Celebrate Mandela Day

In 2009, the United Nations declared July 18th “Mandela Day”, an international day of honor for former South African President Nelson Mandela. Also his birthday, Mandela Day invites everyone, particularly young people, to take action to promote peace and combat social injustice. According to the official Mandela Day website, Mandela Day “was inspired by a call Nelson Mandela made [in 2008], for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices when he said that ‘it is in your hands now’.”

Familiarize students with Mandela’s life and legacy by reading aloud Kadir Nelson’s Coretta Scott King Honor book, Nelson Mandela. Share the illustrations and stop frequently for questions and discussion of Mandela’s early life, determination to change social conditions in apartheid-era South Africa, and eventual presidency. Fill in any gaps with resources from the biographical websites found here.

Then explain the purpose and mission of Mandela Day before inspiring students to brainstorm their call to social action by sharing this page from the Mandela Day website. There, students will see examples of service projects around the key themes of awareness building, food security, literacy and education, service and volunteerism, and shelter and infrastructure.

Finally, invite students, as a class or in small groups, to determine a project they can undertake to plan and publicize their contribution to a more just world.

How do you plan to recognize this day?

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About Lisa Fink

Lisa Storm Fink is the Project Manager for ReadWriteThink at NCTE. After teaching grades K-4 for almost 9 years, she brought her varied experiences (multi-age classrooms, looping, cooperating teacher for preservice teachers, plus a specialization in Remedial Reading) fulltime to the ReadWriteThink site. Lisa feels lucky to have worked on all parts of the ReadWriteThink site as a writer and reviewer, curriculum developer, and now as Project Manager. She enjoys sharing the site with others during professional development opportunities as well as with her preservice students at the University of Illinois.

One thought on “Celebrate Mandela Day

  1. This is a great way to get students involved in real world situations and for them to begin to understand the world that came before them, as well as how others dealt with it and fought for what they felt was right. It also brings awareness to social injustices and peoples actions regarding them. Having the children involve themselves in a project that allows them to leave their mark on the world is an activity that i plan to do as well. Encouraging the children to be more hands on when it comes to their environment is great as well. A project that i feel would assist in this would be to start a garden and give the food that is grown to homeless shelters or they could also help to rebuild homes that have been affected by natural disasters like many other students i know have.

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