LEXINGTON, Ky. (4/19/13) – Beaumont Middle School sixth-graders learn about South African history in a distinctive and interactive way by creating and curating a museum of artifacts that tell the story of Apartheid.
“With social studies you want to engage students emotionally,” said Shaun Demeter, the sixth-grade social studies teacher that leads the activity. “I hope that through this students see that freedom isn’t free and it is something that people have had to struggle for.”
Visitors crowded into the classroom-turned-museum on Thursday to view student-created artifacts such as an outline of Apartheid-era laws and a sculpture of Nelson Mandela’s hands reaching out from behind prison bars. Upon entering the museum, visitors were assigned a race and asked to reflect on what life under Apartheid would have been like for a person of that race.
The students became teachers as they shared what they learned about Apartheid with guests and detailed how they created their projects.
Sixth-grader Savannah Fisher created a model of slum housing made from recycled materials similar to those used to make the real-life versions.
“I thought it would be good to show how blacks lived versus how whites lived because it shows they did not have the same rights,” she said of her project.
Guest speaker Bluegrass Community and Technical College Professor Ryan Kelly talked about the legacies of Apartheid in today’s South Africa. He explained that decades of oppression, inferior education for non-whites, and income disparity continues to cripple the country today.
Demeter said he was inspired to create the event because of an incident in his own education. His personal interest in civil rights movements motivated him to write a comparison paper on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Henry David Thoreau that earned him an “A” and was read aloud to the class by the same teacher who had failed him for the same course the year before.
“I hope that students take these projects and run with them and get the same feeling I did about education when I wrote the paper,” he said.
“I’m really proud of them. This is like Christmas to me.”
Information provided by Shaun Demeter
Photos provided by Lisa Barbella
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