Spotlights on Africa

Since January, the 6th grade has been investigating the question, "How do others define us?" Throughout the winter months, students have been spotlighting various African countries and learning about their histories, struggles, triumphs, and modern events. A throughline, or overarching concept, in our curriculum is that there are multiple ways of knowing. To reinforce and demonstrate this idea, we interview experts on the topics we study. We have been very lucky this year to bring in new people and perspectives into our class this year.

After returning from winter break, we looked at humanitarian organizations and their influence on African communities. We began by spotlighting missionary work in Ethiopia. Students interviewed Anna Park, a TPS teacher who attended schools for the children of missionaries in Ethiopia and Kenya. Our 6th graders questioned Anna about her experiences in the schools, the quality of education, and the pros and cons of missionary work. Students also interviewed one of their own classroom teachers, Katrina Jones, about her experiences with missionary work in South Africa and other countries around the world. TPS parent Jenny Bogoni, who has experience working with the Peace Corps in Gabon, came in and shared about her time there. Our guests inspired rich discussions about whether or not the solutions these organizations provided were the best ones for the community and who decides what is best for a community. 

Our second spotlight focused on language in Uganda. Guest speaker Ms. Annette Oyana grew up in eastern Uganda, where she was a professor who trained teachers. The students interviewed her about her experience with language and culture in Uganda and about the complexity of having such diversity in language and how that diversity affects Africans.

We turned our focus to Rwanda and Burundi and the legacy of colonization leading to civil war and genocide. We interviewed Adrien Nioyongabo, a Burundian peace advocate who is currently studying at University of Notre Dame.

Peace advocate Adrien Nioyongabo

Peace advocate Adrien Nioyongabo

Sixth grade teacher Jess Ford, who traveled to East Africa this past summer thanks to a TPS Summer Fellowship. reported on changes in Rwanda over the last two decades since the genocide in that country. She also discussed Tanzania and cultural differences across East Africa.

The culminating topic for this unit was the Berlin Conference and the impact colonization had on Africa. Our final spotlight guest was Dr. Alden Young, who is the Director of the Program in Africana Studies at Drexel University. He spoke about his particular area of study, the Sudan, and the effects of both African and Western colonization in Africa.

Professor Alden Young

Professor Alden Young

Students – and teachers – have learned a tremendous amount of information and wisdom from these experts. How grateful we are that they have shared their time and expertise with us!