Learning Pack

Edward the Emu

Based on the books by Sheena Knowles and Rod Clement
Adapted by Eva Di Cesare

Edward is bored with his lot. Being the only emu at the zoo leaves him feeling glum and under the impression that the grass is greener in another animal’s enclosure. Convinced that the other creatures are more popular, Edward breaks ranks in search of fun and finds Edwina along the way! Meanwhile, the zookeepers are in hot pursuit to restore order to the zoo. Come on an adventure with the emus as they hilariously navigate their feathered existential crises, seeking to find their place in the world.

This pack is designed to be used in your classroom and is perfect for students in Foundation to Years 1, 2, 3 and 4. Inside, you will find fun Drama, English, Visual Arts, and Science activities, as well as a Dreamtime story by Michael J Connolly that directly links to the Australian Curriculum. The pack also includes information about how we adapted the book for the stage.

Creative and Critical Thinking
Personal and Social
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures

Identity and self-exploration: Edward's boredom and desire to be in a different enclosure stem from his dissatisfaction with his own identity. He embarks on a journey to explore other possibilities and discover his true self. This theme highlights the importance of self-discovery and embracing one's uniqueness.

Comparisons and contentment: Edward's belief that other animals are more popular or have a better life prompts him to compare himself to them. This theme addresses the tendency to compare oneself to others and the idea that true contentment comes from accepting oneself and finding happiness in one's own circumstances.

Belonging and acceptance: Both Edward and Edwina, as emus, face challenges in finding their place in the world. Their search for fun and adventure leads them to meet each other, emphasizing the importance of companionship and finding a sense of belonging. This theme explores the idea that everyone deserves acceptance and a sense of community.

Exploring boundaries and taking risks: Edward's decision to break ranks and leave his enclosure represents the theme of exploring boundaries and taking risks. His adventurous spirit leads him on a journey of self-discovery, where he learns more about himself and the world around him.

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Making the Play

The Vision

Theatre begins with an idea, a spark of imagination. This is what we call the vision.

At Monkey Baa our ideas come from all around us, we are inspired by the world we live in and the people we share it with. Many of our plays are based on picture books and novels by Australian authors and others from around the world. 

Edward the Emu is an adaptation of a picture book by Australian author Sheena Knowles and illustrator Rod Clement. It was our Artistic Director, Eva Di Cesare, and Artistic Associate, Sandie Eldridge, who thought it would make a great play. Eva put together a team of creatives and developed the idea into a show.

Interview with the Writer and Director, Eva Di Cesare

What was your process of writing Edward the Emu?

Before I began writing the play, I spent a lot of time dreaming about the two characters of Edward and Edwina the emus. Edward was always silent and didn’t have much to say, but Edwina was talking from the moment she arrived in my mind and has never really stopped. This is where I started the play, as I thought it would be fun for Edwina to narrate the story in a flashback. Throughout the development process, I worked with young people to explore the characters of the zoo keepers, the artform and the comedy. My hope is that students will take away the message that it’s ok to be yourself and you don’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.

The Script

The vision is transformed into a script by a playwright.

Just as a poet writes poems, a playwright writes plays. They specialise in telling stories for the stage. Playwrights create and write characters, scenes and plots in a play. A play is a unique writing form, with two main elements: dialogue and stage directions.

At Monkey Baa, our process of adapting a picture book for the stage begins with young people. Each year our writers and directors visit schools around Australia and collaborate with students. In 2019, Eva Di Cesare (Artistic Director) visited Bankstown West Public School and Darcy Road Public School to work with students in bringing Edward the Emu to life. Students were invited to participate in Drama workshops that explore the themes of Edward the Emu through improvisation and play, plus engage in group discussions about the picture book and draft script, offering ideas about how Edward’s story should be told.

The Rehearsal

Once a script is developed, it is handed over to a director and rehearsals begin.

A rehearsal is a practice session done before the play is seen by an audience. The rehearsal period is the time that leads up to the performance of a play. During this time, actors learn their lines and movement (called blocking), theatre designers dream up the world of the play, composers write the music and playwrights develop their scripts. This all happens under the leadership of the director, in this case, Eva Di Cesare.

A dramaturg provides the cast and creatives with important knowledge and research about the world and characters of the play, working on this production is Monkey Baa founder Sandra Eldridge.

A puppeteer manipulates an inanimate object, called a puppet, to create the illusion that the puppet is alive and doing so on this production is Puppetry Director Alice Osborne.

The Design

As the show takes shape in the rehearsal room, the designer begins to create the world of the play.

They choose colours, textures, materials, lighting, walls, flooring, fabrics, graphics, backdrops, furniture, and everything else that brings a performance space to life.

The set designer, Isabel Hudson, was initially inspired by the architecture of the Zoo Theatre at Taronga Zoo and the animal enclosures, which suggested materials like bamboo and cane furniture. Isabel was also inspired by the tent-like structures at the zoo and wanted to create a jungle safari feel for the whole design. The set design includes a large shelving unit that holds old toys, books, diagrams and even a fish tank. These have little doors and openings so that things can be hidden and revealed throughout the show.

Interview with Puppet Maker, Bryony Anderson

What materials are the puppets made out of and where were the materials sourced?

The puppet frames were made from bamboo grown on my property in Pappinbarra, a rural region in the hills of NSW. I planted the bamboo 12 years ago and it is now big enough to harvest sustainably and use for projects. The bamboo is lashed together and the joints are paper mache for strength.

The heads were shaped from Paulownia wood, a tree from China that was planted in Pappinbarra years ago as a cash crop and has since become a weed problem.

The rest of the materials were sourced from local op shops and offcuts: the feathers are made from old lace curtains. The only things purchased new were the glue, paints and hardware.

How long did it take you to make the emu puppets and where were they made?

The puppets took quite a few months to make! About 180 hours each! They were made in the One Off Makery workshop which is a shed in the bush, run entirely on solar power and rainwater.

How are the puppets designed to move?

The puppets are designed based on an actual skeleton of an emu so that their movement is natural.

I try to build puppets so that when the puppeteer is relaxed, the puppet is relaxed too. Ideally, the personality of the creature is built into it as well, because the puppeteer is busy enough as it is without having to think of every joint! So if it’s a bubbly, bouncy character, I try to give it body language by building it with a lot of spring and bounce in the mechanism.

The legs of the emus are sprung so that when you roll a trigger with your thumb, it causes one leg at a time to lift. The puppeteer can use gravity and momentum to make it walk forwards or backwards. The heads have three mechanisms in them: beaks opening, eyes moving, and eyelids closing. Since there’s only room for one hand in that small space, the puppeteer’s fingers are very busy.

How would you describe the role of a puppeteer?

A puppet maker’s first task is to understand the story that is being told, the characters and the history, the anatomy and biology behind them, and what they need to do to tell the story. Perhaps the puppet needs to fly, speak, or be able to pick up objects. Some character sketches and ideas come next, and talking with the director and designer to make it all fit together. Then comes the technical design, where you figure out how all the movements can be achieved and how the puppet and the puppeteer will work together comfortably. Next, the material choices: what will it be made of? How do the material choices fit the story, how much will they cost and where will they come from? Making a prototype of the tricky bits is very useful. After all that the building can start: the internal structure and the mechanisms, then the muscles, skin, hair, feathers or clothes, and lots of fiddly finishing like eyelids and fingernails, and finally paintwork.

Being a puppet maker is great because there are so many different layers to think about. There’s ergonomics, engineering, sculpture, painting, textiles and story-telling. There are always new things to learn or experiments to try.

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The Performance

To bring it all together, actors help create characters, tell the story and bring the world of the play to life.

An actor interprets and plays characters in a performance. Sometimes characters are based on real people or are made up (fictional). These characters are based on the characters in Sheena Knowles and Rod Clement's picture books Edward the Emu and Edwina the Emu.

Classroom Activities

Drama Activities

Naming the Obvious

Description: Students name objects as they are and as they are not

Resources: A large space

How it works: Working individually, students move around the space and use simple language to name everything they see. They point as they look at and name things, for example, wall, floor, brick, carpet, window, etc. Encourage students to be simple and name ordinary things that are tangible rather than trying to be clever.

Next, students move around the space and name and describe each object in detail – colours, shapes, textures, etc. Encourage students to take the description as far as possible while keeping the information factual.

Then, students move around the space and name objects as they are not, for example, the wall is a shoe, or the floor is a rabbit.

Students then describe the object as they are not, for example, a student points to the wall and says, “This is a shoe that once belonged to a king, it is over 1000 years old and falling apart, it is green with gold tassels and faded jewels.”

This is repeated until all students have described three or four objects.

Students are invited to share their favourite objects and descriptions with their classmates.


Description: Students become inanimate objects and bring them to life

Resources: A large space

How it works: In small groups, students choose a room in a house – a bedroom, bathroom, laundry, garage, etc.

One student in each group is chosen to be the only human character in each scene. All the other members in each group will become inanimate objects, furniture and all the other items required by the human. The human enters the room and uses the objects and furniture created by the other players. Although the furniture is not human, they can make facial expressions, sounds, and even talk.

Then, each group performs their scene for their classmates, without announcing what type of room they have created. After each group has performed, their classmates identify the room, name the objects they recognised and share the details they imagined.

Ask the audience: What colours were the objects and furniture? What textures were the objects and furniture? What personalities did the objects and furniture have?

One Word at a Time Story

Description: With a situation or title given, students tell a story one word at a time

Resources: A large space

How it works: Sitting in a circle, students create a story, speaking one word at a time.

The story must have a beginning, middle and end, and each word must follow from the one before it.


“Once” | “upon” | “a” | “time” | “there” | “lived” | “an” | “emu” | “named” | “Edward.”

Help students form the story by offering suggestions and moving the story from one event to the next. Encourage students to listen to each other and focus not only on the word before theirs but the story.

Plot Point Postcards

Description: Players create frozen images of plot points in Edward the Emu and Edwina the Emu

Resources: Edward the Emu picture book, Edwina the Emu picture book, paper/workbooks, a large space, pens/pencils

How it works: Students read Edward the Emu and write or discuss the six major plot points:

  • Edward is bored in his enclosure at the zoo

  • Edward sneaks out of his enclosure

  • Edward swims with the seals

  • Edward roars with the lions

  • Edward slithers with the snakes

Students read Edwina the Emu and write or discuss the six major plot points:

Edwina lays ten eggs and Edward shouts “YEEK!”

  • Edwina goes out to look for a job

  • Edwina auditions for the ballet and the director shouts “YEEK!” and laughs at her Edwina tries being a chimney cleaner, but the woman shouts “YEEK!” and laughs at her too

  • Edwina tries working in a restaurant as a waiter, but shouts “YEEK!” is upset by a man who wants to eat eggs

  • Edwina goes home and realises that where she belongs is with Edward and their eggs

In small groups, students choose one of the plot points in either Edward the Emu or Edwina the Emu and create a frozen image that shows what is happening at that moment.

Students perform their frozen image for their classmates and their classmates must guess which moment they chose. Have each group choose a different plot point to make the activity more interesting.


Description: Students create a short play based on their short stories

Resources: aper/workbooks, pens/pencils, a large space

How it works: After students have finished writing their short stories, split the class into small groups, and have them read their stories to each other. Then have each group choose one of the stories to bring to life in a short play, Students then rehearse their scenes and perform them for their classmates.

After each performance, the audience offers positive feedback on things they liked and noticed about the play.

News Report

Description: Students create a news report based on their short stories

Resources: Paper/workbooks, pens/pencils, a large space

How it works: In pairs, students create a news report based on one of their short stories. One student is a news reporter and the other is an eyewitness who saw the emu out in public. The students write five questions for the news reporter to ask the eyewitness.

Example: “Where did you see the emu?” “How was the emu acting?” “How did you and other people react to the emu?”Students then rehearse their interviews and perform them for their classmates.

After each performance, the audience offers positive feedback on things they liked and noticed about the play.

English Activities

Short Story

Description: Students write a short story about an emu spotted in public

Resources: Edward the Emu picture book, Edwina the Emu picture book, paper/workbooks,a large space, pens/pencils

How it works: Students write a short story about an emu that has been spotted in public acting very strangely as if it thinks it’s a human.

Beginning: Students introduce the reader to their emu. What is their name? What do they look like? What is their personality? Where do they live? Who do they live with?

Middle: Students introduce the reader to a problem or something unexpected faced by their emu. Why do they leave their home and venture into the human world? Where are they spotted and what are they doing? How do people react to seeing them out in public acting like a human?

Ending: Students let the reader know how the problem is solved by their emu. How do they feel about the way people react to them? What do they decide to do to overcome the people’s reactions to them? How do they make it safely home? What do they discover about themselves when they get home?

Persuasive Speech (advanced)

Description: Students write a persuasive speech about emus in captivity and the wild

Resources: Paper/workbooks, pens/pencils, palm cards

How it works: Students write a persuasive speech that answers the following question: Should animals live in the zoo or the wild?

  1. Introduction: Students hook the readers in with a clear statement of opinion (argument) and a short explanation of why they feel that way.

  2. Body paragraphs: Students choose three reasons to support their argument and write a paragraph for each. Students should include evidence to support their reasons, which will make their argument more persuasive.

  3. Conclusion: Students restate their reasons and reinforce their opinion on the topic to leave a lasting and memorable impact on the reader.

Persuasive writing devices: To enhance writing and persuade readers, incorporate persuasive devices such as:

  • Rhetorical questions

  • Descriptive language

  • Repetition Statistics

  • Emotive words

  • Personal pronouns

Presentation: Students write their speech on palm cards and practice presenting their speech with clear articulation, eye contact, pausing, emphasis and good posture. Students then present their speeches to their classmates. After each speech, the audience offers positive feedback on things they liked and noticed about the speech.

Visual Arts Activities

Set Design

Description: Students design a set for one of the moments in Edward the Emu

Resources: Paper/workbooks, pens/pencils

How it works: Students choose one of the moments from Edward the Emu to design a set for. Students should think about what elements they will need to include to tell the audience where and when the moment takes place.

Students should include:

  • Colours

  • Textures

  • Materials

  • Lighting

  • Walls

  • Flooring

  • Fabrics

  • Graphics

  • Backdrop

  • Furniture

Costume Design

Description: Students design costumes for characters in Edward the Emu

Resources: Paper/workbooks, coloured pencils

How it works: Students use the templates on the following page to design the colours, textures, and materials for the characters in Edward the Emu.

Students should colour in the animals with the colours they would like the costumes to be in and label each section with the type of texture and material used, for example, the lion’s mane may be yellow and orange, feel like soft rope, and be made from the end of a mop.

Dreamtime Story Activities

How the Sun Was Made

Description: Students create a picture book based on the Dreamtime story: How the Sun Was Made

Resources: Paper/workbooks, pens/pencils

How the Sun was Made Long ago in the Dreamtime, when the animals were first on the earth and they were very much bigger than they are today, there was a time when there was no sun, only a moon and stars.

One day, Dinewan the Emu and Brolga the beautiful dancing bird, were out on a large plain arguing and fighting. Brolga got so angry that she ran over to Dinewan’s nest and grabbed one of her large eggs and threw it up into the sky with all her might. It landed on a heap of firewood breaking, spilling the yellow yolk that burst into flames. This lit up the whole world below to the astonishment of all the creatures as they had only been used to the semi-darkness and were dazzled by such brightness.

A good spirit who lived in the sky saw how beautiful the earth looked when it was lit up by this blaze. He thought it would be a good thing to make a fire every day; which he has done ever since. All night the good spirit and his helpers collected wood and stacked it up. When the stack was nearly big enough, the good spirit sent out the morning star to let them know on earth that the fire would soon be lit.

However, the spirits found that sending out the morning star was not enough because those who slept did not see it. The spirits decided they must have a noise made at the dawn of each new day to announce the arrival of the sun that would wake the sleepers - but what noise?

Then one day the spirits heard the laughter of Goo-Goor-Gaga, the kookaburra ringing through the air. This was the noise the spirits were looking for. They asked Goo-Goor-Gaga that as the morning star faded and the day dawned, every morning he would laugh his loudest to awaken all the sleepers before sunrise. Goo-Goor-Gaga agreed and has done so ever since - making the air ring with his early morning laughter.

Goo-Goor-Gaga - Goo-Goor-Gaga - Goo-Goor-GagaBy Michael J Connolly Dreamtime Kullilla-Art © Dreamtime Kullilla-Art kullillaart.com.auHow it works: Students discuss the plot points of How the Sun Was Made, breaking the story up into four sections. Students then use 5 pages to create a picture book that tells the story of ‘How the Sun Was Made’ through pictures instead of words.


  • Title page with written title: How the Sun Was Made

  • Paragraph 1 shown in pictures

  • Paragraph 2 shown in pictures

  • Paragraph 3 shown in pictures

  • Paragraph 4 shown in pictures

  • Students share their picture books with their classmates.

Science Activities

Emu Investigation

Description: Students research and present information about emus.

Resources: Computers/student devices, projector, paper/workbooks, pens/pencils.

Skills required: Research, writing.

How it works: In pairs or small groups, students are given one of the following topics to research and gather information about:

  • Diet: What do they eat and how do they gather it?

  • Physical features: What do they look and feel like to touch?

  • Communication: What do they sound like and how do they talk to each other?

  • Habitat: Where do they live and what are their homes like?

  • Breeds: How many types of them are there and what are the differences between them?

  • Behaviour: How do they act in the wild and what do they get up to?

  • Facts: What are some interesting and unknown facts about them?

Students gather the information in their workbooks, writing the research in their own words. Then they create a presentation that includes a title page, and three pages with their topic question, information, and photos.

Curriculum Links

Curriculum Links


Texts which are widely regarded as quality literature; Australian literature; Drama scripts and picture books; Spoken texts.

Students engage personally with Australian literature in shaping and arranging textual elements to explore and express ideas, emotions and values.

Early Stage 1

ENe-6B, ENe-8B, ENe-10C, ENe-11D, ENe-6B, EN2-8B

Stage 1

EN1-4A, EN1-6B, EN1-8B, EN1-10C, EN1-11D

Stage 2

EN2-4A, EN2-6B, EN2-10C, EN2-11D


Appreciating; Drama Forms: Storytelling, Movement, Puppetry & Playbuilding.

Students develop knowledge and understanding, skills, values and attitudes in making, performing and appreciating by engaging in role, dramatic contexts, elements and forms.

Early Stage 1


Stage 1

DRAS1.4, DRAS1.2, DRAS1.3

Stage 2

DRAS2.4, DRAS2.1, DRAS2.2

Visual Arts

Students develop knowledge and understanding, skills, values and attitudes in making by engaging in the art, craft and design.

Early Stage 1

VAES1.1Stage 1VAS1.1

Stage 2VAS2.1


Students explore scientific concepts and develop knowledge and understanding of the living world.

Early Stage 1


Stage 1


Stage 2


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