Out of Africa and into the Classroom: A teacher's dream site on Africa!

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Teacher Resources


Developing a Unit on Africa


How to Develop a Unit on Africa:

     The best place to get African-centered materials on teaching Africa is at universities.  All African Studies departments have “Outreach” divisions which dole out and suggest materials to teachers teaching Africa.  They have teaching guides, videos, books, everything you can think of…coupled with amazing lists of related resources.  If you tap into these, then you get addicted. (See the "African Studies Outreach Centers" page on this site.)

     Once you are addicted to Africa, it is important to know one thing:  You can’t teach ALL of Africa.

     You have to select some critical content you wish to convey to your students and then build your unit around that, alone.   If you allow yourself to digress, it gets too big to manage, since the continent is so incredibly rich and diverse.

     Also, I like to teach through similiarities, not differences.  Keep it positive; Africa get's enough bad press as it is.  Quashing stereotypes should be one of your first goals.  Many adults even don't realize that there are major cities that look like ours with skyscrapers and people in business suits in African capitals.  I like to remind the students that in Africa most everyone has grandparents that live in the rural areas, just like ours live in the country, or out a ways from the city.  Also, Africans value family very much, just like we do. The value system is a great way to start.  We all try to follow the Golden Rule.  Kids everywhere enjoy sports, candy and movies.  Get the picture?

Some sane ways to broach developing a unit on Africa:

1) Geographic regions- Sahara, Sahel, rainforest, dessert, mountains

Pictures of Africa’s topographic regions: http://exploringafrica.matrix.msu.edu/teachers/curriculum/m6/activity3.php


2) Have each student select an ethnic group from either different African countries or the same one and compare and contrast their cultures, then compare and contrast them with their own.

Some of the more well-known African ethnic groups:



3)  After doing a brief overview on the continent, select one country in Africa to study.  A good choice for this approach is Nigeria since it features all of the topographic regions represented in Africa and contains over 250 ethnic groups who collectively speak over 500 languages (this is why you can’t do ALL of Africa!).

Incredible teaching unit on Nigeria that could be adapted for any age group:


Nigeria Teachers UnionWebsite  (features interesting pictures and a good map):



4) Teach the origins of man, from the depths of the Rift Valley’s Olduvai Gorge (Luis and Mary Leakey) to Johanson’s Lucy found in Hadar, Ethiopia, through the slave trade  to today.  I always use this to teach that we are all related; it is man who separated us into races; we are one human race.

Lucy:  http://exploringafrica.matrix.msu.edu/students/curriculum/m19/activity1.php


5) European Colonialism in Africa; the Berlin Conference of 1884

An overview of the Berlin Conference: http://wfps.k12.mt.us/teachers/carmichaelg/new_page_33.htm

Tieing in literature: Things Fall Apart :


The Age of Imperialism:  A (Dynamic) Unit Plan: http://www.coedu.usf.edu/main/departments/seced/webq/social%20studies/history/jberringer/default.htm

The Scramble for Africa:



6) Assign everyone in the class an important African king, queen or dignitary (see the "Famous African Kings & Queens" page on this site) and have them "become" that person for the duration of the unit. They research the kingdom/country, geography, values, homelife...culture, basically, and report out on it, dressed like that king or queen. You can have a socratic forum where the kings and queens meet and discuss (compare and contrast) politics, pressing issues of the time, etc.   I've even had the students create a three-dimentional likeness of their king or queen's head and headdress, and then shot the student's picture and imposed it onto the oval left in the center for the face.  The pieces are STUNNING.  Students can use feathers, rings, metal, beads, etc. to bring their king or queen alive. 

Best Teaching Guide for Africa

The hands-down best teaching guide of reproducible maps for teaching Africa is called Africa Today.  It is out of circulation, but was published by World Eagle, who now apparently only makes maps.  If you’re lucky, you can find a copy of this on ebay.

Best Literature Database on Africa

Incredible database of literature to tie in with any topic on Africa: