As part of their studies about Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., students at Ross Lower School discovered that the actions of one person make a difference. Grade six wrote and performed a play detailing the remarkable life of Mandela, and the fourth grade encouraged acts of service for others by organizing a school supply drive for students in North Carolina.
The play, put on for grades K–5 on January 14, depicted the life of Mandela—from his powerful protests against apartheid, to his 27-year incarceration, to his term as president of South Africa, where he oversaw the dismantling of apartheid and its system of institutionalized racism. A large mural of Mandela created with LS student handprints kept his presence strong throughout the performance.
“The play celebrated Mandela’s teachings that education is the most powerful weapon and that the actions of one person can change the world,” said Chris Engel, director of community programs at Ross. “The students’ theatrical demonstration communicated these powerful messages to their fellow classmates.”
A question-and-answer period following the performance offered an opportunity for younger students to ask the actors what it was like to experience Mandela’s life while in character. “It was difficult to play the part of Mandela’s prison guard, because I knew I was representing something ugly that actually happened,” said sixth grader Ella Griffiths.
Though the subject was difficult to tackle at times, the students felt the play ultimately brought a better understanding of the enormous positive change one man was able to bring to a nation, and that understanding translated into action.
“These great men who urged education and peaceful actions in the fight for equality and civil rights also inspired the fourth graders to organize a supply drive to support a school in need of learning tools,” said Lower School teacher Alicia Schordine, referring to Mandela, Gandhi, and King. All LS grades participated in donating materials for the drive, which will benefit Alicia’s former students at the North Carolina Prep School in Tarboro. The support is especially timely, because burst pipes recently flooded their classroom and destroyed their small amount of books and supplies. To raise money for the shipping costs to North Carolina, fourth graders sold white ribbon pins symbolizing hope for peace.