Champion for Peace and Freedom: Nelson Mandela Day Activities for 2020

July 18 is known as Nelson Mandela International Day, or simply Mandela Day. It's a day to honor the revolutionary South African leader Nelson Mandela and takes place every year on his birthday. The goal of Mandela Day is to encourage people to become more active citizens, bringing together individuals from around the world to fight poverty, promote peace, and celebrate cultural diversity.

Nelson Mandela Lesson

Social Studies Activities for Grades 3-5

Since his death in 2013, Mandela’s legacy has continued to inspire people to work for equality and social justice. Read more in this HMH In The News article, "Remembering Nelson Mandela, Champion for Peace and Freedom."

Take It Further

Choose one or more of the following elementary school activities for Nelson Mandela Day to deepen students' learning.

Discussion Questions

  • What actions did Nelson Mandela and others take to protest against apartheid in South Africa? Which form of protest do you think is the most effective and why?
  • In what ways was Nelson Mandela’s fight for equal rights similar to the work civil rights activists are doing today? In what ways was it different?

Project: Celebrate Mandela Day

  • To celebrate and raise awareness about Mandela Day, create a social justice hall of fame. Make a poster or create a chalk mural on the sidewalk that includes portraits of Mandela and other leaders who fought for social justice, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. You may also want to include leaders who are continuing the fight today. Next to each leader’s portrait, include an inspirational quotation from that leader or a sentence that summarizes his or her achievements.
  • In the eulogy former President Barack Obama gave at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, he compared Mandela to other figures in history who demonstrated good leadership, such as Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Brainstorm a list of single words you would use to describe leaders who brought positive change to the world. Use these words to create a word cloud about good leadership. Remember that the words you think are the most important should stand out and be made larger than the others. Share and discuss your word cloud with a friend or a family member.