Friday, November 10, 2017

Story of the World Ancient Times - Chap 11 - Africa

Photo of Saharan Rock art by  David Stanley from Nanaimo, Canada [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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This chapter of Story of the World was called "Africa," but it could have been called "The Mysterious disappearance of the Green Sahara!"    (Wouldn't that have made a great title?!)

I got to do the lesson for this chapter at our co-op...which was a little intimidating, since ancient Africa, outside of Egypt, is a subject I knew very little about.   So I dug in and researched, and had so much fun sharing what I'd learned.

Section 1:  Ancient Peoples of West Africa

First, here's what we did at home during the reading.

NOTE:  Paragraph notes are for the REVISED version of Story of the World, Volume 1.   The original may have a different number of paragraphs.

Paragraph 1-5
I really like how the text guides kids to trace out paths on the map with their finger...we did this, and as always, putting actions to words really helped keep my child engaged.

Paragraph 6 - 10
When it got to the part about the paintings people left behind them (par. 8), I brought up this Pinterest board I had put together on my phone and we stopped and looked at some of the pictures, and talked about them.  I asked my son what type of animals he could tell they had from the pictures.   I included this picture to show what that area looks like now, and asked him if he thought those animals could survive in a place like that.  We talked about how that's one way they knew the Sahara used to be different. 

We followed up by watching a portion of a video about ancient Nubia (see the activities section below).

The Science Behind It
If you're curious WHY the Sahara turned Green, Scientists have a theory:   they think it was due to a change in the Earth's tilt.    You can read more about it in this article in Astrobiology, a online magazine sponsored by NASA. 

Sections 2 - 3:   Anansi and Turtle, Anansi and the Make Believe Food

At home, we read Ananse's Feast, a children's book we found in our local library, in stead of "Anansi and Turtle" in Story of the World.  It tells the same tale, and has charming pictures with African cultural details.  If I had more time, I think I would have tried to cook some of the traditional food mentioned in the story for an extra activity.

Now, even if you can't find this book, there's a good chance you will be able to find some of the Anansi stories at your library (though we didn't find the second story about the Make Believe Food, which I ended up just skipping.)  Searching for these folk tales can be a bit tricky, though, because there are various spellings of the African names involved (Anansi was spelled "Ananse" in the storybook we found, and some versions of these tales just call him "Spider." )  And if you're searching under Ashanti folktales it gets worse--I've seen it spelled Asante, Asanti, etc..  So, I suggest just finding your library's section on African folktales, and look for ones featuring spiders. That's how I found this book.



I found a  video which covers the green Sahara drying up, and also the early days of Nubia (or Kush), from BEFORE the Egyptians invaded to the end of the Kingdom when it succumbed to the desert.  We watched the sections from 4:20-14:20 (see chart below), both at home and at co-op.   The kids at co-op really liked the part about the Rock Gong, and they liked seeing the rock art.  I had included the part about Kerma, even though it was stepping into things from chapter was such a fascinating structure to me, and my son had liked learning about it at home, so I wanted to share it with the kids at co-op.  But, at co-op, the kids sort of lost interest at this point.  I guess 10 minutes is a long time to hold attention on a documentary when there's friends to talk with nearby.

Lost Kingdoms of Africa: Nubia (Covers Sahara civilization too).
I went ahead and charted out the minutes for your convenience below, in case you just wanted to use parts of this, as we did...

0 - 4:20 - Intro
4:20 -  7:41 - Rock Gong, beginning of Nubian culture
7:42 - 10:56 - Rock Art and Climate Change (When the Sahara Was Green)
10:56 - 14:20 - Kerma (main city in Kush/Nubia) and Deffufa (huge brick structure)
14:20 - 16:48  - Kerma Pottery
16:49 - 21:41 - Kerma Burial Plot
21:42 - 21:45 - What Happened to Kerma (transition)
21:45 - 26:34 - Egyptian Invasion/Jebel Barkal
26:35 - 29:19 - Sufi Mystics Today at Jebel Barkal
29:20 - 34:40 - Nubians Regain Rule/Tarharka Dynasty
34:41 - 38:43 - Desert Encroaches/Meroe
38:44 - 40:56 - Iron
40:56 - 41:58 - Desert Encroaches Again
41:59 - 45:41 - Nomads
45:42 - End   - Central Sudan (Modern Times)

We used more of this next chapter, which talks more about ancient Nubia.

African Homes Exploration & Craft

Picture of houses  in Nakpanduri, Ghana by Hugues

I decided to make traditional African round house model for our co-op craft,  (a craft I found in this book, which has a large section on Nubia. ).   Even though it doesn't connect directly with Saharan Africa, since we don't know what kind of structures, if any, the people there had, roundhouses seem to be ubiquitous throughout a large area of Africa (I found examples in many, many African countries).  But mostly I chose it because it was the one idea I had that my son actually liked.

Before we started the craft, I wanted to show the kids some examples of some traditional African round-houses actually being used today. But, I didn't want to perpetuate the stereotype that all people in Africa still live in these types of homes, so I filled up a pinterest page not just with the traditional grass roofed round-houses, but  modern houses and buildings in various countries in Africa as well.  I'm so glad I did.  The kids were fascinated by the variety of houses I showed them.  Some were really surprised to learn that African cities had skyscrapers.  Worldviews were expanded, and that made my day.

The craft itself, however, was a flop.  When I brought out the clay and other supplies to actually make some hut models, only two of  the kids were interested, and even they gave up half way through making them. Even my own son, who had helped me choose the craft, didn't want to do it.  Turns out he thought we would be making a LIFE SIZED ONE (insert eyeroll here).

Random Related Star Wars Trivia

Tataoine buildings picture by Ksar ouledsoltane06
Berber Grain Silos in Tataouine, Tunisia
Photo by Asram (Self-photographed) via Wikimedia Commons 

Found out something pretty cool while browing those buildings on pinterest.  The buildings above are from a town in the middle of the Sahara called Tataouine...and yes, if that sounds a lot like Tatooine, the Star Wars planet, it's because it's name and style of buildings did inspire Tatooine in Star Wars. George Lucas didn't do any filming there but did do some in another nearby Tunisian town.

Books to Follow This Rabbit Trail
Here are two books you might consider if you want to follow-up by learning more about houses all over the world, not just Africa...

If You Lived Here:  Houses of the World
I have not read this one--I found a post about it on the blog Our Unschooling Journey right after writing this post, and had to add it.  It looks like such a fun read, and would have gone so well with this lesson. 

This is a book I already had, and wish I had remembered when we did this lesson.  It has pictures of all sorts of houses (many per page), and covers topics like building material, daily life at home, doors and windows, etc...

Rock Art Activity

Another great activity I didn't try would be to make some rock art, maybe even look up and compare other ancient rock art around the world.   You could get actual rocks at a garden center to paint on, maybe even try out paints made out of different natural substances to see which would stay.   Or you could use these ideas....

"Rock Art" On Crumpled Paper

"Rock Art" On Faux Stone

More Books and Movies About Africa
These aren't necessarily related to this time period, but if your child is curious to learn more about Africa, here's a good place to start:

55 Books About Africa

15 Movies About Africa

Alternate graphic for linkies and sharing.... 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Cleaning Tip: Getting Baked on Greese Off Non-Stick Pans

Ever have oil from cookies, meats, or whatever you're cooking bake onto a "non-stick" pan.  ALL THE TIME, right?   I had flat out given up on getting that stuff off.  I just would just cover it over with tinfoil.  Well, some of the grease even was seeping under the tinfoil, and I tried this, and it worked!   It actually got off the cooked on grease (all of the grease that had just been cooked on once, and even a lot of the grease that had been cooked and recooked on).


1.  Rinse off pan with water (hot preferable).
2.  Sprinkle baking soda all over pan.  Let sit a few minutes.
3.  Get a sponge and soak it with vinegar.
4.  With the SOFT side of the sponge down, apply elbow grease (ie, scrub with pressure).   Some work is, unfortunately, necessary, but it's still easier than other methods I've tried.
5.  If an area is especially tricky, recoat with baking soda.   You may need to reapply vinegar to the sponge occasionally too.

This wasn't easy, but it was so much easier than just with soap and water.  Baking soda is slightly abrasive, so I can't guarantee no damage to the non-stickiness of your pan.  But I don't know another method that's any better.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Story of the World Ancient Times - Chap 10 - Chinese Pictograms and Rice Farming

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This blog post covers both "The Pictograms of Ancient China" and "Farming in Ancient China" from chapter 10 of Story of the World.

 The Pictograms of Ancient China

For this section we looked at some artifacts from the Shang dynasty in one of our library books (probably DK Ancient China, but I can't remember which one.)

We also looked at a picture of one the oracle bones with ancient Chinese pictographs...

Licenced by BabelStone under Creative Commons  

After reading we looked at a chart of different Chinese scripts through time (including these).  You can find a similar chart on this page under the section "Stages of Chines Writing."  I asked my son questions such as....

Why do you think the writing changed over time?

Which one is easiest to write...which one is hardest?

Which one would be easier to carve on something?

Which one would be easiest to write with a paint brush?

Farming in Ancient China

My child loved this story.  There is a wonderful illustration of it in the SOTW activity book.  I also showed my children some pictures of terraced rice fields....

Click Pictures to Enlarge

All of those pictures were from China (found on Pixabay), 
except the last with the boy carrying rice stalks, which is from another place).

You can also show your child a video of how rice is grown (that one is in Bali and shows some more modern, mechanized equipment.  If you want one that shows rice growing in China with mostly more traditional tools, here is one with a more traditional "documentary" feel.)

This post has been shared on The Homeschool Nook and Littles Learning Link-up.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Story of the World Ancient Times: Chap 10: Ancient China - Lei Zu and the Silkworm

Post contains some affiliate links, through which I can earn commission.

Below you will find our lesson and some helpful resources for the section on Lei Zu and the Silkworm in Chapter 10 of Story of the World.    You can see all my lessons and Story of the World resources here.

Paragraph 1 - 4:  The Yellow River Valley
(Paragraphs based on Revised edition)

We used the world map from Map Trek - Ancient Times (part of their free sample pages) to find all the places mentioned in paragraph 1-3.  He remembered quite a bit...and  it's nice seeing some recall finally kicking in.  All the repetition really helps.

At paragraph 4 we also stopped to look at some pictures of Chinese boats in the "Great Waterways" section in DK Ancient China (a book we found at our library).

If you are breaking up the section into smaller parts for younger learners, this is a good place in the chapter to stop and take a break.

Paragraph 5 - End of Section
When we read paragraph 5 about Huang Di we also stopped and looked at the page in DK Ancient China on "Health and Medicine", since Huang Di is said in legends to have discovered medicine.

It's important to note that there was more than one Huang Di...another, Shi Huangdi is talked about in chapter 32 of SOTW...he was the Huang Di who conceived of the Great Wall of China and had the terra cotta soldier's built.  So if you are looking for info online about Huang Di, you may also find info on him.

In stead of reading the story in the book about Lei Zu we read Silk Princess by Charles Santore.   This was a fun story, which my son enjoyed, and I loved the illustrations, but it added magic elements and changed the tale in other ways, such as moving the discovery to the princess in stead of the queen (which I had a little less problem with, since in the last pages it explained that in some ancient tales the discovery was attributed to Huang Di's daughter, not wife).   I sort of wish I had stuck with the story as told in Story of the World, or taken the time to find another picture book that left out magic and just stuck with the plain story.   It's not that I mind magic in folk tales, but there's so few stories of ancient inventors, and even less so of FEMALE ancient inventors, that I would have liked to leave more of this in the rhelm of the conceivable, than make it into just another fable. 

Here is a time lapse video of a silkworm making a cocoon (I've started it at minute can go back and also watch them munching leaves and such, but that may take too much time for most kiddos).  

Here's a picture of silkworms....

Generally in the making of silk the silkworms are killed before emerging as moths to prevent them from chewing through the pod, thus damaging the silk strands.  But if they are allowed to emerge, the moth looks like this....

Pictures from Pixabay


At our co-op we drank some Chinese tea together, and someone brought in actual silk worm pods for the kids to touch and play with.  Silk worm pods are used as a beauty product and as such can be ordered inexpensively online.

Depending on the season you can also sometimes actually buy silk worms online if you would like to watch the whole silk worm cocoon making process.

Color a silk worm and moth online.

Life Cycle of a Silk Worm


More graphics for pinning or sharing...