Concentrated Studies: South Africa

The week of March 12 through 16 was an exciting week in the OCCS middle school. Students in grades 5-8 took a field trip of sorts to the country of South Africa in a week of Concentrated Studies. Middle school teacher Nicki Kuiper explains the purpose of this week at OCCS:

Concentrated Studies began at OCCS about 10 years ago.  Teachers wanted to give middle school students a unique learning experience, so they set aside several days to break away from the normal learning routine in order to “concentrate” on a specific country.  Each year, teams are formed of students from all middle school grades, a rotating schedule is created, and lessons are planned to include many aspects of the country of study.  

Opening ceremonies kick off the event each year where the country of study is revealed and introduced.  During the week, students study history,  music, geography, etiquette, flags, national anthems, cities, landmarks, sports, and much more. Over the years, many different countries all over the world have been studied, including Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Kenya, Italy, Argentina, China, Russia, and, this year, South Africa. Students have had taste tests, heard and played music, created art projects, watched full-length culture-rich movies, re-told folk stories, and learned to speak a few words from each country of study. Students also create multiple-page, multiple-subject booklets to compile and display learning that has taken place during Concentrated Studies.   Over the years, Concentrated Studies has allowed students at OCCS an opportunity to learn about amazing people and places all over the world, and to grow in appreciation for other cultures and for the God who created them.

Concentrated Studies brings much excitement and anticipation to the middle school students each year. This year was no exception. Hear what students have to say about the experience:

I enjoyed concentrated studies because I got to interact with people who I normally don't get to interact with. It was very fun, and I had a good time doing all the different activities. Also, it was fun having different teachers. One of my favorite classes was when I learned about daily life and had someone to actually ask the questions, who really knew the answers and had a real life experience in South Africa. I also enjoyed the folktales class. One of my favorite folktales is "Elephant Get Its Trunk."  -Julia, 5th grade

It was a fun week of learning, spending time with other students from other grades, and much more. Some of the things we focused on were religion, language, important places to visit, tribes, holidays, clothing, culture, daily life, and wild life, and there were many more. On Thursday we had a taste test. On that day parents brought 12 different  foods and students tasted them. On Friday we watched the movie Invictus. This movie was about a South African rugby team. This was a very fun week and I cannot wait to do it again next year.  -Karlee, 6th grade

What I like about concentrated studies is that we can put aside our differences and work together as a team to learn about a beautiful country that God has created and put in this world for a purpose. I also like working with the younger middle schoolers to see them grow as we learn about a new country.   -Emily, 7th grade

Concentrated studies is a great opportunity to learn about a different country, people, and their customs and traditions. I now have a new appreciation for South Africa and the people that live there.   -Emma, 8th grade

Some things I really enjoyed about Concentrated Studies this year was learning about how South Africa is different from the way we live. It's always exciting to explore how other places work and function differently from where we live. It's definitely a blessing we should be grateful we have. Not everyone has the opportunity to explore God's world like we do.     -Daelyn, 8th grade

Throughout the week, students learned that South Africa is known as a "Rainbow Nation," rich in diversity of people and cultures with 11 official languages. They studied the various cultures and traditions of South Africa; learned a bit of the Zulu language; were taught about history, geography, famous people, religion, and mining; and even had opportunity to hear about daily life from someone born in South Africa. Students also participated in hands-on activities such as acting out folk tales, decorating paper dolls with traditional clothing, creating slide shows and Instagram posts of important places in South Africa, singing and dancing to the songs "Mangwani Mpulele" and "Siyahamba", making Ndebele painted houses, and playing net ball. 

Ndebele painted houses.


Acting out folk tales.

Learning Zulu.

Culture quilt.

Learning about daily life in South Africa.

Paper dolls displaying clothing from South Africa.

One of 12 South African dishes in our taste test.

Students also spent time learning about the challenges South Africa has faced in overcoming the effects of Apartheid. They ended the week watching the movie Invictus which tells the courageous story of Nelson Mandela, his interactions with the South African rugby team during his early presidency, and the efforts he made to bring unity to a divided country.

Nelson Mandela mosaic.

Enjoying popcorn during the movie.

The highlight of the week was Friday morning singing time which focused on the greatness of our God and his power displayed to all nations. We celebrated the hope we have in one day worshipping with people from South Africa and from all nations, tribes, and tongues at the throne of our King.

"He Reigns"


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