • Where else have you observed sound waves? 
  • Have you personally experienced the phenomenon of an echo? If so, where and under what circumstances?
Mark as complete

Buangans (Dolphins) Lesson 3


  • Based on the texts and films shared in class, each student is to create a Learning Map (drawn from the 8 Ways to picture pathways of knowledge through explicitly mapping and visualising understandings). Record any interesting facts about animals who use echolocation or electric reception.   
  • Share your Learning Maps with the class. 


  • Reflect on the abilities of these animals. Is it ethical to use dolphins for their echolocation to detect underwater mines as the military did? How might this go against the principles of First Nations reciprocity and caring for Country? 
  • What are some ways we have used these theories to advance medical science?
Mark as complete

Buangans (Dolphins) Lesson 4

  • Following on from the last lesson, deepen students' understanding of animal communication by engaging with the following films about the complex communication styles of whales and dolphins. Share the following clips with students so they can listen to the types of sounds whales make. 
  • The global reach of whale song | Ningaloo Nyinggulu | ABC TV + iview
  • Whales, dolphins and sound - DCCEEW
  • Ask students to reflect on their own feelings when listening to the whale song. What might they be saying? How have scientists studied these calls and theorised their meaning? 




  • What ethical/legal implications would there be, if we invented a technology to make it possible to communicate intelligibly with animals? How might this affect the way we interact with them, their rights and the many industries which exploit them? 
  • How does this differ from the way in which the Quandamooka peoples communicated with dolphins prior to colonisation?
Mark as complete

Buangans (Dolphins) Lesson 5

  • Based on findings throughout this unit, students are to create a presentation to be shared with the class. 


  • Using Powerpoint or Adobe Fresco (free for schools), students create a multi-model presentation about an animal that uses echolocation and/or electric reception. 
  • Include First Nations perspectives, pictures, films and sounds in your presentation. 
  • Present these to the class

Extension Task

  • Students deepen their knowledge by researching and presenting information about the way in which sonography is used in modern medicine. 


  • After reflecting on the presentations, provide one piece of positive feedback to the presenter. Alternatively, write a response to each presentation in your workbooks.
Mark as complete



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