Please note

As of Term 1, 2012, your online resources for Comet, Challenge and Explore will no longer be accompanied by printed magazines. Term 4, 2011 will be our last issue. A huge thanks to all who have used, enjoyed and produced Magazines. Please feel free to continue using this site to access teachers’ notes, articles and more.

2011 Topic Guide

Click here to download the 2011 topic guide.
Listen Up!

Boss' spot

Hello, everyone!

Rustle, rustle, crunch, crunch, snuffle, snort! Can anyone guess what kind of creature makes that sound? If you guessed ‘Hairynose eating his lunch’, you were right! If you sit very still in the forest you can hear lots of creatures going about their day – the birds trilling to each other, the bees buzzing from flower to flower and sometimes the rush and clatter of a small creature running away from a big one with sharp teeth!

Love from Boss

Email boss here!

How do my ears work?

Listen! What is that sound? Can you hear the fire engine roaring past, it's very loud. Shh, quiet now. What is that soft sound? It's the rustle of pages turning in a story book.

Our ears can hear all sorts of sounds. But how do our ears work?

Ears are made up of three parts. The outer ear (this is the bit we see) the middle ear, and the inner ear.

When something makes a sound it causes vibrations (vi-brat-ions) or sound waves. These travel through the air into the outer ear. It moves onto the middle ear and hits the ear drum. The sound then bounces off three small bones and goes to the inner ear, into a curly tube called a cochlea (co-chle-a) which has lots of tiny hairs. These hairs change the vibrations into messages. They send the messages to your brain so you can understand what sound you are hearing.

Up, down and round and round

Your ears do more than just allow you to hear. They also help you to keep your balance. Have you ever felt dizzy after going on a rollercoaster? This is because when you go round and round, the fluid inside your inner ear swishes around in different directions. Your poor brain gets confused and doesn’t know which way is up or down!

How loud is that?

The loudness of sounds is measured in what we call decibels. Some sounds have a low decibel, others are high. A whisper is around 20 decibels, the sound of thunder is around 100, and a spaceship being launched is about 190!


The bones inside your ear, called the hammer, anvil and stirrup are the smallest in the human body. They would all fit on a five cent piece.

Article and photos by Tara Mitchell/PA

Bali Beats!

Do you like singing or playing a musical instrument? Maybe you belong to a band or an orchestra at school. Comet visited Ubud in the mountains of Bali to find out the type of music Balinese kids enjoy.

Conducting the choir

Maharani is a student at Ubud Elementary School in Monkey Forest Street. She and her classmates are busy practising for a singing competition. Ketut plays the music for the song on his keyboard. While they sing, the students stamp their feet in time to the music.

Maharani is the conductor. She uses her hands to help keep the singers in time. Her hand movements also let them know when to sing softly and when to sing loudly.

Anklung orchestra

In another room, a class of boys is learning to play the angklung. Each of the wooden instruments makes a different sound. When you play them all together, you can make a tune.

‘You hold the frame in your hand and shake it to make the tubes slide from side to side,’ explained Ari. ‘I like playing the bass one the best. It makes the loudest noise!’

Bang! Clash! Boom!

Ari loves making music. On Sunday mornings he plays the drum in a gamelan orchestra at his local banjar (community meeting hall). The players bang and clash their gongs and drums while dancers glide and jump around the stage. Dance and music are an important part of Balinese culture.


Anklungs are made from bamboo. Bamboo is a type of grass. There are over 1000 different kinds, found all over the world.

Articles and photos courtesy Meredith Costain

Super hearings

Shh. Did you hear that? It was the jingle of an ice cream van three streets away. Human ears are pretty good at picking up faraway sounds but some animals hear things we can’t. You might say they have SUPER hearing and this comes in very handy when they’re hungry.

Watch out!

You wouldn’t want to be a mouse when there’s an owl about. It can hear you stepping on a twig from 20 metres away even when you’re trying to be as quiet as a... mouse. The owl’s amazing hearing helps it hunt prey in the dark of night. It has two earholes, one higher than the other, and this helps it find the exact location of even the tiniest mouse.

Get the message?

It’s incredible! An elephant can talk to another elephant 10 kilometres away. Its deep rumble is too low for us to hear but other elephants have no trouble picking up the message. What’s more, elephants don’t just rely on their enormous ears for hearing. Their trunk and feet also pick up sound vibrations that travel through the ground. Elephants tell one another where they are feeding and the message is clear: find somewhere else to eat.

Click and snap

Deep under water it’s dark and murky but that doesn’t bother the dolphin. It hunts for food using an amazing skill called echolocation (echo-location). The dolphin lets out a clicking sound that bounces off other sea creatures. The sound returns to the dolphin like an echo and snap! it’s fish dinner.


Those feathers on the owl’s face aren’t just for decoration. They help guide sounds to the owl’s ears.

Article byJill McDougall

Music on the Run

We use our hearing to communicate with other people, but we also use it for fun. These days many people listen to music on the run. Some listen to it on the bus, others listen to it while they walk or do exercise. Have you ever wondered how people listened to music before iPods?

Record Players

Your parents will remember records. You may still have a record player in your house. Records are large discs – bigger than a dinner plate. You definitely can’t move around listening to them.

Tape Players

Reel-to-reel tape recorders became popular in the 1950s and 60s, but they were very big and bulky. The technology improved and cassettes got smaller.

For a while people would walk around with a portable stereo – called a boombox – on their shoulders.

The Walkman

Then in 1979, a company called Sony brought out the Walkman. The Walkman played small cassettes (about the size of a pack of cards). It was very popular with music lovers because it was light and easy to carry around. People listened to the music from their walkman with headphones. (Before they mostly listened through the speakers.)

Compact Discs

In the early 1980s another technology was developed: CDs. Sony released a portable CD player called a Discman. It played music from CDs. CDs are still very popular today, although now there’s another way to store and play music...

iPods and MP3 Players

Apple, a computer company, created the iPod in 2001. The iPod (and other brands of MP3 players) can store lots and lots of songs and other information. The sound quality is better than any of the older portable music players and MP3 players can be as small as a packet of chewing gum. Today you can get lots of different types of iPod and MP3 players. You might even have one yourself!


Article by Phillip Simpson

River's Story

River McQuitty is seven years old. He loves writing stories and his favourite is about a giant scary dinosaur that likes to eat people!

River goes to Toowong State School. It is a bilingual school. This means they learn two languages, English and Auslan – the language of the Australian deaf community.

‘My school is for kids who are deaf and kids who can hear – and my whole class can sign,’ explains River.

A World with no Sound

In River's world there is no sound. He was born deaf. To talk to other people River uses Auslan. It's made up of finger spelling, where different finger movements mean a letter of the alphabet and also sign language. This is using your hands, fingers, and arms to make words. River can also read other people's lips when they talk.

Classrooms at River's school have red and blue lights that flash. A red light flashing means it's lunchtime.

Learning Auslan

River's mum and dad are deaf too. His parents taught him Auslan since he was a baby, just like hearing kids learn sounds and words from their parents.

River has a brother called Nyle, a pet fish and a cat called Willy. Some week-ends River’s family goes camping with their friends.

‘We go over big hills in the 4WD and it gets very muddy sometimes, but it's so much fun,’ he says.

River already knows what he wants to be when he grows up.

‘I want to be a police captain!’ he says with a big smile.

What is a cochlear implant?

It is an electronic device fitted inside the ear to help deaf people understand what sounds mean. It's also called a bionic ear.

Thanks to Toowong State School teachers and Patricia Galliford from Deaf Services Qld for their assistance.

Photo and article by Carrol Baker/PA