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Africa :: A Homeschool Unit Study

Updated on October 25, 2013

Africa :: The People & Geography

In the summer of 2010, my next door neighbor and I teamed up to create a Geography Co-cop, selecting Africa as our first destination. We spent several weeks inundating ourselves into the culture of the diverse continent - exploring the food, music, art, and language. This lens provides an outline for the activities and lessons that took part in over the course of the summer.

Co-op Organization & Overview

My neighbor is a retired teacher and the grandparent of two girls the same age as my children. This summer we are venturing on a journey through the continent of Africa together ... team-teaching a variety of lessons to engage our kids in the culture and geography of Africa.

We will meet three mornings a week for approximately 90 minutes. In that time, we will do a variety of activities that will incorporate the art, language, music, science and history of Africa. Each day, the children will also journal about what they learned each day in illustrations and words.

Week 1 :: The Continent

Getting Started - The Geography of the Continent

This first week, our focus was to introduce the kids to the 7 continents, assuring they were able to locate each on a globe and printed map. We also discussed the overall geography of the continent of Africa - emphasizing the three main ecosystems in Africa (savannas, deserts, and rain forests). While the kids worked in their journals or between activities, we also introduced the kids to African music.

Africa Printables

Africa
Africa

From Algeria to Zimbabwe, Africa is a land of diversity and beauty. The resource information and student activities in this book provide an introduction to Africa's rich cultural heritage. Each of the five geographic regions of Africa is explored along with African climate, vegetation, wildlife, literature, arts, and music.

 

Activities for Week One

  • Overview of the 7 Continents
  • Practiced identifying Africa on the globe & on a printed map
  • Shared what we know about Africa and what questions we have
  • Salt Dough Map of the African Continent
  • Put together a floor puzzle of the world, identifying the continents as we did so
  • Drew map of the continent showing the three major ecosystems (Savannah, Desert & Rainforest)
  • Listened & danced to the song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"

Week 2 :: Northern Africa

Week 2 :: Northern Africa

This week our focus was on the Northern countries of Africa. Ultimately, we wanted the kids to become familiar with the cultural diversity and to become familiar with some of the foods in this region.

Activities for Week Two

  • Read aloud a book on the Sahara
  • Read about the Tuarag of the Sahara
  • Began a flip-book of the cultural diversity of Africa
  • Prepared and enjoyed the national dish of Algeria, Saffron & Raisin Couscous
  • Illustrated on a map the cultural regions of a variety of ethnic groups in Northern Africa (shown in the picture above)
  • Discussed differences between soils (potting soil/dirt, clay, and sand) and took part in a soil erosion experiment. Described in more detail below.
  • Prepared Carthagenian Flank Steak & Chickpea Tagine, a North African dish, for a family dinner

Soil Erosion Experiment

Saffron & Raisin Couscous with Fresh Mint - National Dish of Algeria

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup water

3/8 teaspoon saffron threads

3/4 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

3/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cup couscous

1/4 cup raisins

2 1/4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Directions:

1) In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil and add the saffron. Remove from the heat, cover, and let

stand for 30 minutes.

2) Return the pan to the heat, bring to a boil, and mix in the olive oil, salt, couscous, and raisins.

Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 30 minutes.

3) Using a fork and your fingertips, fluff the couscous to separate the grains. Taste and adjust the

seasonings. Stir in the mint. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6

Carthagenian Flank Steak & Chick Pea Tagine - North African Dish

CARTHAGENIAN FLANK STEAK

Ingredients:

1 cup onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon dry sherry


1/4 cup fresh oregano

2 teaspoons hot sauce

1 teaspoon tumeric

1 teaspoon dried marjoram

Salt and pepper

1 (2-pound) flank steak

Directions:

In a large glass bowl or ziplock bag, combine all the ingredients. Score the flank steak and place in the marinade. Marinate at least 20 minutes and up to overnight.

Heat a grill or grill pan. Remove the flank steak from the bag and pat dry. Grill 4 to 5 minutes per side. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before carving.

Serves 4

AROMATIC CHICK PEA TAGINE

Ingredients:

2 Pounds Chick Peas -- Soaked Overnight

4 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1/2 Teaspoon Saffron

1/4 Teaspoon Paprika

1/2 Teaspoon Cumin

1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger

1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon

3 Large Tomatoes -- Chopped

1 Large Red Onion -- Grated

1 Bunch Cilantro -- Chopped

1 Bunch Parsley -- Chopped

Salt And Pepper -- To Taste

Hot Sauce -- To Taste

Directions:

Cook chickpeas until tender, drain. Heat oil in saucepan, stir in spices and cook 1 minute; add remaining ingredients including chickpeas, cover simmer 15 minutes. Serves 4

Week 3 :: Western Africa

Week 3 :: Western Africa

In week three, we moved to Western Africa and began to explore more indepthly, the music and the instruments of the continent. Additionally, we began to incorporate more folktales and literature into our studies.

Activities for Week Three

  • Language Arts - Read aloud Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears
  • Language Arts - Discussed "vivid verbs" and onomatopoeia
  • Art - Illustrated an animal of Africa and did a watercolor wash in a style similar to Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears
  • Geography - Identified the countries of Western Africa on a map
  • Music - Listened to numerous songs from West Africa from the Putumayo CDs we'd borrowed from our library (shown below).
  • Cooking - Prepared and enjoyed fried plantains
  • Created a mini-book to illustrate the variety of homes (reliance on natural materials)
  • Painted in a naïve style (example shown below)

Naïve Style Painting

Naive Style Painting
Naive Style Painting

Explore the Music of Africa

African Inspired Instruments - Inspire your kids with instruments from around the world

Week 4 :: Eastern Africa

Activities for Week Four

  • Created an animal mosaic
  • Read aloud "Bimwilli and the Zimwi" by Verna Aardema (a tale from Zanibar) and "Mama Panya's Pancakes" by Mary and Richard Chamberlin
  • Read aloud "Savannahs" by Precious McKenzie; "Living in the African Savannah" by Nicola Barber, and "Count Your Way Through Kenya" by James Haskins, Kathleen Benson and Lyne Leveque
  • Created an ABC Book of Africa for our lapbooks
  • Beaded necklaces and bracelets in the Maasi style using beads handmade by African women
  • Cooking :: Sweet Red Beans and Sesame Cookies

Great Books About Africa for Children

Traveling to Africa

What country in Africa do you most desire to see?

See results

Week 5 :: Southern Africa

Week 5 :: Southern Africa

This week, we traveled south and were introduced to Nelson Mandela.

Activities for Week 5

  • Cooking :: Millet Patties
  • Read Aloud "Count Your Way Through South Africa" by
  • Put together lapbooks using the mini-books we had made along the way
  • Shared our country reports we had worked on throughout the summer

I hope you've enjoyed our journey through Africa, please leave a note and let me know how I might be able to improve this lens. If you have suggestions for links I should include, please direct me to them.

How Was Your Journey?

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    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Lovely Lens with inspiring ideas for homeschoolers, to arouse their curiosity of all things African. I've been to SA and Malawi; hope to one day return and see a lot more (game parks too). Faved. rolled, & FBd.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 5 years ago from Royalton

      Thanks for the tour of Africa! Which culture was your favorite?

      Squid Angel Blessed!

    • iijuan12 profile image

      iijuan12 5 years ago from Florida

      I am so happy I have come across your lessons! We homeschool in a similar manner. You have great ideas! We did a 4 week unit on Africa at the beginning of this school year. I'm featuring your unit study on my lens at http://www.squidoo.com/workshop/north-africa-lesso... . Blessed and liked.

    • EvaVarga profile image
      Author

      Eva Varga 5 years ago from NorCal

      @iijuan12: Thank you so much! I am continually amazed at how the internet can bring like-minded people together. I look forward to exploring your lenses. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Hi Eva, I have a question for you about your Africa unit. What lapbook and pages did you put together for this unit? I would love to see more details about that. I am putting together an African unit. We traveled to Tanzania as a family this summer which was amazing! Thanks, Diane

    • EvaVarga profile image
      Author

      Eva Varga 4 years ago from NorCal

      @anonymous: Hi Diane ~ It's been so long since I've seen you. I would love to see pictures of your families trip to Tanzania .. it sounds amazing. The unit I taught was quite some time ago ... I can email you the outline/plan I had put together. I am not sure I can find all the lapbook resources I had used.

      I have one that was published by

      http://www.south-african-homeschool-curriculum.com

      but I can't seem to find the direct link.

      Other mini books I found at www.homeschoolshare.com

      A few were printed from the book, Africa

      I hope this helps,

      Eva

    • askformore lm profile image

      askformore lm 4 years ago

      Many decades ago I lived for several years in East Africa - I loved it! - As I love your lens.

    • EvaVarga profile image
      Author

      Eva Varga 4 years ago from NorCal

      @askformore lm: I haven't yet had the opportunity to see Africa for myself. Perhaps someday ... :)

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 4 years ago

      We just moved back to Europe after living a few years in Africa. But knowing one country is not the same as learning about the whole continent. Very nice project!

    • EvaVarga profile image
      Author

      Eva Varga 4 years ago from NorCal

      @LouisaDembul: Thank you! I have never been to Africa personally. I look forward to the experience someday. :)

    • EvaVarga profile image
      Author

      Eva Varga 3 years ago from NorCal

      @anonymous: You are so welcome! I am happy that you found my lens useful. It was a fun unit to teach. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      This unit is so good! I am a fourth grade teacher and look for ways to enrich the curriculum at our school. I was interested in having my students read books about Africa. This is a great unit to pair with the books.

    • EvaVarga profile image
      Author

      Eva Varga 3 years ago from NorCal

      @anonymous: Thank you so much! It was certainly a fun unit to teach. I hope to create more geography lenses soon. :)

    • athomemomblog profile image

      Genesis Davies 3 years ago from Guatemala

      What an awesome unit study! I am definitely going to have to do this with my kids, as they are fascinated by Africa. Featuring your lens on my Happy Homeschooler Facebook page this week!

    • EvaVarga profile image
      Author

      Eva Varga 3 years ago from NorCal

      @athomemomblog: Thank you so much! It was certainly a fun unit - one we still talk about today. :)

    • profile image

      deanna-furrey-7 3 years ago

      This is Awesome! Our family loves Africa and we want to visit Uganda. We have some very good friends who are from there.

    • EvaVarga profile image
      Author

      Eva Varga 3 years ago from NorCal

      @deanna-furrey-7: I'm so glad that my lens was useful. :) We've never been ourselves. Someday.

    • iijuan12 profile image

      iijuan12 2 years ago from Florida

      What a great lens! You've done some great activities with your children! Thank you for sharing!

    • Schoolmom24 profile image

      Schoolmom24 22 months ago from Oregon

      Found this while searching for ideas for my own kids to learn about Africa...(I also am an occasional writer here on Hubs) My youngest daughter's friend actually moved to South Africa this past year (they will be coming back soon). We're just going to briefly touch on learning about the continent. I'm each of my girls (they're older- Jr High and High School) pick a country and research it. Great job with this hub...I especially like the national recipe for Algeria- I'm going to suggest my oldest make it since that's the country she picked! :)

    • EvaVarga profile image
      Author

      Eva Varga 21 months ago from NorCal

      Thank you! Let me know how you like the recipe! :)

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