Today I’m sharing a South African interdisciplinary unit study that we did a few months back. We had learned about India and I asked him to choose another country to learn more about. He chose South Africa no doubt because of the interesting wildlife that is found there. My husband’s parents had recently been to the country and he was impressed by photos of their safari. But there’s so much more to learn. Geography and history are one of my favorite things to study because I get to learn so much myself.
South Africa Mapmaking
We love making maps so they are usually part of any project that we do. For the South Africa map, I freehanded (not as well as I might have) a sketch of the country and its neighbors. Z consulted a travel guide and decided to watercolor the land to represent the different biomes (grassland, desert, etc).
I wrote labels for country and city names and he cut them out and glued them on. I find this works well for kids who have a hard time with a lot of writing- especially words they might not be familiar with!
He researched South African animals and chose a few to feature. I helped him find images to print, cut, and paste on his map.
South Africa Beading Handcraft
My daughter has recently been interested in beading so we took a close look at the intricate bead work on the necklace that her grandmother had brought her from South Africa. I set up a place for the kids to bead with medium-sized wooden craft beads.
You’ll also notice the South African stamps on the table. These are part of my husband’s collection. It’s always interesting to see the stamps and money from different countries. These feature some of the unique animals of the country.
South Africa Ndebele Houses
We discovered the beautiful Ndebele homes in the book, If You Lived Here. We had the idea to make our own little village. Using large white paper, we created a house and drew our own geometric, symmetrical design. It was an awesome opportunity to talk about symmetry and shapes. We looked at images of the homes, listened to an Ndebele people speaking their (click!) language, and learned about how the murals told the story of the family. It wasn’t easy making a symmetrical design! We admired their talent in making these gorgeous homes.
South Africa History
It’s really important to me that any study we do of cultures contains appropriate historical context. South Africa has a past marred by European colonization and oppression. I want my kids to understand how our histories impact current events across the world. While this might sound complicated for 3 and 5 years old, it starts with just being honest.
We’ve already talked about European colonization in the Americas so we continued the discussion in relation to Africa. We talked about colonization and apartheid. This biography of Nelson Mandela is a good resource.
As I said, I love these unit studies. I have as much fun trying to figure out how to crisscross different disciplines as he has learning! As he saw me looking at these photos, he asked me if we could do another country. Sounds great! Which country should we study next?