Australia Class Week 6

This week we planned to make plywood boomerangs I searched for a suitable boomerang to make. It had to work well, look like a traditional boomerang shape, and had to be easy enough to throw by 7th and 8th graders. I finally decided on the Mini Rippah by Bob Burwell. His Rippah has been a favorite traditional shape for me and the Mini could be made from 4 mm thick 8 ply Finland birch plywood, which would be strong and tight, a good combination. I cut out enough blanks for the class and even shaped one so they had an example to follow.

I wasn’t sure how to have the students shape the airfoils so finally decided to make up some sanding blocks. I cut some pieces of 1 x 3 and wrapped them with some 60 grit cloth back sandpaper. The 60 grit would shape the airfoils quickly. I made a few more blocks with 120 grit to smooth out the first sanding and brought some 220 grit to final sand the blanks.

The students arrived and we started by covering the conference room table. They asked what we were doing today and I told them, “Making a mess”. Then they found out we were making boomerangs. I didn’t realize how hard it was to explain how to make the airfoils. I also didn’t account for how hard I press the sandpaper as compared to how hard they do. After 30 minutes they were finally getting some decent airfoils shaped. I am going to smooth ot the rangs and stain them dark so they can begin to paint them next class.

We watch quite a few videos this class. Two were on playing the didgeridoo. One was how to make the basic drone and one was how to learn circular breathing. From there we went to a basic “how to throw a boomerang” video by David Fantone. We also viewed videos of various people throwing including Gary Broadbent, Former SHS student Ian Guldner, and of couse, your’s truely. The final video was abput the huge boomerangs by Gerhard Walter from Austria. The students were amazed by his throws and catches of the big boomerangs.

We ahd the students clean up before sending them back to school. After today we only have two more classes. I am rather sad to see it end so soon. Each week the students seem to get more into the activities.


Please note: there are no photos from the class this week. I know everyone wants to see what is happening but our  first responsibility is to teach and help the students. This week it was very important to work with them to show them how to shape the airfoils and this took a lot of our time as instructors.  We were getting ready to clean up when I finally though to take photos. Too late……

By boomerangdave

boomerang video

A friend from Argentina, Edgardo Confessore, sent me the link to this video on youtube. According to him this boy finds and throw boomerangs which say JUSTICE, EDUCATION, HOUSING and HEALTH on them. Later other people return the boomerang to the boy and the boomerang in his hands says  THANK YOU.  I felt my emotions welling up and almost broke into tears. Maybe I am just sappy about these kinds of things, but I though it was worth sharing. Oh, the video starts about 16 seconds after the mucis starts.

Boomerang Dave

By boomerangdave

Australia Class Week 5

This weeks class would prove to be really interestng. We decided to make didgeridoos from PVC pipe. I have seen various instructions and videos on the internet about it but wanted something that was inexpensive, and easily handled by the students. Another search had me looking at a video when I realized that it was Steven Graham, a fellow boomsmith, making the didgeridoos. Steven is a teacher and has his students decorate the didges. He makes them from 1 inch diameter PVC which is very cheap and doesn’t require a beeswax mouthpiece to narrow the opening for playing.

I got enough pipe for the class and proceeded to make a flared bell on the end, only it didn’t work. Gee, it looked easy on the video. I dashed off an email to Steven and went back to adding a twist neat the top of the didge. Not sure if it helps the sound but it looks cool. Well Steven comes to the rescue by calling me to tell me I was heating too much of the pipe. That indeed was the problem so once armed with that knowledge, I was able to flare the bottom end of all the didges.

When the students arrived they were already fired up for class. We went into the conference room and closed the door. We weren’t sure how noisy it was going to get. The students started by sanding any rough edges off the PVC and sanding the red printing off. Then they got a chance to decorate them with magic markers. The didges were seen passing from person to person as most of the students had the other students sign the didges.

Now came the time to actually play them. This was one of the funniest things I have experienced. I played one and my wife and Hector also tried one for the first time. Then the students tried, and giggled, and tried again, and giggled even more. One by one they finally got the correct sound from it. Steven was particularly good and I think he’ll be the go to person at school for the others to learn from. Note, I have blurred the students faces in the following photos to protect their identies.

After we all calmed down a bit, Barb read the dreamtime story “The Story of the Seven Sisters and the Faithful Lovers”. This is the story about the constellation Pleiadies. From there we went to a discussion about the song “Waltzing Matilda”. We learned all the Aussie slang words in the song and then listened to it. It was the first time any of the students had ever heard the song.

We finished class with some more practice on the didgeridoos before the students lined up to get back on the bus. Students from other classes were very interested in what our students had, so there was lots of explaining as they waited and I am sure on the bus trip back. One quick note, the people working outside the conference room we used were kind to us, but we did find out the didges could be heard loud and clear. oops!


By boomerangdave

Australia class, week four…..

Wow, we are done with our fourth class already! We are halfway through!  The good news is that the students followed the rules and did not throw the roomerangs at school when they got back last week. That means no one got in trouble, including us, their temporary teachers.

This week we started out with the painting project from last week, The paintings look really good and I think the students had fun doing them. Also, we didn’t end up with anyone covered in paint so that was a plus. Here are some additional photos of their work.

We then moved on to the story of “How the Kangaroo Got a Long Tail, and the Wombat a Flat Forehead”. The students asked what a wombat was so we showed a picture. They didn’t think it had a flat forehead so Barb told them: “See, it’s forehead is flat, just like Dave’s”. The students were laughing about this so she added: “But the wombat has more hair”.  So now I am no longer “Boomerang Dave” but “Dave the Wombat”.

To finish up the class, we made more boomerangs. A good friend, Chris Kalfa, supplied me with a stack of black plastic. These were cut from the bottoms of deli trays. The students traced some of my boomerangs onto the trays and cut them out with kitchen shears. We then “bent” airfoils into the wings and the students took them home to try at home. These boomerangs are great in a backyard as they only travel 15 to 20 feet. Here are some photos of these boomerangs being made.

On tap for next week are more Dreamtime stories and if everything works out ok, we’ll make PVC didgeridoos. At least one of the students has found this blog online and is checking out what I am writing about them.


By boomerangdave

Australia class week three, oh what fun….

Today was the best class so far. We started things off with finishing up the roomerangs from last week, After a few minutes to decorate them we “bent” airfoils into them and went to the building lobby to test. The students caught on pretty fast. Back in the classroom we turned our attention to Dreamtime stories. We read and discussed stories about the Red Waratah and thhe Brolga. The students were pretty sharp and answered all our questions.

On to artwork. I passed out charts listing aboriginal symbols and the meanings. The the students got colored constrction paper, acrylic paints, bamboo skewers and paint brushes. The proceeded to start their own paintings using the symbols, examples of Aboriginal art and of course, their own imagination. Here are a bunch of photos of their work.

A picture is worth a thousand words and these say plenty. Next week well try to finish up the paintings.

I really have to thank my partners in this class. Both Hector Vazquez, and my wife, Barb, stepped in and did most of the talking today. I have been hoarse since Tuesday and could not make it through those stories. I talked some, but not a lot.


By boomerangdave

Australia Class, Day 2

Today was the second day of our exploratory classes about Australia. Last week my wife, Barb, helped as my other helper, Hector, was not available. This week we had all three people and will continue that until the end. We had planned better, I think, but still need to fine tune things. We are making notes as we go so it will be much better is we do it again.

 We started with a quick review of last class and then showed some more Australian items missed last time. I brought in a huge returning boomerang which impressed the clas, along with a brand new kylie and two didgeridoos. The didges led to the playing of a CD containing some interesting things about the history of the didgeridoo. It also featured sounds of the didge in a way that was far better than I can play. The students really liked this part of the session.

After that we brought out a tablecloth which was printed in a dot art pattern called “Bush Tucker”. The students did quite well in identifying the symbols we had discussed the previous week and pointed out ones we hadn’t seen before. They even found one we couldn’t explain and left us with the homework of finding out what it was.

 We moved on to a Powerpoint presentation called “Boomerangs: Science or Magic?” The presentation explained some of the origins of boomerangs, and the science of how they work. It also included throwing and catching instructions. I found that it went pretty well considering how long it lasted. It was taking long, even for my attention span.

Some of the class’s artwork.

 With time winding down I wanted the class to have a bit of fun so I got out some undecorated “roomerangs” and some various color Sharpies. We had the students decorate their own roomerangs but ran out of time for the test flights. We plan to do that first in the next session.


By boomerangdave