AP Literature MISO (Media, Interview, Survey, Observation) Venture

Africa in the Curriculum

by Evelyn S., Ethan K., Hayley S.

 

When a research project about Africa was assigned in our AP Lit class, in relation to our study of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, we took the opportunity to find out some answers to this question: Why is Africa so poorly represented in the media?

It seemed to us that we didn’t see as much in the news about Africa as we might from other continents and parts of the world, and we wondered why. This fueled our initial investigation, which quickly turned into an investigation of what we learn about Africa in school and the underrepresentation of African topics in our high school curriculum.

We began with MISO (media/observations/surveys/interviews) research to explore our question. Although media and observations were instrumental in our MISO research, we found the most insightful data came from surveys and interviews. To get to the root of the issue, we surveyed Concordia students who had taken classes where there was the most opportunity to learn about Africa: AP World History and AP Literature and Composition. We also surveyed freshmen to obtain a less experienced perspective.

We discovered that, after taking these courses, students felt they knew a little about the African continent, but that there was a need to know much more.

After surveys, we interviewed a Concordia alumna from South Africa and a current high school student in America who had previously lived in Nigeria to further investigate what gaps might exist in our curriculum in terms of learning equally about different parts of the world. We also investigated the importance of authentic voices in learning about parts of the world where we don’t live, and reflected on the value of primary sources. If we are going to learn about an African country, it is important to hear from people who actually live there.

After our MISO research, we discovered that there was a lot we could do within the Concordia community to raise awareness about these topics. This was a great learning opportunity for everyone—including ourselves—to build a more complete understanding of the African continent. We composed an action plan consisting of three components:

First, we compiled a list of African media/literary sources suitable for student readers. This included books, as well as online news sources. You can find the full list here. Our personal favorite publication was The Africa Report, a monthly magazine that focuses on African politics and economics. Things Fall Apart, a classic novel by Chinua Achebe about colonialism in 19th-century Nigeria, is often considered the archetypal modern African novel and definitely worth a read. Students at Concordia read this text in English 11 and we wonder if more students might also have opportunities to read this novel.

After compiling our reading list, we met with our MS/HS librarian, Mrs. Jennifer Chapman, to discuss how we could increase accessibility to African media sources to Concordia students. Although we initially intended to provide our reading list only to high schoolers, we realized we could reach a wider audience if we found middle school-appropriate sources as well, given that middle school students use the Concordia library database more often.

Finally, we set our sights on our high school English curriculum. We set up a meeting with three Humanities 9 teachers: Mr. Klar, Mr. Potter, and Mr. Carter. We focused on discussing the Humanities 9 curriculum; this course is designed around big themes and essay writing skills, so integrating some African content might be possible. For example, African texts could be integrated into the “myths” unit at the beginning of the year, while civilizations such as the Mali Empire or the Songhai Empire could be studied alongside Egypt, Assyria, and China. The World Literature sophomore class would also be a fitting place to read stories told by African authors.

As our world  becomes more and more interconnected, we believe it is important to recognize, study, and celebrate voices from all around the world—especially voices from places we don’t hear about often enough.

 


 

 

Evelyn, Hayley and Ethan are senior students taking AP Literature & Composition at Concordia International School Shanghai.