Academics at TTS are in full swing! After our week of orientation sessions at our very first stop, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, students received an introduction to each of their subjects and quickly dove right into discussing place-based topics! Literature class started the semester by investigating ‘The Danger of a Single Story’ as students read the transcription of Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi’s TED Talk of the same name. Her talk explores the negative impacts of a “single story” about, for example, the continent of Africa, and interrogates the roots of these damaging stories. Over the past few weeks, students used this framework to complete a cumulative assignment called a “Root Cause Tree,” creating a visual that identifies and makes connections between the sources and subsequent outcomes of a single story of Africa, reflecting on their own and others’ (in their community or family) perception and understanding of the continent. 

Students have recently begun their poetry unit and are having the opportunity to read work by local southern African poets. For example, students recently read and analyzed the poem “Poem” (yes, that is the title!) by Barolong Seboni, a poet, author, and professor from Botswana exploring themes of the power of language. Students are now starting to write their own “Where I’m From” poems, which ask students to reflect on their homes, values, and influential people and events in their lives. 

Students are reflecting on and processing their experiences on semester so far through a foundational TTS assignment in Global Studies called “RRQs”. RRQ stands for “Reaction, Reflection, Questions.” Each week, students have engaged with a moment or event that gave them pause or caused emotions of discomfort, confusion, surprise, or other notable reactions. Through their RRQs, students recount the event in detail in their “reaction,” then reflect on the experience, and finally respond to questions asked of them about their experience by their teachers (and soon to be by their peers!). Students have reflected on experiences ranging from conversation with our Zambian guides around the fire on the Zambezi River to elephant interactions in Botswana. 

With all of this traveling, students have so much history to learn! Detailed African history is rarely taught in depth back home in the United States. Class time is thus devoted to studying the history of each country as we move from one place to the next. Students are utilizing their textbooks, country profiles, and guide books from our TTS library that lives aboard Big Blue, to deepen their understanding of the social and political history of Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana (so far!) These studies focus on Indigeneity, colonization, and imperialism. Students are currently studying Indigenous people and movement across the southern African region, for example, the San people of Botswana and the impact of forced resettlement on their culture and ways of life. In Ghanzi, Botswana, students had the opportunity to go on a bushwalk led by a San guide and witness a traditional San dance performance. 

Students also recently completed a map-making assignment after a joint history-science class about cartography and bias in map projections. Students created a complex map of southern Africa, layering natural features and human history over one another to begin discussing land use conflict and the complex history of indigenous movements and colonial boundaries in southern Africa. 

In Statistics, students are diving into the world of data. Students have been learning how to describe, display, and interpret different types of statistical data. Students are using different data sets as case studies, including country census data with which students based discussion around statistical bias and the societal impacts of how data is represented. Students had the opportunity to make strong interdisciplinary connections between statistics and environmental science while completing their elephant observation project at Elephant Sands Lodge in Botswana. All students created and interpreted graphs displaying the data they collected on elephant behavior, and students in stats class were able to apply and deepen their new statistical skills and help coach their peers. 

At The Traveling School, we take every advantage of place-based connections, and our first couple of science classes were no different. We kicked off the semester back in Zimbabwe by studying river ecology at the beautiful Victoria Falls and learning about human-wildlife conflict mitigation and endangered species conservation at the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust. Students then dove into ecology and ecosystem science, studying biome distribution, ecological organization, and energy flow in ecosystems. On our Zambezi River trip (in a class set on a helicopter landing pad overlooking the river!) students completed their first Field Journal entries, which are a core recurring science assignment. Students complete a field journal entry each week and pick a subject from the environment for each entry, making careful observations, drawing detailed sketches, and asking thoughtful scientific questions. In Botswana, students built on this practice of the scientific method and carried out a research project studying elephant behavior at a busy waterhole. Students used their initial observations to develop a testable question, created experimental designs in small groups, collected and analyzed their data, and submitted a research report. 

– Leslie, Environmental Science teacher