Melbourne Cup – Classroom Ideas for K-6

(Image by Samantha Scholl)

Never let it be said that we don’t have enough public holidays. Because in Melbourne we get two bonus public holidays. For sporting events. (And yes, that is kind of as absurd as it sounds, but I’m not complaining, just pointing out a fact!)

We all learn through real-life examples, and what better way to teach than to celebrate learning through nationwide – or, in this case, state-wide – events that our students are going to see and hear a lot about. Not only does it help to teach them about the historical, social or cultural importance of such events, but suddenly they begin to see the real-life applications of maths and literacy skills in action.

To that end, I’m here to share some activity ideas that Melbourne teachers may be inspired by during the lead-up to the Melbourne Cup celebrations. Each activity can be differentiated to meet the needs of your students – I may suggest year levels, but ultimately, these are just suggestions to spark ideas that will best meet your class’ needs.

Side note: this is gambling free – I wouldn’t not encourage or condone Melbourne Cup sweeps, no matter how culturally prevalent they are for this event.

Maths Activities


1) Give each student (or pair of students) a beanbag and a picture of a horse to decorate and pin on to the beanbag. Line students up in an area with enough space (either indoors or outdoors) and have them throw their beanbag.

For junior grades:
  • Have students use ordinal numbers to mark where the horses landed. You could do this with ordinal number cards or take a photo and work on an IWB to label as a class
  • Measure how far the horse travelled using informal units (such as popsticks, blocks, pencils, etc) and record. Students can compare each others’ results – this will provide a great opportunity to discuss using the same unit of measurement to accurately compare findings. As a class graph the results using a bar graph.
For middle and senior grades:
  • Measure how far each horse has traveled using formal units of measurement. Collect all data as a class and have students find the mean, median and mode for the class data.
  • Discuss the factors that may have affected the outcome of the ‘horse race.’
  • Repeat the race – is the data the same?

2) Run timed foot races over a specified distance – group students (strategically!) so that each ‘team’ collects points for first/second/third places. Collect the data and discuss any patterns students notices.


Pull up the current (or past) Melbourne Cup line-up and have students make observations about the various jockey silks.
  • What colours do they use?
  • What shapes do they use?
  • What patterns do they use?

Tally and graph the various answers to these questions.


Draw how big you think a horse is. Measure it in hands. Investigate how big horses actually are and compare.

ELA & The Arts Activities


  • Look at the names of past and present Melbourne Cup horses. Discuss which names stand out and why? What words do the owners use to make their horse stand apart from the rest?
  • Choose an interesting horse name and write a story about that horse – how did it get its’ name? What does it mean?
  • How many vowels and consonants are in a horses name?
  • Do any of the horse names use alliteration, metaphor or similes?
  • Are any of the horse names puns?


Draw a horse – either independently, using a guided drawing or just use an outline – and craft its’ features. Label the horse. Craft a name for your horse and write a history for it – where does it live? What does it eat? Does it race?


Look at examples of real-life jockey silks and notice the colours and patterns. Draw or use a template for the outline of your jockey silk.
  • Draw your own jockey with pencils/crayons/markers.
  • Paint your own jockey silk.
  • Collage your own jockey silk.
Write a short paragraph explaining the design of the jockey silk, including any inspiration used.

Display the class set of silks with their explanations.


Have students write a persuasive text about the Melbourne Cup. Topics could include:
  • We do/don’t need a public holiday for the Melbourne Cup.
  • The Melbourne Cup is an important Victorian Holiday.
  • We do/don’t need Fashion on the Field competitions for Melbourne Cup.


Invite students to come to school dressed as a jockey, or as if they were attending Fashion on the Field. (Your school may choose to run a fundraiser for a charity of its choice and have students bring a gold coin donation for the free dress day.)

Activities might include:
  • Jockey parade
  • Fashion on the Field parade
  • Design a race day hat/fascinator activities
  • Design a fashion outfit
  • Use fabric scraps (or coloured paper) to design a race-day outfit.

Do you have any activities to celebrate Melbourne Cup?


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