Field trip – Titanic Exhibition

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I’m bit of a history nerd. I love history, 1800 to 1950 history is my favourite. When I heard that the Titanic – The Artefact Exhibition was coming to South Africa, I just had to make to go. So in true homeschooler fashion, I arranged a field trip for our local homeschoolers. What better way to introduce your children to your love of history, than to show them actual artefacts that were on the ship 103 years ago!
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When we arrived, we saw that they had a few items that the kids could explore while we waited for the rest of our “party” to arrive. The kids played with the speed control from an old steam boat (similar to the one used on the Titanic) outside of the Titanic Exhibition centre. They spent ages playing with it with their friends. One of the staff from the exhibition explained the use and controls of it to the children too. The boys, especially, found that extremely fascinating.
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We were unfortunately not allowed to take photographs of the exhibits due to the age of the exhibits and the effect of the flash on them (that’s their story, and they’re sticking to it). That was very disappointing. The pictures below can all be found on the Titanic Expo website link above.

There was reference to a South African passanger and his family in one of the exhibits. I found more information on that family here.

These were our admission tickets. Each ticket had the information of one of the passengers (1st, 2nd and 3rd class) on the back. It was really interesting to read about these different people.
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I did, however, buy a few momentos to keep for years to come. A pack of Titanic cards, an informational book and a coffee mug (for those of you that are unaware, I collect mugs, this was the perfect memento for me).
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The Titanic Society South Africa also had a hall dedicated to the South African Titanic artefacts at the exhibition. I didn’t even know there was a Titanic Society in South Africa!

You can watch the full History Channel documentary on the Titanic below (This is the same video they had playing at the exhibition):

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Field trip to the Cradle of Humankind – Part 2 – Sterkfontein Caves

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On Sunday we took a trip to the Cradle of Humankind, starting off with a tour of Maropeng and then making our way, after ice-creams, to the Sterkfontein Caves. The last time I was here was in December 2006 and I was pregnant with Koko. We couldn’t come to the “Cradle” and not visit the caves too.
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The Sterkfontein Caves are owned by the University of the Witwatersrand, whose scientists have been responsible for the main excavations of the World Heritage Site. They are credited with many of the famous discoveries including the world famous “Mrs Ples” and “Little Foot”, an almost complete Australopithecus skeleton dating back more than 3-million years.

~ Sterkfontein Caves

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Before going down into the cave, we went through the exhibit where they show some of the artifacts they have recovered on this site, and many others. Tools, bones, animals and even dinosaur fossils!
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Going down into the cave there are almost 300 stairs! It was rather nerve racking going down all those stairs with kids in tow.
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Our guide, Fanyaya, gave us a rather amusing rendition of the history of the caves, the formation of the stalactites and stalacmites, the Italian limestone miners and the discoveries of “Little Foot” and “Mrs Ples”. We then went further down into the cave to the underground lake, of which the source is unknown, where diver Pieter Verhulsel lost his life after getting lost in the underwater caves he was exploring (once his life line/rope was severed underwater).
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We then explored the caves even further, going deeper underground, down ladders, through small spaces on hands and knees and eventually coming out to the next, almost, 300 stairs going up. By this point, I was exhausted and the kids were bouncing off the walls from excitement. We finally made it to the top of the stairs to the exit where they have two busts. Professor Emeritus Phillip Tobias that pays tribute to his memory and contribution to the field of palaeoanthropology and The statue of palaeontologist Dr Robert Broom for his discovery of Australopithecus Africanus, better known as Mrs Ples.
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Our FANTASTIC tour guide, Fanayana standing by the Dr Broom statue.

Our FANTASTIC tour guide, Fanayana standing by the Dr Broom statue.


By this stage, I had collapsed and had to lie down so that my heart palpitations could subside. Scary stuff.
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When we were done, we decided to go have some lunch and a cold drink. Its been a HOT few days here in Johannesburg and this head wave has taken us all by surprise.
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I highly recommend doing this tour with your family AFTER visiting Maropeng. It’s rigorous exercise and not for the faint hearted. The children loved it and it was so informative.

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Field trip to the Cradle of Humankind – Part 1 – Maropeng #HomoNaledi

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Living in Johannesburg has its perks. We have Maropeng up the road (about a 45 minute drive away) and since HomoNaledi was discovered, we have been threatening to go. The original fossils are currently on exhibition. The exhibition ends on 18 October 2015, so we went just in time.
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What a fascinating experience. I had never been to Maropeng before. To be honest, I didn’t think a trip was worth it. The building is very unassuming. Its MUCH bigger than it looks. The old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is definitely apt here.
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The Maropeng exhibition is housed in the Tumulus building, which combines cutting edge architecture with clever use of space – all within strict environmental guidelines
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When we entered the building, we read quite a bit of information about Charles Darwin, his colleagues and his theory of evolution and how it evolved, pardon the pun.

After spending quite a bit of time in that one installation, we made our way down a tunnel and read about earths history, from modern times, to the big bang.
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At the bottom of that tunnel, we took a boat ride:
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The boat adventure starts at the present and continues on a trip back through time, retracing the various stages of the creation of our earth. Snow-making and ice-producing machines give voyagers an indication of what the most recent ice age may have been like. The journey goes back further into time, when the world was submerged in water, and beyond that to the formation of the earth’s crust and the shifting of the tectonic plates.

Finally the beginning is reached, when the earth was a fiery ball of molten rock, and the ride ends dramatically in a simulated ‘black hole’. Scientists theorise that our world came into existence as a result of the collapse of the first star, creating a ‘black hole’ with a powerful gravitational pull. The force of the explosion created momentum amongst some of the dust, rocks and gas produced in the ‘Big Bang’ 14-billion years ago. These particles were drawn into the centre of the ‘black hole’, gradually amassing into matter which eventually created the earth.

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Once we entered the main exhibition area, we saw a few fascinating interactive tables for the children to explore. This particular table, pictured below, is a sequencing game showing the evolution of plants, animals, humans, etc. Once you have the sequence correct, it lights up. We must have spent upwards of an hour on this table alone.
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We walked through the rest of the homonid exhibition and made our way to the main, original fossil, exhibition where we met HomoNaledi!
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They had various other homonid fossils on exhibition, including a comparison exhibit.
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Once we left, we found a black board where you can leave your name in chalk. It wouldn’t be a field trip, without leaving our mark.
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I highly recommend this facility for people of any age. They have a disabled/stroller area that takes you past the boat ride (but you can still go in at various parts to see the different parts of the boat ride). My children loved it! You can find printable resources for children/students HERE

Keep an eye out for part 2 of our Cradle of Humankind field trip coming later this week!

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Happy Heritage Day South Africa

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Heritage Day
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Heritage Day (Afrikaans: Erfenisdag) is a South African public holiday celebrated on 24 September. On this day, South Africans across the spectrum are encouraged to celebrate their culture and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions, in the wider context of a nation that belongs to all its people.

History of Heritage Day before 1995

In KwaZulu-Natal, 24 September was known as Shaka Day, in commemoration of the Zulu King, Shaka. Shaka was the legendary Zulu King who played an important role in uniting disparate Zulu clans into a cohesive nation. Each year people gather at King Shaka’s grave to honor him on this day.

The Public Holidays Bill presented to the Parliament of South Africa at the time did not have 24 September included on the list of proposed public holidays. As a result of this exclusion, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), a South African political party with a large Zulu membership, objected to the bill. Parliament and the IFP reached a compromise and the day was given its present title and seen as a public holiday.

“ …when South Africans celebrate the diverse cultural heritage that makes up a “rainbow nation”. It is the day to celebrate the contribution of all South Africans to the building of South Africa(sic) ” ~ Lowry 21:1995

Celebration of Heritage Day

South Africans celebrate Heritage Day by remembering the cultural heritage of the many cultures that make up the population of South Africa. Various events are staged throughout the country to commemorate this day.

Former Western Cape Provincial Premier Ebrahim Rasool addressed the public at a Heritage Day celebration at the Gugulethu Heritage trail in 2007 in Gugulethu.

In Hout Bay, there is an army procession and a recreation of the battle fought there.

In 2005, a media campaign sought to “re-brand” the holiday as National Braai Day, in recognition of the South African culinary tradition of holding informal backyard barbecues, or braais.
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On 5 September 2007, Archbishop Desmond Tutu celebrated his appointment as patron of South Africa’s Braai (Barbecue) Day, affirming it to be a unifying force in a divided country (by donning an apron and tucking into a boerewors sausage). At the end of 2007 National Braai Day changed its name to Braai4Heritage and the initiative received the endorsement of South Africa’s National Heritage Council (NHC).

Organiser Jan Scannell announced that the aim is not to have a mass braai, but little ones with friends and family.

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