These activities are designed for middle school students. However, there are aspects of this unit that can be adapted for student in lower or higher-grade levels. Many of the activities in this unit will allow the learner to represent his or her knowledge in many different formats as well as integrated with other disciplines. Research, data collection and analysis, problem solving through the vehicle of peer collaboration, leads to informed decision-making and problem-solving. The study of Africa is part of the curriculum for the New Haven Public School System. What I have found during my time teaching the curriculum is that many students are still in need of a stronger background in geography skills. This may be due in part to the structuring of the classes and the needs to ensure that students are prepared to read, write and analyze text. I believe the greater benefit is that Social Studies supports the areas of Reading (English Language Arts) as measured by the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Research, comparing and contrasting information as well as analysis of text and data are Social Studies skills that will be used in this unit. The development of counterarguments through reading and research are also skills that can be applied in these lessons and are directly used in the SBA.
While students begin to study the continent of Africa, there are many opportunities to extend learning beyond what is listed in the curriculum. These opportunities for extended learning are also important to accurately understand history, the development of people, America and Africa (focusing on South Africa). Most importantly this will allow for an in-depth study of Apartheid in South Africa.
Students should have experiences that are interconnected, as opposed to learning experiences that are often separated historically—by time period or continents. When learning experiences are connected, students are more likely to make deeper, brain-valuable learning transactions. When students internalize learning about a topic as rich as Apartheid, it builds their “toolboxes” to become increasingly civic minded or perhaps influence them to become leaders or influencers in their local communities. The development of students into good citizens is often practiced in classrooms. However, it is the hope of teachers that students will become responsible citizens of the world-- making solid, informed decisions in a culturally diverse society and ever-changing world.
Students should be able to demonstrate civic competence by understanding how government works. Understanding the difficulties and processes of government are areas our students are expected to demonstrate mastery in. This is also an area that I have found that students have also shown deficits in. The connections and inter-workings of our communities as they relate to the states, our country and the world are important.
Many well-known current or past activists that students have studied—whether on the continent of America or Africa are male. This is who students are familiar with. It is necessary to teach with balance and explore the roles of women in all disciplines. However, when students study the continent of Africa women who took leadership roles or were involved in the Anti-Apartheid and Civil Rights Movement are often overlooked. In a time where gender recognition is becoming more of a focus, it is important for educators to ensure there is balanced instruction. One key piece of information that would be valuable from this set of lessons is to learn about the impact of those involved in struggle against Apartheid – inclusive of women, youth and others.
Social studies as well as the components of geography and history involve the study of the physical location or place, climate, temperature, history, economics, politics, culture, people etc. It is vital that students know about individuals who but took large steps forward to help pave the way in Africa and in turn, helped the country transition from and through Apartheid. You may find in your lessons and classroom discussions that the student may question whether or not Apartheid has actually ended.
“The conqueror writes history, they came, they conquered, and they write. You don’t expect the people who came to invade us to tell the truth about us...”
— Miriam Makeba South African singer and civil rights activist