Southern Africa

Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa


Fall Semester, 2017: Currently overseas.

Fall Semester, 2018: Priority applications due February 1, 2018.

Fall Semester Dates: August 20 – December 5

Potential activities on this semester include:

  • Experience Zambia’s wondrous Victoria Falls of the mightly Zambezi River
  • Float Botswana’s Okavango Delta in makoros with Tswana river guide
  • Study wildlife ecology in Chobe and Etosha National Parks
  • Engage in local communities by volunteering in schools and conservation organizations
  • Explore the Namib deserts’ diamond ghost towns
  • Paddle kayaks and camp along the banks of the Orange River
  • Participate in homestays outside of Cape Town
  • Encounter South Africa’s diverse cultures and evolving post-apartheid politics
  • Rock climb sandstone walls and rappel alongside cascading waterfalls
  • This semester is for you if you like: camping, ancient cultures, languages, sand, heat, wildlife, history, colorful markets.

 Academic Courses:

Traveling School English courses are designed to provide students with critical reading and writing skills, while they benefit from the uniqueness of our environment. Designed to expose students to an assortment of local and regional authors, and selected works, literature requirements include novels, short stories, folklore, non-fiction and poetry. This course combines reading with a rigorous writing workshop to develop writing skills. Students will maintain a series of portfolios and daily journal entries. Students are expected to write an average of three times per week, and to produce three major compositions including an analytical essay as well as other genre-focused essays relating to novels taught during the semester. All students write and take responsibility for their writing through the use of journals, revision, peer editing, and portfolio techniques.

In Southern Africa, students read a minimum of two fiction novels written by highly acclaimed southern African authors or novels about the region. Teachers will choose from the following titles: Mother to Mother by Sindiwe Magona (South Africa), July’s People by Nadine Gordimer (South Africa), The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo by Peter Orner (Namibia), and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Several alternate selections are available for readers of different levels or if a student has already read a particular book. Students also read a variety of classic and southern African short stories, plays, non-fiction, essays, and poetry.

This History course is designed to provide students with a thematic exploration of the history and politics of Southern Africa. This class asks students to think critically about contemporary issues in southern Africa by framing the continent in pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial terms. Throughout the course, students will reflect on how Africa’s colonial past continues to shape its present realities. Using a historical lens, students will situate southern Africa within the larger context of global economics, politics, and social dynamics in order to study the ways in which colonial power relations such as race, class, and sexuality produce hierarchical social, political and economic realities for diverse groups of people on both local and global scales. Each unit of the course takes up a different theme and grounds it through specific case studies. In addition to this thematic study, students will engage with the geographic, historical and political particularities of each country we visit on the semester. Finally, students will build a variety of disciplinary skills including assessing and distinguishing between different kinds of sources, researching and presenting on various regional topics, creating and studying maps, interviewing and oral communication, and writing an historical essay.

As we become an increasingly global society, responsible for the planet and its environmental challenges, we need to develop the skills to critically assess problems and logically develop solutions.  This course is designed to enhance student’s understanding of the natural systems that surround us, both in our immediate surroundings in southern Africa and worldwide. Through a hands-on interdisciplinary approach, students will use observation and inquiry skills to explore these surroundings and make connections.

Students will read selections from journal articles, textbooks and other scientific literature, attend guest lectures, and participate in in-class discussions, lectures, and in depth field studies.  With the diverse environments of southern Africa as our classroom, students will discover the value of observation and inference in science.  Unit studies focus on concepts of biology – from ecology to infectious disease and geology. Students will explore the applications of these sciences into environmental science, conservation biology, and resource extraction in terms of environmental impact and sustainable development.

Note: The Traveling School cannot guarantee complete overlap between a sending school math curriculum and Traveling School curriculum. Math curricula focus on the primary topics in each subject area. Our syllabi may vary slightly from the student’s home high school curriculum. Students must work with their schools to recognize these differences and, if necessary, be prepared to do any additional work necessary to stay on track with her home high school requirements.

*For a course to be offered, a minimum of three enrolled students is required. If the minimum is not met, we will work with the student to establish an independent study. See more information below about independent studies. 

*The Traveling School is currently revising its math course offerings. Beginning fall 2018 our math options may change to a more place-based, relevant class.

Algebra 2

Algebra 2 is a sequential curriculum that enables students to build the foundations for a strong understanding of higher level math. The first semester curriculum addresses numeric and algebraic expressions and functions, linear and quadratic equations and inequalities in one and two variables. Students learn to conceptualize, analyze and identify relationships among functions graphically and analytically. Students are encouraged to master the concepts of various problem types and solution tactics, and a graphing calculator will often be used as a helpful tool to solve problems and analyze data.

First semester:

  • Linear Functions
  • Systems of Linear Equations and Inequalities
  • Matrices
  • Quadratic functions
  • Polynomial Functions


Precalculus topics include advanced subjects in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and other areas of mathematics. In addition to forming the foundation for study of calculus, the topics covered in this class have wide ranging applications in science, art, engineering, architecture, navigation and numerous other areas. These topics will help students understand the world in new ways while preparing you for a college level calculus class. Students will study concepts conceptually, analytically and graphically to gain an in depth knowledge and variety of problem solving tactics for a range of problem types.

First semester:

  • Functions and Graphs
  • Polynomial and Rational Functions
  • Exponential and Logarithmic Functions
  • Trigonometric Functions
  • Analytic Trigonometry (time permitting)

This two-credit class is designed to be a thought-provoking, discussion-based forum that teaches and promotes critical thinking and helps students make connections between reoccurring themes, ideas, and concepts from the semester. The class has two primary focuses: first, this class uses multiple methods to provide students with critical thinking tools essential for higher level reasoning and critique; second, Global Studies uses an interdisciplinary and transnational framework to explore regional economic, political, social, and environmental issues in the developing world in order to better understand how globalization operates in our world today. The class is divided into multiple units centering on different themes pertinent to the region in which we are traveling. Class begins with an introduction to the region and a critical thinking unit and ends with a unit on Human Rights. Global Studies is always team-taught and is a required class for every Traveling School student; it is designed to be an academic and reflective space for the entire group to work through the complex questions that arise from traveling in the developing world.

The Global Studies course will also emphasize active world citizenship through community service and cultural exchange. Students perform approximately 25-30 hours of community service during the semester. During these experiences, students will study and understand local and regional issues and turn this knowledge into action. Possible projects include volunteering in schools and youth centers and working on community-generated projects. Past community service opportunities include: volunteering in indigenous communities to maintain water systems; building infrastructure and interacting with local families; teaching in schools and orphanages; working at local libraries; maintaining community youth centers; participating in a women’s sewing project, and more.

The Traveling School is an all-encompassing experience and this course helps students understand and manage the demands of being an individual in a group setting. Physical Education (PE) & Independent Life Skills (iLife) is a 2-credit class that focuses on academic, physical and emotional successes and challenges. The PE component will help students develop strength and cardiovascular endurance. Being an active participant in PE will enable each student to be a productive member of the group and will help to keep the group physically healthy throughout the semester. Weekly iLife workshops will help students develop skills to become a healthy, productive citizen who takes responsibility for personal well-being, as well as a social responsibility for participating positively in the larger community around them. These workshops explore key aspects of communication and group dynamics to enable students to create positive, healthy relationships throughout life.  The combination of PE & iLife will help students develop an awareness of balance and well-being. Throughout this 2-credit course, students will discover a combination of exercise, study and organization habits to achieve success while maintaining physical and emotional health.

PE component: 

  • Understand importance of proper warm up, cool down and stretch
  • Participate in 45-minute workouts (cardio, strength and yoga) five times a week
  • Quarterly reflection on overall physical performance and growth
  • Lead 1-2 group workouts

Independent Life component:

  • Weekly workshops: Self Care, Organization, Group Living, Healthy Lifestyle, Communication, Group Dynamics, Leadership, Managing Healthy Relationships, Stress, Finding your Passion, Transitions.


My semester opened my eyes to my place in the world and showed me what I wanted to be. I had conversations with people from all across sub-Saharan Africa, and I learned about history, literature, science, journalism, and life from their words. I came home with the confidence in myself and in my generation – the confidence that we can do big things. And it all counted the same as sitting at a desk.
TTS Student