Dr. Katherine Kirby (Philosophy and Global Studies) and Associate Professor Traci Griffith, JD (Media Studies, Journalism, & Digital Arts) planned a trip to South Africa to study the philosophy of the Apartheid, power, resistance, and liberation. They focused on the role of the media in shaping, maintaining, and eventually overthrowing the Apartheid system in South Africa. Students were encouraged to explore comparisons and contrasts between South Africa and the United States, in terms of racial oppression, resistance movements, and the power of media in shaping understanding and society.
Here is a link to their blog : https://smcsouthafrica2k19.home.blog/
This LEGO Travel Buddy has been named "Umhambi". In Xhosa tradition, people are given names that mean something about their personality.
“Umhambi” means “one who travels.”
Learn about Umhambi's Adventure from Dr. Katherine Kirby:
Here are some more pics of Umhambi in Khayelitsha, beginning with his friends, Jason Heter and Jontai Williams, two St. Mike’s student-athletes on our Men’s Basketball team. Jason and Jontai send a shout-out to fellow basketball player & my nephew, Luke Wilburn! Jason is a sophomore Media Studies, Journalism, & Digital Arts major from Andover, New Jersey. Jontai is a first-year student from the Bronx, New York, studying business and exploring lots of subjects to select his major. This picture is taken from Look Out Hill, which gives a great vantage point for seeing all of Khayelitsha.
In these photos Umhambi is visiting Liliesleaf, which was a farm and safehouse in Rivonia, just outside of Johannesburg. In 1961, Arthur Goldstein and Harold Wolpe bought Liliesleaf farm, and Goldstein and his wife and children moved in. From the outside, this was a farm like any other – owned by white South Africans, with black farm workers employed and sometimes living in small cottages on the property. In reality, Liliesleaf was a hideout and a safe house for the liberation fighters, including Nelson Mandela, who were wanted by the police for their efforts to fight against Apartheid discrimination. Mandela and 19 others were captured during a raid of Liliesleaf in 1963, leading to the famous Rivonia trial, which was the beginning of his 27 year imprisonment. In these pictures, you can see the cottage where Nelson Mandela lived and letters written by children, thanking him for fighting for the liberation of South Africans.
Umhambi in Khayelitsha, the 2nd largest black township in all of South Africa. It was formed in the 80’s, as a last attempt to enforce the Apartheid government’s Group Areas Act of 1950, which was a law that segregated people into different areas based on their racial classification. Many people were forcibly removed from their homes and relocated to Khayelitsha. Our Program Faciliator, whose name is Thulani, currently lives in Khayelitsha. These photos are from his Mom’s house, because she hosted us for dinner and breakfast, serving us DELICIOUS local dishes. Yum! We were in Khayelitsha for two days, staying overnight at a Bed & Breakfast. And we were fortunate to be welcomed by her Assembly of God congregation on Sunday morning for a lively and music-filled 2.5 hour church service. "I have never danced so much during a church service or been hugged by so many people I didn’t know" said Dr. Katherine Kirby. Part of Khayelitsha includes “formal settlements,” with electricity, plumbing, and authorized plots of land for residents. The other part is “informal settlement,” or “squatter camps,” where people who need a place to live come and put up a shack, hoping that they will not be forcibly removed. Such areas do not have plumbing or electricity, and the police will frequently tear down the small homes that people build. Unfortunately, there is nowhere else for people to go. It’s important to remember that it was government policy that displaced so many people who were black or mixed-race, because the Apartheid government believed that people of different races should not live together in the same areas. Many people who were black, mixed race, or Indian were forced to leave their homes and move elsewhere so that the land could be given to white South Africans. These ideas about race still cause discrimination in South Africa, and as these pictures show, the result is lots of inequality and struggle for people who aren’t white. The purpose of our class was to learn about this, and to study the resistance movement that eventually overturned the Apartheid government.
Umhambi enjoyed a drumming lesson in Langa township. Langa is the oldest black township in South Africa. It was established in 1927 after the 1923 Urban Areas Act. During this drumming lesson, the students and professors learned basic drumming rhythms and jammed with local musicians from Langa. It was SO MUCH fun for all!
Next the students attended a Jazz concert in the backyard of an artist in Langa. The band is a famous local Jazz band in Langa. They also got to meet with Themba Fassie (the brother of VERY famous Jazz artist, the late Brenda Fassie), and he accompanied us to this concert.
Here we have our tour guide, Thulani, explaining the principles of the Freedom Charter that guided the constitution that was created by the new democratic government that took over after the Apartheid government was defeated.
In these photos, Umhambi visits the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa. The Voortrekkers were white Afrikaner South Africans, which means they were the descendents of the Dutch. When the English defeated the Dutch and took control of the colony of South Africa, the Afrikaners fled north to what is now Pretoria. They battled the Zulus who were there first, massacring many of them including their leader. Eventually, the English agreed that the Afrikaners could have that Zulu land. The monument memorializes that trek.
At Constitution Hill, he saw the brutal men’s prison where many liberation fighters were held. Even within the prison, there was racial discrimination. White prisoners were not even held in the same prison as black, Indian, and mixed-race people. And within this prison for non-whites, there were different (worse) meal allotments for blacks than there were for mixed-race or Indian inmates.
Our last stop was Pilansburg National Park, where we stayed at the Bakgatla Safari Lodge. Our purpose in traveling to South Africa was to study oppression and the fight for liberation, NOT to go on safari. But how could we be so close to all these gorgeous animals and not take a moment to see them? In these photos, you can see Umhambi at Bakgatla. Our safari driver said our rhino encounter was very rare. He said that baby was only a few days old!! We saw white rhinos, black rhinos (which are nearly extinct), giraffe, zebras, kudu, springbok, hippos, and lots of others.
WOW! What an adventure!
*NMS Library would like to thank Dr. Kirby and the students of St. Michael's College for sharing their adventure with us! This was a remarkable journey and has inspired us to support a mini-lesson on the Apartheid for next school year.
What is LEGO Travel Buddy and how did it get started? LEGO Travel Buddy is a global collaboration project that started in 2017. I am always searching for connections with educators and experts abroad and know that it was important to learn from other educators to grow my PLN. Working in a small rural district, it is crucial to connect, seek funding and resources to enhance student access. I love to see how digital access can provide my students with exposure to new cultures, people and places. I felt that we needed authentic connections with peers and educators abroad and that is what gave me the incentive to seek out collaborations. Global collaborations provide windows (opportunities to observe diverse people and their cultures and develop empathy) and doors (incentive to move beyond one location and seek opportunities, connections and adventures abroad). LTB is our take on "Flat Stanley". It's the same concept of sharing an object and visually seeing it in another location.
We really wanted to have pen pals and get book recommendations and information about various states and countries from people who actually lived there! The key is to find someone willing to connect and we have been so amazed by the dedicated school librarians and educators who go the extra mile to celebrate and share their schools, favorite books, hometowns and journeys. I connected to people on Twitter using the #futurereadylibs hashtag and @ISTEglobalPLN. Every person is different and decides how they are going to incorporate the 1 inch plastic mini-figure into their classroom or library life. It seems to be a wonderful ice-breaker and has been put into the hands of pre-school children in Hawaii and, recently, Dubai’s Librarians of the Year!
Need inspiration or just want to follow LEGO Travel Buddy? Please view the links for sample projects, visit our Going Global MAP and share with your students. Connecting with LEGO Travel Buddy has been a life-changing experience. I highly recommend adding it to your educator/librarian bucket list! Last year, we sent a LEGO Travel Buddy to several different places and thanks to the librarians and teachers in Hawaii, London, Australia, China, California, New Hampshire and Pocomoke Middle on the eastern shore of Maryland, we made our first connections! We also sent and received postcards from both Sarah Betteridge (Perth, Australia) and Lucas Maxwell (London, England) via AIR MAIL. The postcards are so personal and are displayed proudly in our school library.
In an effort to save time and money, we found using digital tools has allowed us to increase our connections instantly and for free! We received beautiful digital postcards from Sarah Betteridge and her students in Australia on a Padlet called Where in the WORLD do we live? My students created and shared their own about Garrett County, Maryland using Google Slides! In order to book talk or share information about our locations, our students collaborate on Flipgrid and they post pictures on Twitter.
I received my first official LEGO Travel Buddy kit free with a purchase from LEGO.COM shop. The minifigure has a very distinct space shirt and has numerous travel accessories. You can still purchase the set on Amazon or BrickLink. ISome of the first LEGO mini-figures that we have shared were custom made to look like the participant and others are from the special edition set! I recommend pruchasing a LEGO Education Community Minifigures set if you want to custom make your travel buddies!
The mini-figures are inexpensive to mail and everyone loves LEGO! Also, LEGO is a great representation of our school library where we host FIRST LEGO League projects and teams! Every LTB is unique, just like the librarians that accept the challenge to receive one because they all showcase their adventures in different ways!
Adventures range from riding an ATV through the Atlas Mountains of Marrakesh to visiting the ALA International Conference in Dubai to touring the Harry Potter studios in London! Students from abroad who have received a LEGO Travel Buddy have shared information for What in the WORLD are you Reading about their favorite books and where they live!
This is how we become better Global and Digital Citizens, with authentic connections. It introduces my students to new faces and places! We are often surprised that even when our global friends are 4,000 miles away, we are reading the same books! It also inspires us to learn more about our world that we will hopefully have the opportunity to travel. Connecting on Flipgrid and Twitter gives my students exposure to the world beyond the walls of our small community school.
Current global connections include:
Students have even shared clues using the 5 themes of Geography on a mystery Flipgrid with students in South Carolina! This week, another Mystery Flipgrid location is in the works! I am not allowed to reveal the location but it is a very special librarian that everyone loves to connect with!
We are also excited to see what adventures the following librarians will share with us who have recently received an LTB:
After receiving and connecting with our school library, we make it up to you about what you would like to do next. Many of the LEGO Travel Buddies continue to explore. For example, our Hawaiian LTB "Hoa Hele", has traveled over 40,000 miles and is planning an African Safari next! You may choose to pass it on to another teacher or librarian, also a wonderful option. We just ask that they stay in touch and share their adventures. Please use the #LEGOTravelBuddy hashtag and @AliSchilpp so we can follow you! Our school system only allows access to Twitter, so this is a way for us to connect in school where we all have internet access!
There are so many more librarians that I would love to connect with. Is there a LEGO Buddy in your future? Here at NMS, we are always seeking out new friends and adventures! Let us know if you would like to collaborate/connect with us!