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Lesson Plans
South Africa Story: Apartheid, Diamonds & Gold
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for teachers is divided into three sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the lesson
Steps -- Conducting the lesson
Extension -- Additional Activities


Print out the student organizers for handing out during the class sessions.

Computer Resources:
You will need at least one computer with Internet access to complete this lesson. While many configurations will work, we recommend:
  • Modem: 28.8 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 3.0 or above or Internet Explorer 3.0 or above.
  • Macintosh computer: System 7.0 or above and at least 16 MB of RAM.
  • IBM-compatible computer: 386 or higher processor with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 3.1. Or, a 486/66 or Pentium with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 95.

Bookmarked Sites:
  • Muslin or another suitable material for creating a mural
  • Magic Markers
  • Chart paper
  • Writing Materials

Introductory Activity:

Exploring the Country
The purpose of this activity is to introduce students to the country of South Africa.

  • Create a modified K-W-L chart with the class on the topic of South Africa. First, ask the students what they know about South Africa. Record responses under the "K" (know) portion of the chart. Then ask students what they want to know about South Africa, and place their questions under the "W" (want to know) portion of the chart. Finally, after the students have completed their research, have them record what they've learned, the "L" (learned) portion of the chart.

    If the students have never done a K-W-L chart before, you can model some of the kinds of questions they might want to ask (the "W" section), such as:
    • Where is South Africa? What groups of people live there? What is the climate? Flora? Fauna?
    • What are the some of its natural resources?
    • What are the schools like?
    • What does the economy look like - what are the major companies and industries that provide jobs to South Africans?
    • What percentage of the population lives in cities? Rural areas? What are its major cities?
    • What is the music like?
    • What styles of art are popular?
    • What social and cultural issues are considered important?
    • What are the predominant religious groups in the country?
    • What major political issues face South Africa right now?

  • Have your students find the answers to their "W" questions developed in the previous step by looking on the following Web sites. [Go to Student Organizer-Introductory Activity for a printable version of the Web site descriptions.]

    A Fifth Grade Class Project on South Africa
    Students should use this site as a basis for initial research on the country.

    The CIA World Fact Book
    This site provides an overview of the economy, politics, geography, and culture of various countries. Students should use this as a basis for initial research on South Africa.

    PBS: Interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu
    Students will find this interview illuminating while they examine the issue of apartheid.

    The Mother Earth Travel
    This site provides an overview of the relationship between natural resources and cultural and historical issues in South Africa.

    PBS South Africa: Freedom in Our Lifetime
    This site describes apartheid in South Africa.

    Stanford University-The History of Apartheid in South Africa
    This site describes apartheid in South Africa.

    PBS: Interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu
    This site provides an interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in which the Archbishop talks about his country's attempts to heal and rebuild after apartheid.

  • Then, ask students to create a mural containing phrases and images, based on student research, that depict the richness of South African geography, history, and culture. They can create the mural using markers and a large piece of muslin.

    Learning Activities:

    Activity One
    The purpose of Activity One is to give students an overview of the interrelationship between South Africa's natural resources and their impact on socio-political issues. In this activity, introduce the idea that the natural resources of diamonds and gold have greatly impacted South African culture and history. In order for the students to understand how the resources have shaped relationships among people, they must first learn some historical background.

  • Divide the students into small research groups and ask each group to summarize a different section of The Annenberg CPB exhibit on South Africa at: Let them know that afterwards they'll create a poster displaying what they've learned.

    Group One: Europeans in South Africa

    Group Two: Diamonds and Gold

    Group Three: Apartheid: The Beginning

    Group Four: Resistance

    Group Five: Human Rights for Everyone

  • Each group should create a poster that summarizes the key issues described in their assigned section of the Web site. They should complete the activity by sharing their poster with the entire class.

    Activity Two
    In this activity, encourage your students to understand how resources impact human beings and thus shape cultural and historical events. By providing imaginary scenarios that focus on natural resources, economy, and culture, students are challenged to think about how to best use the earth's resources to promote harmony between people. Use the first scenario to model an analysis for the students.

  • Read the following imaginary task aloud:
    You have been hired as an international consultant to help the people of a region use their natural resources to enhance their cultural and economic opportunities. Your job is to advise them on how to best shape their economy, their destiny, and their culture.

    Fish and Pearls

    You have been asked to consult with the leaders of an imaginary island, close to the U.S., that has an abundance of fish and pearls. Most of the inhabitants have little formal schooling. A small group of people own most of the land and control the political power, while the rest of the country lives in poverty. The literacy rate is about 12%. What can be done to improve the quality of life for the islanders?
    Here are some suggestions on how to help the students engage in their analysis:
    Ask the students to describe what they hope to accomplish on the island.

    As they think about this, remind them to consider the people, culture, and physical environment.

    What do they want to improve?

    What do they want to preserve?

    Then, ask the students how they will achieve the changes they see necessary. As they brainstorm, ask them to think about the following questions:

    What obstacles do we face in bringing about change?

    What advantages/resources can we leverage to help us overcome these obstacles?

    Is our solution effective in the short-term?

    Is our solution effective in the long-term?

    What do we have to do to make our solution sustainable for the long run?
    Divide the class into small groups. Assign each group one of the following scenarios: [Go to Student Organizer-Scenarios for printable versions of scenarios.]

  • Ask each group to share their scenarios and recommendations with the whole class. List the key issues on which the groups have focused in their recommendations. What compromises did they have to strike in order to achieve solutions?

    Culminating Activity/Assessment:
    This activity will help students focus on a difficult issue and apply their research in a creative way as they consider multiple perspectives, plan, discuss, and write.

  • Tell students that they will create a children's book on apartheid. They will begin by sharing a personal story, from the PBS Web site regarding the life experiences of Xoloswa Vando, the first black woman to earn a blasting license in the South African gold mines. Discuss with students how apartheid has affected this woman's life.

  • Ask students what sections of her story made apartheid seem most tangible to them and why. Broaden the discussion to the impact apartheid has had on the different peoples of South Africa.

  • Now shift the focus of the lesson to the main literary device they will need for completing their story assignment: conveying perspective and themes through a first person narrator. To give students an example of varied points of view, share the book THE TRUE STORY OF THE THREE LITTLE PIGS by Jon Scieszka with the class. In the book, the familiar tale is told from the wolf's perspective.

  • After reading the book, ask to identify the narrative perspective. Discuss how it differs altogether from the pigs' story, and ask them to point out differences between the two versions. Remind the students of the personal account they read in the last activity, and which passages made apartheid most real for them. Tell them to use what they learned from the account to help make their story effective in conveying the experience of apartheid.

  • Divide the class into small groups, and ask the students to brainstorm ideas about how they might tell the story of apartheid from different points of view. For example, they might decide to write the story from the perspective of a British child, a Boer teacher, a mother, a soldier, a gold miner, or a politician. Ask the students to focus on how point of view impacts the telling of their story.

  • Ask students to choose a point of view, reflect on the story they will tell, and then write their stories. Suggest that they support their stories with illustrations or collages.

  • After students have created their books, arrange for them to conduct readings with younger students. This can be done as read-aloud visits to younger classes, a mini-book fair, or by pairing up older students with younger students on a one-to-one basis.


  • Have the students research another region currently experiencing conflict, over the discovery of a valuable natural resource, and write an editorial taking a stance on the problem.

    Ask the students to find examples from literature that illustrate how power imbalances shape peoples' lives. Ask the students to create a reading list based on their examples. Share the list with others by posting it on a class Web site, if possible.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students