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East and South Africa Lesson

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I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.


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! 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!

Rembrandt, The Baptism of the Eunuch, c. 1626

Rembrandt, The Baptism of the Eunuch, c. 1626

Devotional, Review, and Map Work

1. Pray. Read & discuss Acts 8:26-39. Say something such as: Why do you think we read this Bible passage today? Yes, it has to do with how to Gospel spread to Ethiopia in East Africa. Philip is such an exciting example as an obedient follower of Jesus! Sometimes when you have the courage to share the Good News about Jesus with someone, that person says “I have wanted to know how to be saved but no one has told me how.” This happened with Philip because he obeyed God immediately when God told him to go. He met an Ethiopian man. This Ethiopian man wasn’t just anyone. This man had an important job working for Queen Candace in Ethiopia. As he was traveling back to Ethiopia, he brought along some good “books” (really scrolls) to read just like you probably do when your family I taking a long trip. What he was reading confused him, though. He was reading a prophecy about Jesus from Isaiah 53. Because Philip had studied God’s word, he was able to explain the passage to the Ethiopian eunuch, who then became a Christian and was baptized. This Ethiopian man’s life was changed forever because he now understood what God had written in Isaiah about Jesus. He believed in the Lord Jesus and his sins were forgiven. To show that he truly believed in Jesus, he was immediately baptized. Because Philip was immediately obedient to God’s instructions, the entire country of Ethiopia was probably able to hear about Jesus through this servant to the Queen of Ethiopia. Even to this day there are many Christian believers in Ethiopia. We have no idea how many people’s lives would be changed in this country because of his faith in Jesus. Philip’s example teaches us the importance for us to study and know God’s word and to obey His voice immediately. We do not know how God is working in the lives of those around us, and we don’t know how many lives will be affected when we choose to obey God.

2. Have children take out maps/atlases and locate Africa. Tell them we will be focusing on East & South Africa today.

-Review the other parts of Africa.

-Look at East Africa/Rift Area on a map and ask the children to describe what they notice.

-Have children locate Kenya on a map. We will begin by focusing on Kenya.
YOU WILL NEED: children’s atlases/maps (brought by families)

***If you have 18 or more children, divide them into 2 groups and have them rotate between the 2 stations. If you have a smaller group, just follow the lesson in order.***


Station 1: Kenya Maasai Book & Tea

3a. Read a book about Kenya, “Masai and I” by Virginia Kroll. (Be sure to show the pictures on each page to all of the children as you read.)
YOU WILL NEED: book on Kenya such as “Masai and I” by Virginia Kroll

3b. (Prep: At the beginning of class, pour a sample-size amount of Lipton tea in 29 cups & a sample size of Kenyan tea in 33 cups (extras for parents to taste). Put them on the counter for children to pick them up.) In the Highlands of Kenya (NOT where the Maasai live), they grow tea. Be sure to emphasize that this takes place in Kenya, which is the country where the Maasai live, but it is other people groups (not Maasai) who grow and harvest tea. Briefly discuss how tea is made. Find information about the tea of Kenya at Taste Lipton tea and Kenyan tea. How do they taste different?
YOU WILL NEED: 62 small, disposable cups (like Dixie bathroom cups) & prepared Lipton tea (cooled but not sweetened) & Kenya tea

Book to Read for Activity 3a


Station 2: Kenya Maasai Herding Cattle

4a. Have children sit on the sidewalk. As you show them pictures from a book Shannon will bring, tell the children that Kenyan Maasai herd cattle. They build a thorn bush around their entire village to form a corral to protect their cattle. The men know by sight all their cattle. They can tell if one is missing at a glance, but they never count them because they think that will cause bad things to happen to them and their cattle. Give each child a handful (about 8-10) of rocks/pebbles and call it their “herd of cattle.” Let them look at their “herd” for a minute and then close their eyes. Remove a rock/pebble from each child’s “herd” and place them all in a line away from the children. (Try to keep a mental note of which rock/pebble goes with which child. Tell the children that while their eyes were closed, a member of their herd escaped. Let them see if they can identify their pebble from the other herders’ pebbles. (I was actually amazed that most of the children could identify their missing “cattle” rock.)
YOU WILL NEED: about 100+ rocks/pebbles that look similar but not identical (such as limestone rocks collected from a limestone road) (*If you can think of something else that would look similar but not identical, feel free to bring that instead.*) & book with pictures of Masai herders: “Mara-Serengeti” by Jonathan & Angela Scott or photos from the Internet

Book to Use for Activity 4a

Masai Spear Throwing Activity

Masai Spear Throwing Activity

Masai Spear Throwing

4b. Moran are fierce Maasai warriors who protect the tribe. They put red ocher on their hair & practice throwing their spears.

-Have each child select a long, straight stick to be their spear. Let’s practice throwing our “spears.” Who can throw his/her “spear” (stick) the farthest? The most accurately? Have the children put their “spears” back into a pile for the next group.

-Before they got out to hunt, the Moran Maasai stand in a circle and do a sort of jump dance. Maasai warriors will stand in a large circle with their spears and will hop up and down while singing. They usually have 2 people hop at a time. They try to jump as high as they can over and over again. While they jump, they never touch their heels to the ground. Have all the children stand in a circle with their and hop up and down. See who can jump up the highest. See who can jump for the longest period of time.
YOU WILL NEED: long, straight sticks (brought by families)

Scroll to Continue

Kenya Masai Necklaces

***Have children come back together into 1 group.***

5. Kenyan Maasai shave their heads, wear orange or red cloth tied over their left shoulder, and wear many necklaces & earrings. (Show pictures from your computer or pictures in books.) Maasai like to wear many layers of beaded necklaces. We are going to make Maasai-inspired necklaces. Give each child a paper plate that has the middle cut out. Have them turn the paper plate over. Let children paste colored pasta in concentric circles around the bottom of the paper plate to look like multiple layers of beads like the necklaces shown at and . Some Maasai consider the colors to have a particular meaning. Red = danger, ferocity, bravery & strength. Blue = color of sky that gives water. White = color of milk is pure. Green = plentiful plants. Orange & yellow = hospitality like the color of gourds of milk offered to visitors or animal skins on a visitors bed. Black = color of people & symbolizes hardships of everyday life.
YOU WILL NEED: 36 full-size sturdy circular paper plates (It is important they are not flimsy, Styrofoam, or ovals.), various shapes of pasta (macaroni, shells, spiral, etc.) dyed various colors (here are directions if you need them: ): 1 lb. of small pasta that has been dyed red, 1 lb. of small pasta that has been dyed orange (red+yellow), 1 lb. of small pasta that has been dyed yellow, 1 lb. of small pasta that has been dyed green, 1 lb. of small pasta that has been dyed blue, books or photos from your laptop showing Maasai wearing their necklaces, and glue (brought by families)

Book to Use for Activity 5

pH Scale - This photo was taken by Michelle Harrison, who participates in our class:

pH Scale - This photo was taken by Michelle Harrison, who participates in our class:

Soda Lakes and pH Scale

6. (Prep: Ahead of time set out 9 disposable plates. Write “v” on 9 cups, “b” on 9 cups, “l” on 9 cups, “m” on 9 cups, “w” on 9 cups, & “s” on 9 cups. Fill the 9 sets of small, disposable cups with a small amount of each of the following liquids: “v” cups get vinegar, “b” cups get baking soda that has been mixed with water so it’s liquid, “l” cups get lemon juice, “m” cups get milk, “w” cups get water, and “s” cups get liquid soap. Place one of each of the types of cups on each plate so that each plate has all 6 different liquids on the plate. Place 6 pieces of litmus paper on each plate.) Use photos from your computer or phone to show pictures of the soda lakes in the Great Rift. Explain that alkaline or soda lakes are all that are left of the swamps & lakes that once covered the floor of the Great Rift. Introduce the pH scale, which determines how acidic or basic a soil or solution is. (Please do a bit of background reading if you’re not familiar with the pH scale.) Do mention that:

-The scale is from 1-14

-#1-6 are acids. Acids are known for tasting sour. Can anyone think of something that tastes sour?

-In the middle you have pure water with a pH of 7.

-Bases have a pH level of #8-14 and tend to feel soapy and slimy. Has anyone tasted soap? Bases tend to taste bitter.

-Aside from tasting liquids to find out if they’re a base or acid (which is definitely not a recommended way of determining this), you can also use litmus paper. Litmus paper turns blue in bases and red in acids.

-Divide children into groups of 3. Give each group a prepare plate with cups and litmus paper. Let them use the litmus paper to perform acid/base experiments using vinegar, baking soda/sodium bicarbonate (mixed with water), lemon juice, milk, water, and liquid soap. Have them do one liquid at a time all together with everyone else. Before the children put the slip of litmus paper into the liquid ask them if they think that liquid will be a base or acid. Have them raise their hands to vote.

-If you have time ask, “If bases neutralize acids and form salts, why do we put baking soda paste on insect stings?”

-(Read more about acids and bases at .)
YOU WILL NEED: 1 box of small disposable cups (like Dixie bathroom cups), 9 disposable plates, sharpie marker, about 1 cup of vinegar, baking soda, about 1 cup of lemon juice, about 1 cup of milk, liquid soap & litmus paper


Flamingos of the Soda Lakes

7. There are many birds that live across the Great Rift like flamingos, pelicans, & marabou. Flamingos are known for standing for long periods of time on one leg.

-Have children stand up behind their chairs. See who can stand on 1 leg for 1 minute without holding onto anything. Once children fall or have to grab something, have them sit back into their seats.

-After 1 minute, if multiple children are still standing on 1 leg, allow them to continue to stand as you read.

-Read most of “Mud City” by Brenda Z. Guiberson about flamingos. (This takes place in the Caribbean, but it still provides good information on flamingos.)
YOU WILL NEED: book on flamingos: “Mud City” by Brenda Z. Guiberson

Book to Use for Activity 7


African Savanna

8. Quickly discuss how Africa has deserts, rain forests/jungles, mountains, soda lakes, and savannas. These are called ecosystems. Have the children say, “Ecosystem.” In each of the ecosystems you will find different animals.

-Ask 5 or 6 volunteers to name an animal they think they would see if they went to Africa.

-Have 2 volunteers name an animal you would find in the deserts. (dromedary camels, scorpions, fennec foxes, horned vipers, etc.)

- Have 3-4 volunteers name one animal you would find in the rain forests/jungles of Central Africa. (gorillas, okapis, chimpanzees, leopards, forest elephants, etc.)

-Now we’re going to find out about the animals of the savanna, which covers much of East Africa. Point to the savanna on an atlas. This is the grassy flatland area that is home to most of the animals people think of when they think of African animals. Have 5 or 6 volunteers each name an animal they think lives in the African savanna. (rhinos, elephants, lions, zebras, wildebeests, elands, warthogs, ostriches, etc.)
YOU WILL NEED: large atlas


African Safari Game

9. (Optional - If you are not limited by time) Play the African Safari Game: Have children sit in a circle. Have each child select a different animal they would find on the savanna. Then have them come up with a sign the represent that animal. (Some examples might be flapping both hands behind their ears to show elephant ears, sticking a fist on your nose to represent a rhinoceros, pushing up on your neck to represent a giraffe, 2 straight arms in front of their mouth could represent a crocodile snout, etc. ONLY give examples if children can't come up with something on their own.) Each child will go around the circle and make their animal signal. After everyone has show a signal, select one child to begin the game. She or he will make her/his animal sign (elephant) and then the sign of another animal (zebra). The child who is the zebra will make their animal sign (zebra) & then the sign of another animal (ostrich). The person who is the ostrich will make their animal sign (ostrich) and then the sign of another animal (wart hog).

Zulu Shield Project - This photo was taken by Michelle Harrison, who participates in our class.

Zulu Shield Project - This photo was taken by Michelle Harrison, who participates in our class.

South Africa & Zulu Shields

10. Point out South Africa on the map and show pictures from your computer and/or a book. (Point to a diamond on your ring or on someone else’s ring.) Be sure to point out that many of the world’s diamonds come from South Africa.
YOU WILL NEED: atlas and book on South Africa or photos from your laptop

11. Teach children about the Zulu of South Africa:

-Explain the history of the Zulu people while flipping through the pages of "Shaka, King of the Zulus." At the end of the 1700′s the name Zulu belonged to a small clan of a few hundred people, living among numerous other clans. In 1816 Shaka the Sulu chief sought to unite the Zulu into one nation. The Zulu were a very feared group in South Africa. They were well known for being fierce in battle. According to some, they won every battle they fought until the British finally defeated them in 1879 and divided up their tribe. The Zulu are the main native people group who live in South Africa.

-Zulu warriors used very distinct looking shields. To make a Zulu shield, you would tie sticks together and cover them in cowhide, tying the cow hide to the sticks with leather strips. The shields would be almost as tall as the person holding it.

-We will each make a Zulu shield that looks like the Zule shields at . Have the children paint the paper to look like a cow hide. Paint “lashes” on the front. As they paint the shields, parents and/or older children can use yarn to tie 2 feathers to the top of the stick “pole.”
YOU WILL NEED: 2-3 rolls of clear packaging tape (or duck tape), yarn, about 60 colorful craft feathers, & items brought by families: white poster board paper cut in an oval shape, paint brushes, black & brown paint, long sticks, scissors, & old t-shirts

Book to Use for Activity 11

Ethiopian Feast - This photo was taken by Michelle Harrison, who participates in our class.

Ethiopian Feast - This photo was taken by Michelle Harrison, who participates in our class.

Prepare Ethiopian Feast Plates

12. Have children find Africa in their atlases.

-Tell them we learned about Kenya with the Masai and salt lakes of the Great Rift Valley earlier. Have them find Kenya.

-Then we learned about the Zulu of South Africa. Have them find South Africa.

-Now we are going to learn a bit about Ethiopia. Ask, “Who was from Ethiopia that we talk about earlier today?” (Eunuch during the devotional)

-Ethiopians claim that the Queen of Sheba who went to visit Solomon, David’s son, and was impressed by his wisdom, came from Ethiopia. According to some legends she became one of Solomon’s wives, so some Ethiopians claim to be related to King Solomon. We don’t have any record of that in the Bible, though.

-Ethiopia was a rich country for many years. They claim to have been the first country to introduce coffee to the world, and they still export coffee to many countries around the world. In the 1970’s a Marxists dictator took over the country and made it very poor. The government tried to kill all the Christians who lived there. Eventually the dictators were overthrown, but Ethiopia continues to be fairly poor. They do continue to have many Christians living there today.
YOU WILL NEED: atlas/maps (brought by families)

13. Enjoy an Ethiopian feast.

(*PREP: Get someone to help you. While the instructor is reading about flamingos, begin to prepare for the Ethiopian feast:

-Lay out 8 large plates (1 plate for each group of 4 children and 2 for parents). Lay one on injera (flat pancake) on the bottom of each plate. If you don’t have lots of injera, don’t lay one on the bottom of each plate. Roll up the remaining injera like crepes. Divide them equally among the plates, placing them in a spoke pattern.

- Between the injera “spokes” and on top of the flat injera that’s covering the plate, place an equal amount of lentils, cabbage mixture, and cottage cheese mixture on each plate.

-After you’ve finished dividing up the food, place an unfolded napkin over each plate to cover the food.

-Next, fill 2 bowls with water and a bit of hand soap. The bowls of water will be used for hand-washing. Lay a folded kitchen towel next to each bowl of water.

-For each child prepare a cup of water. Pour about 15 small cups of coffee. )

-Tell the children we are now going to have a feast in an Ethiopian manner. This is the way they would eat on special occasions, like at a wedding or for Christmas.

-Have children move their chairs so that are sitting on both sides of the tables. You should have about 13 sitting at 2 tables and 13 sitting at the other 2 tables.

-The 2 children with birthdays closest to today get to be the hosts. They will each sit at the head of a table. Those closest to sitting to him/her are his most honored guests.

-First the children will be offered water with which to wash their hands. Have a mom bring a bowl of water and another mom bring a towel to each table. Each pair of moms will go down the table starting with the host/hostess and then starting with the most honored guests (those seated closest to the host/hostess). The children will dip their hands in the water and then be offered the towel to dry off their hands.

-Ask, “Can you see one way in which the honored guests get special treatment?” After this, use hand-sanitizer on hands (not a traditional part of the feast).