Western Africa Lesson
This is part 2 of a 4 part hands-on unit study on Africa. Act out an Ashanti tale, dramatize the historic gold and salt trades centered in Ghana, mold Ashanti gold weights out of clay, attempt to carry baskets and babies in the Ghanaian fashion, taste many of the exports of West Africa, and more! My lessons are geared toward 4th-5th grade level children and their siblings. These are lessons I created to do with a weekly homeschool co-op. We meet each week for 2 1/2 hours and have 33 children between the ages of 1-13. Use these fun lessons with your class, family, or homeschool co-op group!
West Africa Devotional on Salt
1. Open in prayer. Read & discuss Mark 9:49-50. After reading the passage, you can say something like this: (Hold up salt.) Why is salt important? Yes, it gives flavor. Before refrigerators, salt was extremely important because it helped preserve items. People would pour salt onto their meat so it wouldn’t rot. That’s what beef jerky is. Salt also provides important nutrients, especially if you’re sweating. Gatorade has mainly water and salt in it. Do you know how expensive salt is? I can buy this canister of it from Wal-Mart for about 50 cents. A few hundred years ago, salt was so valuable that people traded gold for it! Do you know where you could get lots of salt? In the Sahara Desert! Remember the Egyptians made mummies using natron, which is a form of salt? Now let’s get back to what Jesus said in the passage we just read. He said He is going to “salt us with fire.” What do you think that means? God is going to put trials, pressures, and difficulties in our lives to add flavor to us just like salt adds flavor to food. God will use these trials to make us more and more like Christ. What happens if salt loses its saltiness? Yes, it will be thrown out. (Toss a little bit of salt from your hand onto the floor and step on it.) If we claim we are Christians, we must have the “flavor” or character of Christ as He will preserve us as we trust in Him for our salvation. It is then that we will not be thrown out to be trampled upon; instead, we will not spend eternity with Him in heaven.
YOU WILL NEED: a container of salt
This is our favorite atlas to use. It's large enough so that a group/classroom can see it, and it includes relevant features to each map (i.e. pyramids in Egypt, diamonds in South Africa, etc.). My children love flipping through this atlas.
West Africa, Ghana, & Cowrie Shells
2. Review North Africa and briefly introduce Western Africa.
3. Look at Western Coastal Bulge region on maps/atlases and ask children to describe what they see. Have them find Ghana on the map. Ashanti, from Ghana, used to use cowrie shells for money. Pass around cowrie shells. Use the book Shannon brought (or use pictures from your phone) to show pictures of African people wearing jewelry made with cowrie shells. Ask children where cowrie shells come from and how people would have gotten them. Tell children that at the end of class you will give each child a cowrie shell so that they can take it home and tell their families about how they were used as money in Africa.
YOU WILL NEED: maps/atlases brought by families, cowrie shells (purchased at a craft store or from e-bay), & book showing cowrie shells
***If you have more than 18 children, divide them into 3 groups and have each group rotate between 3 stations: Anansi Dramatization, Trans-Saharan Trade Route of Salt & Gold, and Ashanti Bronze Weights, Baskets, & Babies. If you have a smaller group, just go through the activities in order.***
Station 1: Anansi/Ananse and the Talking Melon
4. Act out “Anansi and the Talking Melon” by Eric A. Kimmel, an Ashanti tale from Ghana. The tale is about Anansi, the spider, who hides inside a cantaloupe and pretends like the cantaloupe is speaking to various animals. The way to do this impromptu drama is to:
a. Assign characters by giving each child a part. Assign the parts of Ananse, the Elephant, and the King to the oldest children. Give each child a headband that shows their animal/character.
*To make character headbands, simply staple together 2 construction paper strips to form a circle the size of a child’s head. Then print off coloring pages from the internet of each of the animals. I used coloring pages from http://printablecolouringpages.co.uk/ for the Spider, elephant, hippo, warthog, ostrich, rhino, turtle, and crowns for the king and queen. *Note: There isn’t a queen in the story, but I added one so that each child will be able to have a part. Try to give a few of the lines from the king to the queen.*
b. Have the child stand up front in the order they will appear in the book.
c. Instruct the children that you will tell them their lines, and they will repeat them after you. Encourage them to show emotion and do the actions as you read the book related to their character.
d. Tell them that in this story they are going to pretend like they are animals in Africa that come across a talking cantaloupe. The child who is playing Anansi will do all the speaking parts for the cantaloupe, but the children should pretend like they hear the words coming from the ball/cantaloupe.
e. If possible please record this play on your phone or camera and post it to Facebook later so all the families can enjoy watching it.
f. Begin to read the story. When a character speaks, point or motion to the child who is supposed to be speaking. Say the lines from the books (breaking up the sentences and phrases so that they can simply be repeated back) and then have the child repeat those lines, preferably saying them in character. If the child doesn’t repeat the right words, that is okay.
g. After the various animals have held the talking cantaloupe and the king throws it across the room, Anansi should hold up a banana in front of his/her face in preparation for the last line.
h. Have everyone take a bow or courtesy.
i. ONLY if you have extra time because the other stations are not ready to rotate yet, begin reading another Anansi tale such as "Ananse and the Lizard: A West African Tale."
YOU WILL NEED: phone or camera recorder to record play and props for acting out “Anansi and the Talking Melon”: 1 ball about the size of a basketball that we will pretend is a cantaloupe, the characters printed out and stapled onto headbands, and 1 banana or bunch of bananas
Joke: Why did Anansi buy a car?
So he could take it out for a spin!
Station 2: Trans-Saharan Trade Route of Salt & Gold
5. Salt & Gold: Pass around a “gold nugget” (a rock spray-painted gold). Shake a small amount of salt onto each child’s hand and let them taste it. Ask them to identify both items. Ask the children what they think these two items might have in common.
-Point to Ghana on a map. About 600 years ago, Ghana was much larger. Its land included many of these other nations included Mali. (Point to Mail on the map.) Ghana was also called the “Land of Gold”. Have the children repeat, “Ghana, the Land of Gold.” In fact, an Arab explorer described the king as the “wealthiest of all kings on the face of the earth.” Think about the geographical location of Ghana. The location of Ghana put it (more specifically its capital, Kumbi Saleh) in the center of the major trade routes.
-There was something that the kingdom of Ghana did not have but cherished more than gold. What do they think that was? Remind the children of the salt that they tasted. Ask them to give you reasons why salt would be a valuable resource to have. (Salt was needed to keep meat and vegetables from spoiling in hot weather. It was used as a medicine to treat illnesses. Salt is needed in hot climates, such as the Sahara, to replace the salt that the body loses from sweating.) Salt was scarce in Ghana, so traders in the Saraha desert (point to it on your map) realized that they could trade it to the people of Ghana for a great amount of gold. Ghana wasn’t filled with gold, but to the South of Ghana (point on your map to the modern day countries of the Ivory Coast/Côte d'Ivoire, Togo, and Benin) the land was filled with gold but no salt. That’s how a long established trade system developed.
- Quickly tell the children that the kingdom of Mali eventually took over the trade from Ghana.
YOU WILL NEED: a map of Africa (can be from your atlas), “gold” rock (a rock spray-painted gold), and salt
Station 2: Trade Route: Gold Kingdom of Zimbabwe, Salt Kingdom of the Sahara , & the Kingdom of Ghana
6. Trade Route: Dramatize trade Gold Kingdom of West Africa, the Salt Kingdom of the Sahara/North Africa, and the Kingdom of Ghana. (If you’d like to do a bit of background reading on this, go to http://africa.mrdonn.org/goldandsalt.html .)
- Divide children into 3 kingdoms: The Gold Kingdom of the South, the Salt Kingdom of the North, and the Kingdom of Ghana. Each group should have 3 children. If you have 1 remaining child, have it be the oldest child. S/he will be the Tuareg caravan raider, but don’t let anyone else know that. Give the salt kingdom salt for trading and the gold kingdom receives the “gold.” The cloth and horse figurines are distributed to Ghana.
- Give the below instructions (written on cards) to each kingdom and assist the groups in following the directions. Encourage each group to select their youngest member to be the king and their oldest member to be the trader.
- 1) The Kingdom of the Sahara – You have an abundance of salt and need to get gold to trade with other countries. Select a king. Put a crown on his/her head. 1 person will be a salt miner who will put salt in baggies. 1 person will be trade representatives. The king will tell the salt miner to give the trader the salt. The king will then send the trader to Ghana to try to barter for gold. The king may also determine whether his country needs cloth or horses. Remember that Ghana is the only country through which trade can occur.
- 2) The Kingdom of Ghana – You have no gold or salt but the people who have them must pass through your country. Select a king who determines how much “tax” in gold and salt will be charged the traders from Sahara and the South. The king appoints 1 “tax collector/trader” to work with the traders from the Sahara and 1 “tax collector/trader” to work with trader from the South. Before the traders from the Sahara and the South can trade with each other, they must first pay the Ghanaians tax collector/trader a “tax” because Ghana is the only country through which trade can occur.
- 3) The Southern Kingdom – Your kingdom desperately needs salt because it is so hot and your people need to retain body moisture to live. You have an abundance of gold. Select a king. He appoints 1 “gold miner” who packages the “gold” for trade in baggies. He also chooses 1 trader to go to Ghana to try and barter for salt. Remember that Ghana is the only country through which trade can occur.
- While the children are selecting roles and then trading, secretly give instructions to the child who will be playing the Tuareg raider. If you don’t have an extra child, have a mom play the Tuareg raider. Dress the child in the veil and a robe. Give him/her a foam sword. Tell him/her that after the children have traded and are trying to return to their lands, s/he can raid the Kingdom of Sahara trader in order to try to steal their salt or other items. Since we are just dramatizing this, stealing anything must be done gently; however, s/he can really grab the bags if possible.
- After the traders have gotten the gold and salt they want, tell them they can return to their countries. They need to be aware, though, that sometimes desert raiders like Tuaregs will attack trading caravans as they pass through the Sahara.
YOU WILL NEED: kingdom instruction cards (printed on regular paper), a container of salt, lots of yellow beads or other items you can pretend are gold nuggets, sandwich baggies, a scarf to go over a Tuareg’s face, a robe (like a bathrobe), & foam sword
Station 2: Salt Mining Today
7. Salt Mining: a. Watch a 3 minute video about salt mining and caravans to Timbuktu that still occur today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bi9bJhRZtKA .
b. ONLY if you have extra time because the other groups aren’t ready to switch yet, discuss: Salt made the difference between life and death to people of Ghana. What in your daily life has the same value to you? Why couldn’t you live without those?
c. ONLY if you have extra time because the other groups aren’t ready to switch yet, you can start to watch a second video on salt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gI5qV-kvLeg .
YOU WILL NEED: laptop computer (preferable) or phone that can play the YouTube video
Station 3: Ashanti Bronze Weights
8. Ashanti Bronze Weights: Have children create Ashanti bronze weights.
(Prep: Ahead of time lay out 9 sheets of wax paper on the table. Place a golf-ball sized scoop of self-hardening clay on each sheet of wax paper. You don’t need to roll the clay into a neat ball. Repeat this process again during the rotation process before each new group comes.)
Over 300 years ago the Ashanti tribe (of Ghana) used gold dust as money. To trade, men carried their own balance scales and graduated weights with them. A weight on one side of the scales balanced the proper amount of gold dust on the other side. The weights were bronze and were sometimes formed to look like animals such as frogs, snakes, lizards, and tortoises. (I will not have a book with pictures of this. You can show the children pictures of them from http://www.pinterest.com/pin/229261437255469802/ or from ebay.) Have the children each mold a tortoise out of clay. Point out how the shell would have coiled up designs.
YOU WILL NEED: self-hardening clay (enough to have 27 golf-ball-sized balls), a spoon or other object to use to scoop out the clay, 27 sheets of wax paper (each sheet at least 6”x9”), & a sharpie marker
Station 3: Baskets on Heads & Babies on Backs
When Ashanti women need to carry multiple items, they will carry them in a basket on their head. Some women will place a doughnut-shaped ring on their head and then they will put the basket on top of the ring.
-Ahead of time load a laundry basket with a few items. Have the children try to walk across the room while balancing the basket on their heads. Have 3 children go at a time.
-Ashanti women also carry their babies in a sling on their backs. Have the children use a scarf to tie a baby doll in a sling around their backs. Now have the children try to carry the basket on their heads and the baby on their backs. Have 3 children go at a time.
- ONLY if you have extra time because the other groups aren’t ready to switch yet, allow the children to race to see who can walk the fastest without dropping their basket or baby.
YOU WILL NEED: 3 laundry baskets (preferably all the same size), 3 doughnut-shaped rings (like the kind from a baby’s stacking toy - optional), 3 long scarves, 3 baby dolls, & 3 sets of random items to put in the baskets
Review Stations and Kente Cloth
***Have children come back together into 1 large group.***
10. Ask children what they learned in each of the rotations.
11. Ashanti Kente: Tell the children that the Ashanti of Ghana import cotton and silk yarn to weave pieces of fabric that have bright, colorful, designs. The narrow strips are then sewed into long wide pieces. The kente is worn like a toga and is used during formal occasions.
-Use pictures from books and/or photos from your phone (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kente_cloth) to show pictures of people wearing kentes. Kente cloth can be any color, but traditionally they have lots of yellow/gold and also blue, green, and red.
-(Prep: Make sure tables have tablecloths on them. Tell children to put on old t-shirts/smocks if they parents would like for them to do that.)
-Have children paint an Ashanti kente cloth design on a sheet of paper. Encourage the children to try to paint in straight lines to look like 4-inch fabric sewn together. Encourage them not paint randomly. Use pictures from books as a guide.
-Please clean the tablecloths quickly so they will be clean for activity 13.
YOU WILL NEED: items brought by families: plain paper (computer paper or white construction paper), paintbrushes (preferably one that is thicker than a watercolor paintbrush), tempera/finger paint, & smock/old t-shirt for protecting clothing & books with pictures or a laptop to show pictures of kente cloth
This is a nice tale of how a spider's web inspired men to weave Kente cloth.
This picture book has very little content but it does show illustrations of various Kente cloth designs.
Wearing Kente Cloth
12. Ask for a child volunteer to get dressed up in a kente cloth.
-Hold up a bed sheet. Tell the children that if this was a kente cloth, it would have the colorful geometric designs, but we’ll just have to pretend it looks that way for now.
-Hang the long side his shoulders. Help him to grasp the top wedge with each hand as far along as he can reach & center himself. Have his arm drop a little & twist so that the cloth covers it. Take the other side under his right armpit. Keep the cloth tight. He should drape the cloth in his right hand over his left arm so his front is covered. You need 1 foot overlap. Pleat the front side of the cloth up onto his shoulder so that it hangs down his back. Do the same with the back so that it hangs down his front. Fold the edges under his arm tidily. Ashanti do not bow to show respect. Instead they bare their shoulders to show respect.(*Please practice this ahead of time!) If you want to get more information on Kente cloth go to http://news.softpedia.com/news/Make-Kente-45705.shtml .
YOU WILL NEED: a bed sheet (preferably with a bright plaid design)
Da Ga Game
12. Briefly discuss what children learned about Ghana and the Ashanti people.
13. (If you are not limited by time) Play Ghanese game Da Ga, which means The Big Snake. Divide children into 2 groups by ages. Mark off boundaries. One player is the Da Ga and tries to catch the other players. If a person is caught by the Da Ga, s/he must join hands with the snake and the 2 of them chase the other players, tagging from either end of the snake. The Da Ga grows longer and longer as each player is caught.
More Great Books on Ghana
This is an excellent story book based on a trues story that teaches about giving and micro-finance. A town in Ghana pools their money together. A boy receives a loan to buy a hen. When the boy becomes an adult, he in turn loans out money to other aspiring business people.
You could buy the book, but we love listening to the book on CD while driving around town. This CD (or book if you prefer) has a chapter on Ancient West Africa and is told in an engaging manner so that even my 5 year old loves listening!
West African Sampler Plates & Review
13. Let children try West African cuisine.
a. PREP: While children are painting, pour cups of water and prepare a “West African sampler” plates for each child and adult. (***Be sure to check for peanut and fish allergies before preparing these plates.***)
-On each plate place a piece of sardine, a few peanuts, a piece of coconut, a plantain chip, a pinch of cocoa powder, a piece of dark chocolate, a tiger nut, and a small spoonful or pinch of cooked rice.
-Set up the plates and cups on the open counter.
b. After children have finished the Kente activity, tell them to get their atlases and turn to Africa. Aftre they have located Africa, they can line up to sanitize their hands and each grab a sampler plate and cup of water. Tell them to not touch any of the food yet, though they can drink the water as needed.
c. Quickly discuss what the word “export” means (products that countries sell to other countries). Tell the children we are going to locate various countries in Western Africa as we discuss some of their exports. Have children find:
i. Maritania: In Maritania they export seals, shrimp, & sardines. Let the children taste the piece of sardine.
ii. Ghana on the map. In Ghana they love to eat smoked fish and coconut. Let the children taste the coconut.
iii. Nigeria: All around Western Africa people love to eat plantains, which are like bananas but not as sweet. Let the children taste the plantain chip.
iv. In Nigeria an afternoon snack for children might be tiger nuts, which are from the roots of a grass.
v. Senegal: Senegal is called the land of peanuts. Let the children eat the peanuts.
vi. Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire): The primary export Ivory Coast is cacao seed. Who can guess what we make from cacao seeds? Chocolate! Let children first try cocoa powder. That’s what ground up cacao seeds taste like. We prefer to add milk, butterfat, and sugar. Let children eat chocolate chips. African chocolate is supposed to taste more “earthy” which kind of means it tastes a bit more like dirt.
vii. Mali: Even through Mali took over the salt and gold trade from Ghana and used to be one of the richest nations in the world, it is now one of the poorest nations in the world. They do export rice.
-Have children thrown away plates and cups.
YOU WILL NEED: 36 cups, 36 small plates, 1 can of sardines (Cut the fish into 36 pieces), 1 container of peanuts, coconut (unsweetened if possible), plantain chips (found in Latin American/Mexican aisle or grocery store), plain cooked rice (enough so that each child can have a few pinches of it), cocoa powder, and 36 small pieces of dark chocolate (preferably African chocolate of you can find it), and atlases of Africa (brought by families)
14. Review what we learned today by asking questions such as: What did some people in Western Africa used to use as money? (cowrie shells) Who is the trickster spider who shows up in many Ghana Ashanti tales? (Anansi) What was traded on the Trans-Saharan Trade Route? (salt and gold) In what kingdom/country did they have to pay a tax to trade? (Ghana and later Mali) Who would sometimes steal from the Saharan caravans? (Tuaregs) The Ashanti would sometimes use bronze weights in the shape of animals for measuring out what? (gold) If women in Ghana want to carry lots of items, how might they carry it? (on their heads) How do women carry their babies? (on their backs) What is the bright fabric with geometric designs that some Ghanaians wear on special occasions? (kente) What do we call products that countries sell to other countries? (exports) Who can name an export from Western Africa? What was your favorite activity we did today?
I bought one of these bars at Wal-Mart for about $3. If your local Wal-Mart or grocery store doesn't carry these, then you can order a pack of 6 bars at amazon.com.
This is an African pourquoi story from Ghana that explains how the turtle got a hard shell.
15. We then had a former Christian missionary couple to the Ivory Coast talk to us about their work. They talked about the culture and brought the doughnut-shaped item that women wear on their heads to help them carry items, and they let the children wear it. They talked about moms wearing babies and let them wrap a baby doll on their backs. They showed musical instruments and let the kids play them. They also talked about food, dress, and living conditions. They talked about the culture that is steeped in sin and shame and let the kids try on heavy anklets that are supposed to act as a punishment. They talked about their work as Bible translators and brought a Bible they had helped to translate. They talked about church services over there as well. Then they answered questions. The children loved the presentation, and I would highly recommend trying to find a current/former missionary to Africa speak to your group! Ask around at your church or at a local retirement home to see if anyone knows someone who has worked in Africa.
There are numerous Anansi/Ananse tales in storybook form. We liked the one with the lizard the best (as mentioned above). My children liked this one as well.
This simple retelling of an old Ashanti tale is fun to read. It begins with a man who digs up a talking yam and the silliness progresses from there. It does a good job at showing what Ashanti story-telling is like.
Ready for the next lesson?
Dramatize the mummification process, carve clay cartouches, eat a Tuareg-style meal, act out an Ashanti tale, dramatize the historic gold and salt trades centered in Ghana, paint watercolor paintings of the animals of the Congo, make Nigerian-style tie-dye shirts, hunt like a Pygmy and act out the Pygmy Honey Dance, enjoy an Ethiopian-style feast, create Zulu shields, and more in this fun 4 part hands-on unit study on Africa!
- North Africa Lesson - This is part 1 of a 4 part hands-on unit study on Africa. This week's focus is North Africa. Dramatize the mummification process, carve clay cartouches, eat a Tuareg-style meal, make Moroccan Khobz, hold a Moroccan Berber fantasia and more!
- Western Africa Lesson - This is part 2 of a 4 part hands-on unit study on Africa. Act out an Ashanti tale, dramatize the historic gold and salt trades centered in Ghana, mold Ashanti gold weights out of clay, attempt to carry baskets and babies in the Ghanaian fashion, and more!
- West and Central Africa Lesson - This is part 3 of a 4 part hands-on unit study on Africa. Make watercolor paintings of the animals of the Congo, taste Nigerian chin chin, fufu, and Ground Nut Soup, make Nigerian-style tie-dye shirts, hunt like a Pygmy and act out the Pygmy Honey Dance, and more!
- East and South Africa Lesson - This is part 4 of a 4 part hands-on unit study on Africa. Enjoy an Ethiopian-style feast, create Zulu shields, make Masai necklaces and attempt Masai-style spear throwing, and more!
- Africa Unit Presentations and Field Trip Ideas - For the culminating activity for our 4 part hands-on unit on Africa, make African dishes and present on famous people relevant to Africa. Also included is where we went for field trips during this unit.
- Fun, FREE Hands-on Unit Studies - Looking for all of my lessons and unit studies? Over the years I have posted over 30 science and social-studies based unit studies, compromised of more than 140 lessons. For each lesson I have included activities (with photos), our favorite books and YouTube video clips, lapbook links, and other resources. I posted links to all of my unit studies and lessons at the above link.
Material List for This Lesson
ALL FAMILIES: PLEASE BRING:
- Per 2-3 children: 1 atlas that includes the countries of Africa (preferably one that also include pictures of items, animals, etc.) or a printed map of Africa
- Per child: 1 sheet of plain paper (computer paper or white construction paper), 1 paintbrush (preferably one that is thicker than a watercolor paintbrush), tempera/finger paint (families will be able to share paint), & smock/old t-shirt for protecting clothing
- Optional (bring only if you have this): Any items you may have from Western Africa (not including Nigeria) to show the children
ITEMS TO BE ASSIGNED:
-a container of salt
-cowrie shells & a book or photos from the Internet showing Africans wearing cowrie shells
- book: “Anansi and the Talking Melon,” phone or camera recorder to record play and props for acting out “Anansi and the Talking Melon”: 1 ball about the size of a basketball that we will pretend is a cantaloupe, the characters printed out and stapled onto headbands, & 1 banana or bunch of bananas
-“gold” rock (a rock spray-painted gold) and salt
-kingdom instruction cards (printed on regular paper), a container of salt, lots of yellow beads or other items you can pretend are gold nuggets, sandwich baggies, a scarf to go over a Tuareg’s face, a robe (like a bathrobe), & foam sword
-laptop computer (preferable) or phone that can play the YouTube
-self-hardening clay (enough to have 27 golf-ball-sized balls), a spoon or other object to use to scoop out the clay, 27 sheets of wax paper (each sheet at least 6”x9”), & a sharpie marker
-3 laundry baskets (preferably all the same size), 3 doughnut-shaped rings (like the kind from a baby’s stacking toy), 3 long scarves, 3 baby dolls, & 3 sets of random items to put in the baskets
-books with pictures of kente cloth
-a bed sheet (preferably with a bright plaid design)
-36 cups, 36 small plates, 1 can of sardines (Cut the fish into 36 pieces), 1 container of peanuts, coconut (unsweetened if possible), plantain chips (found in Latin American/Mexican aisle or grocery stores such as Pepe’s), plain cooked rice (enough so that each child can have a few pinches of it), cocoa powder, and 36 small pieces of dark chocolate
Would you like to teach this way every day?
I use Konos Curriculum as a springboard from which to plan my lessons. It's a wonderful curriculum and was created by moms with active boys!
If you're new to homeschooling or in need of some fresh guidance, I highly recommend Konos' HomeSchoolMentor.com program! Watch videos on-line of what to do each day and how to teach it in this great hands-on format!
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