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.
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 12...it 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
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
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
Shared at the following linky parties...
Littles Learning Link Up
Homeschool Blog and Tell
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