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South Africa

May 11, 2022 | Bridget O'Dowd

For over a month, the children have been exploring South Africa! After our study of maps, we decided to “travel” to South Africa. The animals of South Africa have really piqued our interest.


The children spent some time playing with South African animal figurines and read about different animals that lived there. Then they were ready to choose an animal to become an expert in! Each child has been hard at work sculpting their animal and painting their sculpture.



We learned about 5 eco regions of South Africa and which one our animal lives: the savanna, the Karoo, Kalahari desert, the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and the Drakensberg Mountains.

In art, children are making a collage of their individually chosen animal. When finished, they will mount it on a painting they have done of their animal’s habitat.

In addition to their individual animal, children have also been participating in a group research project on one of the “big 5” animals. With their group they found out what the animal’s body is like, its diet, its habitat, and a special fact about their animal. They are choosing how to show their learning by a detailed drawing, a collage, or a book.

The children are finishing these projects and presenting them to classmates.

Last week, after reading Maya Angelou’s My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me, the children were captured by the art of the Ndebele painted houses. The Ndebele people of South Africa paint their houses in bright, geometric designs as a preservation of their culture and traditions.  Inspired by the colorful designs, we tried to make our own Ndebele-style art using just paper and markers.

This week children have been learning about Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Miriam Makeba, and Thuli Madonsela. All of these people were men and women who involved in changing the apartheid laws in South Africa. Children have drawn many parallels between the fight to end apartheid and what they know about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement in America. 

Lastly, children are comparing and contrasting our city to that of Johannesburg.

The children have shown a love for South African animals, engaged in fruitful discussions of South African culture, and admired the work of freedom fighters, who loved as Jesus loved. Overall, we have loved our “time spent in South Africa”, but now onto something a little closer to home. Gardens!

Bridget O'Dowd

Ms. O’Dowd came to Mustard Seed in 2017, after moving to Hoboken in 2016. She found a school and a community all in one package at Mustard Seed! Having taught kindergarten in Illinois before moving to New Jersey, Ms. O’Dowd has a passion for five-year-olds. She’s delighted to be a part of the kindergarten team and loves to read and share in story with students. Her favorite moment of the day is during a good read aloud, when she looks out and sees the faces of children showing empathy and emotion in response to the story. Ms. O’Dowd’s hobbies include exploring new neighborhoods, watching BBC documentaries, traveling to visit family, and eating her way through New York City.

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