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North 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.

Children carved their names in hieroglyphics in clay to make cartouches.

Children carved their names in hieroglyphics in clay to make cartouches.

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! 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, after school program, camp, or homeschool co-op!

Mixing the dough - Photo taken by Michelle Harrison who participates in our class:

Mixing the dough - Photo taken by Michelle Harrison who participates in our class:

Introduction & Begin Making Moroccan Khobz

1. Opening: Pray & Introductions.

2. Begin making Moroccan Khobz. We will divide into 6 groups with 5 children in each group. Each instructor will lead their group in making the below recipe. Children (not instructors) will complete all the steps. Instructors will be there to tell children what to do and will also make sure everyone in the group gets a turn dumping in ingredients and stirring.

MATERIALS: ***You will need 1 set of these for each group of 5-6 children.*** 1 small mixing bowl or 2 cup liquid measuring cup, 1 large mixing bowl, 1 mixing spoon (preferably wooden), 1 rubber scraper, 1 cup measuring cup, measuring spoons, a rectangular baking sheet, a kitchen towel, a mat for rolling out dough or sheet of wax paper or parchment paper, & bread ingredients: 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 tablespoon yeast, 4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, additional flour for kneading, non-stick cooking spray for the pan

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

20 min

1 hour 40 min

2 hours

2 large or 4 small round loaves


  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • additional flour for kneading
  • non-stick cooking spray for the pan


  1. In a small bowl combine sugar, yeast, and warm water and let sit for about 5 minutes. In a large bowl combine the flour and salt. Make a large well in the center of the flour mixture. Then mix in the yeast mixture and the oil. Let each child mix the dough a few times. Give each child a sheet of wax paper covered with flour. Divide the dough equally among the children. Allow children to knead their portion of dough for a few minutes. If necessary, add flour or water 1 tablespoon at a time to make the dough soft and pliable, but not sticky. Have the children each shape their portion into smooth circular mounds. Place the dough onto baking sheets that have been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, and cover them with a towel. Let rise for about 1 hour.
  2. ***Continue with activities.***
  3. Preheat the oven to 435°F. Score the top of the bread with a very sharp knife to form a large X, or poke the dough with a fork in several places. Bake the bread for about 15 minutes - rotate the pans about halfway through the baking time - or until the loaves are nicely colored and sound hollow when tapped. Transfer the bread to a rack or towel-lined basket to cool.
  4. (Recipe is based on .)

***If you have 18 or more children, divide them into 3 groups and have each group rotate between the 3 stations: Geographical Features of North America + Egypt and the Bible, Cartouches, and the Mummification Process. If you have a smaller group of children, you can simply go through the activities in order.***


Station 1: Geographical Features of North Africa

3-1. Discuss the geography of Northern Africa and the role of Egypt in the Bible:

a. Ask the children what they know about Africa. Have each child at least say 1 thing.

b. Have children pull out their atlases or maps of Africa. Discuss what children notice. Point out Sahara Desert and ask children what they know about deserts. Give each child a chance to respond. Have the children find Egypt on the map.

c. Ask them who they can think of in the Bible who went to Egypt. (Abraham, Hagar, Joseph, Moses, Jesus, and many others)

d. Flip through the pictures in “The Gold Book Children’s Bible” to quickly summarize how God used Joseph to bring the Israelites to Egypt, they were there 400 years and enslaved, and then God sent Moses to deliver the Israelites out of Egypt.

e. Read “The Princess and the Baby” about Moses in Egypt.

f. Mention that after Jesus returned to heaven, Mark (the one who wrote the Gospel of Mark) brought the Gospel to Egypt. Egypt was a Christian nation in the 300’s but was invaded and overtaken by Arab Muslims in 639, and it has remained a predominantly Muslim nation ever since.

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g. If you have extra time, flip through a book on ancient Egypt and discuss the pictures. I used "We're Sailing Down the Nile" by Laurie Krebs.

MATERIALS: world atlases or maps (brought by families) and books on Egypt: "The Children's Bible" by Golden Books, “The Princess and the Baby” by Arch Books (or other picture book version of this story), and “We're Sailing Down the Nile" by Laurie Krebs

Book to use for 3-1. g. Good book on modern Egypt (that includes some history)

Clay Cartouch - Photo taken by Michelle Harrison,  who participates in our class

Clay Cartouch - Photo taken by Michelle Harrison, who participates in our class

Station 2: Clay Cartouches

3-2. Have the children create clay cartouches:

(Prep: Ahead of time lay out 10 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.)

a. Quickly discuss clay cartouches. (Find info on them at .) If you have a cell phone that can pull up photos, show some pictures to the children. In the simplest terms, they displayed the names of a king and were placed in tombs kind of like a gravestone.

b. Give each child a small ball of clay. Have them roll it into a ball and then flatten it into a rectangle. Then have children use a toothpick to engrave their name onto a clay cartouche using hieroglyphics, which can be found at . (If a child has a particularly long name, give them some extra clay.)

c. As children work on their cartouches, use a sharpie marker to write their names on their sheets of wax paper.

c. If you have extra time, you can flip through a book on ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

MATERIALS: self-hardening clay (enough to have 30 golf-ball-sized balls), a spoon or other object to use to scoop out the clay, 30 sheets of wax paper (each sheet at least 6”x9”), 30 toothpicks, sharpie marker, hieroglyphic alphabet sheets brought by families, & a book on ancient Egypt brought by Shannon

Canonic Jars - Photo taken by Michelle Harrison,  who participates in our class

Canonic Jars - Photo taken by Michelle Harrison, who participates in our class

Station 3: Mummification Process Description

3-3. Quickly discuss pyramids and mummies. Compare Egyptian beliefs after the afterlife to what the Bible teaches. Dramatize mummification process:

  • Have children sit in a circle.
  • Quickly discuss pyramids and mummies by flipping through some of “Mummies Made in Egypt” by Aliki (a book brought by Shannon).
  • Ask the children which organ they think is the most important. The Egyptians thought the brain was a useless organ, so they removed it by poking a stick up the nose of the deceased and have the brain drain out. (Pass around a clothes wire hanger.)
  • Then they removed the other organs (lungs, stomach, intestines, & liver) and placed them individually in canonic jars. These needed to be preserved for the afterlife.(Pass around a homemade version of a canonic jar).
  • They thought the heart was the most important organ, so they removed it and weighed it. Ask, “Would a heart always weigh more than a feather?” If the heart weighed more than a feather, then the person was deemed good. They then put the heart back inside the dead person’s body because they believed the heart was kind of like a person’s soul. (Pass around a feather.)
  • (Hold up a container of salt). Ask, “What is this used for?” Next the person’s body was placed in a natron bath and/or their insides were packed with natron (now that the organs had been removed.) Natron is kind of like a mixture of salt and baking soda. There was plenty of it found along the Nile River. It helped to remove the water from the body so that the body wouldn’t decay. (Pass around a container of salt.)
  • Ask, “Who’s ever smelled a piece of uncooked meat or chicken fat that’s been sitting in the trash can for more than a day? How does it smell?” (If you have it, pass around a Ziploc bag that is holding a piece of chicken fat or raw meat that has been sitting out for more than a day.) If they hadn’t used the natron bath, the body of the deceased would have started smelling like this pretty quickly.
  • After 40 days, the body would have significantly less moisture. If the person had originally weighed 160 pounds (about the size of your dad), they would now only weigh 60 pounds (about how much you weigh)! They still might stink a bit, though. They removed the body from the naton bath. Sometimes they removed the natron and filled the insides with strips of linen and sawdust since the inside of the body would be was kind of empty since all the organs were gone. They would clean the body and add good-smelling spices like cinnamon, frankincense, myrrh, and other items. Frankincense and myrrh are used to make perfume. (Pass around a container of cinnamon and a bottle of scented lotion.)
  • If the person was rich, like a pharaoh, the priests might lay individual gold “cups” over each finger and toe. (Take a small sheet of aluminum foil and wrap it around one of your fingers and then pull your finger out, keeping the aluminum foil “mold” in the shape of your finger.) It would kind of be like this aluminum foil, but it would be made from real gold. (Pass around the aluminum foil that was molded over your finger.)
  • Then they started wrapping up the body in strips of linen. (Pass around a piece of clothing made of linen and/or sports wrap.) They carefully wrapped each individual body part. They wrapped the thumb a few times, and then the index finger, and then the middle finger, and so on. Occasionally they would add amulets, which were like lucky charms or idols that they thought would protect the body.(Pass around small animal figurines or toys.) They continued this until they covered the entire body in at least a few layers of linen. They used about 20 pounds of linen on 1 body!
  • Finally, they would add a mask that was like a portrait that had been painted to look like the person’s face. The Egyptians believed that after a dead person’s soul journeyed through the afterlife, they came back to look for their body. If they couldn’t recognize their body, the wandering soul didn’t get to return to the body. That’s why they believed they needed to preserve the body and place a face mask over it.
  • Ask, “What do you like to do at parties?” A few hundred years ago, some rich people would hold mummy unwrapping parties. They would buy a mummy from Egypt. All the guests got to take turns unwrapping some of the mummy. If they unwrapped an amulet, they got to keep it. The amulets were like party favors. Does that sound like something you would like to do at a party?

MATERIALS: a wire clothes hanger that has been unwrapped or cut so that it is a straight line, a homemade version of a canonic jar (I used a flower vase painted gold and placed a stuffed animal inside so that the animal head would stick out), a feather, a container of salt, a Ziploc bag that is holding a piece of chicken fat or raw meat that has been sitting out for more than a day (optional), a container of cinnamon, scented lotion, a piece of clothing made of linen and/or sports wrap, & a couple small animal figurines or small toy animals

Book to use for 3-3 describing the mummification process.

Toilet Paper Mummification Race - Photo taken by Michelle Harrison,  who participates in our class

Toilet Paper Mummification Race - Photo taken by Michelle Harrison, who participates in our class

Review of Ancient Egypt Stations & Dramatizing the Mummification Process

***Have children come back together into one large group.***

4. Quickly review what we learned about ancient Egypt and the Sahara Desert:

a. Have each child say one thing they learned about Ancient Egypt.

b. Ask children to compare Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife to what the Bible teaches about what will happen after we die.

c. Allow children to move on to the next activity. Meanwhile, an instructor should go into the kitchen and begin preheating the oven to 435 to bake the bread.

5. Ask the children what the Ancient Egyptians are most famous for. Hopefully someone will say, “mummies.” We are going to now dramatize the mummification process. Divide the children into groups of 3 or 4. Hand each group a roll of toilet paper. Have each group wrap up 1 person in their group as a mummy. The first team to wrap up the entire person from head to toes wins.

MATERIALS: 1 roll of toilet paper per group (brought by families)

Tuaregs & Veils

6. Quickly look at pictures from a book or your laptop & discuss Tuaregs (twah regs), nomads who live in the Sahara Desert. (Find out some background info by reading this wikipedia article .)

MATERIALS: books or laptop to show pictures of Tuaregs

***Divide children into boys and girls.***


Boys: Tuaregs & Veils

7a. Boys A1: Go outside. Have boys use a scarf to cover their faces with a veil like Tuareg men do. All Tuareg (twah reg) men wear a veil called a tagilmus that leaves only a narrow opening for their eyes. The veil may be any color, but it is usually indigo (blue) cotton strip about 10 feet long and 6 inches wide. As a man puts on the veil he first winds the cloth around his head several times leaving a small opening at the crown and letting one edge cover his eyebrows as a sun visor. Then he winds it around the lower part of his face below the eyes loose enough to reach under to his mouth. Once a man at about 15 starts wearing a veil, he never takes it off, not even at home with his family and not even when he eats, though he will lower it to eat and drink. Ask, “Why do you think men would wear a veil?”(Answer: to keep the sand from blowing in his face, to keep the sun from burning his face, and to hide his identity – since tuaregs used to frequently be thieves and murderers) Ask for 1 boy to volunteer to tell the girls that Tuareg men cover their faces with blue veils and why.

*Tip: We tied the scarf by first putting them around their heads with a “ponytail” in the back. We twisted up the “pony tail” and then crossed it in front of their faces below their eyes and tucked it in the other side of their faces near their ear. (Find out some background info by reading .)

MATERIALS: scarves (brought by families)


Boys: Tuareg Tents

7b. Boys A2: Set up tents:

a. You will still be outside. Divide boys into 6 groups. Have each group set up a pop-up tent.

b. Give them each 5 “mats” to put in their tent.

c. Discuss how Tuaregs are nomads who live in the Sahara Desert. In order to provide food for their goats and camels, they must travel around the desert since plants are scarce. They live in tents. A Tuareg tent is made of goat’s skins dyed red and measures 10 feet deep and 15 feet wide. Pegged down on 3 sides, the roof is supported by a wooden frame and slopes toward the back. In the back is where all family possessions are kept in leather bags of all sizes. The woman’s belongings are on the left side of the tent & the man’s belongings such as rifles, ammunition, and saddles are on the right side of the tent. A wall of matting, which is made up of thin, woven reeds and about 3 feet tall, circles the inside of the tent and extends outside the entrance of the tent, forming a patio. The mats are decorated with fringe and painted geometrics. Mats are on the floor and the servants sweep them and shake them out several times a day to rid them of scorpions.

d. If desired, show the children photos of the tents using your cell phone: & .

e. If the girls haven’t arrived yet, remind the boys that the Tuaregs are nomads, so they have to travel around the desert so their goats and camels can get food. Have the boys collect the mats, close up their tents, move them to another location, set up the tent again, and place the mats in the tents again.

f. Ask for 1 boy to volunteer to tell the girls that Tuaregs are nomads, which means they live in tents and roam around from place to place in the deserts so that their goats and camels can get food.

g. You, the instructor, can secretly toss in a few toy scorpions onto the mats if you have some toy scorpions available.

MATERIALS: toy scorpions (optional) and 6 pop-up tents (or use bed sheets and chairs or poles like broom handles) & 30 mats (both brought by families)


Girls: Tuareg-Style Meal Preparations

7c. Girls: While boys work outside, have the girls work in the kitchen to prepare a Tuareg-style meal of millet/couscous, dried dates, goat cheese, and goat milk. Sanitize the girls’ hands. Divide girls into 3 groups:

Girls: Group 1: Couscous

i. Group 1 will prepare 3 boxes of couscous according to the package directions. Allow girls to dump water into the saucepan. While you wait for the water to boil mention that couscous is made of tiny grains of dough rolled from barley or millet. Millet is the Tuareg’s staple food, which means that’s what they eat the most. Have girls dump in the couscous and salt. When the couscous is ready, divide it among 4-5 trays. Ask for one girl to volunteer to be the speaker in the group. After you get outside, she will tell everyone that this is couscous, which is made of tiny balls of dough, and is staple or main food item that Tuaregs eat.

MATERIALS: 3 boxes of couscous, large saucepan, measuring cup, measuring spoon for salt, salt, & mixing spoon

Girls: Group 2: Goat’s Milk

ii. Group 2 (oldest girls) will pour the goat’s milk. Have the girls pour a small amount of goat’s milk into 29 small cups and place the cups on 6 sturdy disposable plates. Tuaregs drink goat milk or camel milk. Ask, “Why wouldn’t they drink cow’s milk?” (Tuaregs live in the desert where there is little water and grass. Cows require too much grass. Since Tuaregs live in a desert, they have animals like goats and camels which can tolerate the desert heat and conditions.) Ask for one girl to volunteer to be the speaker in the group. After you get outside, she will tell everyone that this is goat’s milk and that Tuaregs drink goat or camel milk rather than cow’s milk because they live in the desert and where there isn’t enough grass to feed cows.

MATERIALS: goat’s milk, 30 small cups (like Dixie bathroom cups), & 6 sturdy disposable plates

Girls: Group 3: Dates & Goat Cheese

iii. Group 3: (Youngest girls) Have the girls sprinkle dried dates and goat’s cheese around the outside of 6 plates. Have them place 5 plastic spoons on each food platter. Tell them that dates are a type of fruit that can grow in the desert. The dates that we are putting on the plates are dried dates, just like raisins are dried grapes. Say, “While many Northern Africans eat with their fingers, Tuaregs use wooden spoons to eat their food. We’ll pretend the plastic spoons are made of wood.” Ask for one girl to volunteer to be the speaker in the group. After you get outside, she will tell everyone that these are dates and goat cheese and that Tuaregs really eat with wooden spoons (not plastic ones), so we’ll have to just pretend our spoons are made from wood. When the couscous is ready, the Group 1 girls will divide up the couscous into the middle of each plate.

MATERIALS: 2 boxes of dried diced (not whole) dates, goat’s cheese, 6 sturdy disposable plates, & 30 plastic spoons

***After all the food items have been prepared, have the girls carefully carry out the plates to the boys outside. Moms should assist to ensure nothing falls.***

The dough after it has risen for about an hour.

The dough after it has risen for about an hour.

Bake Bread

8. *While children go outside* begin baking the Moroccan Khobz. You will do this without the assistance of the children. The oven should be preheated to 435°F. Score the top of the bread with a very sharp knife to form a large X. Bake the bread for about 15-20 minutes – rotate the pans about halfway through the baking time – or until the loaves are nicely colored and sound hollow when tapped. Transfer the bread to a rack or towel-lined basket to cool. (*You can join us for the on-going activities, but please keep an eye on the bread. Rotate them in the oven every 7-10 minutes and keep baking the loaves until all the loaves have been baked.)

MATERIALS: a sharp knife


Bake Bread, Tuareg-Style Meal, and Greeting

9. Enjoy a tuareg-style meal:

a. Have the 2 boy volunteers share with the girls what they learned about Tuaregs.

b. Have the girl volunteers share about their food/drink items.

c. Have a mom explain that Tuaregs, like many Africans, eat communally. That means everyone eats from the same dish. Eat “meal” in tent which discussing what and how Tuaregs eat. Remember that boys must continue to wear their veils, though they can move them from their mouths. Also, be sure to look out for scorpions, which are particularly dangerous in the Sahara desert!

d. Divide the girls into 6 groups (1 group per tent). They will bring with them a plate of cups and a plate of food. Everyone can eat in their tents. Instructors can taste everything as well!

10. Tuareg Greetings: After the “meal” have everyone come out of their tents. Explain that when the Tuareg meets a friend they don’t shake hands. Instead they brush right palms against each other and then each person withdraws his hand quickly and snaps his fingers against his palm. Have everyone find a few “friends” in the group and practice this greeting.

11. Go inside. Have all the children assist in throwing away trash and bringing inside the tents, mats, veils, scorpions, and any other items.


Moroccan Berbers & Fantasia

12. Point out Morocco on a map and quickly show some pictures of Morocco from a book that Shannon will bring. Many Berbers live in Northern Africa, including Morocco. Unlike Tuaregs, Berbers are Muslim. Does anyone remember what other country we studied today that has mostly Muslims living there? (Egypt) The boys/men can remove their veils. In Muslim culture, women (not men) must cover up. If you have it available, play some Arabic music and demonstrate how women dress in Muslim cultures if desired. You can either use the real clothing if you have it or you can dress a child in a long robe (adult bathrobe, preferably black) and then wrap a dark scarf around her face making sure to cover all of her hair.

-If anyone has brought items from North Africa to show the children, allow them to show the items.

MATERIALS: a book on Morocco or pictures from your laptop and optional items: Arab music, Arab clothing, etc.

13. (Optional: If you are not limited by time) Execute a Moroccan Berber fantasia, a cavalry charge. Go outside. Have the children line up in 4 lines. Tell the children Moroccan Berber's participate in a cavalry charge which they call fantasia. It's kind of like a medieval jousting tournament, but instead of armor, the men wear white jellabas. Have 4 children go at a time. Each racer will wear a white long-sleeved shirt, hold on to a stick horse, and hold a "rifle." (If we're able to get 4 water guns for the rifles, fill them with water ahead of time.) You will stand at the finish line holding a white "turban." At the drop of the turban, the children will race on their "horses" to the end of the field and then pretend to shoot a "rifle." If we have water guns, we can lay out 4 targets for them to shoot at with their water guns. Have the first group return to the starting lines and pass off the white shirts, stick horses, and rifles to the next children in line. Repeat until all children have had a chance to charge. (See a picture of a Berber fantasia at

(Note: Girls can take off their scarves for this event since they'll have to pretend to be men as only men participate in Berber Fantasias.)

MATERIALS: white shirts, stick horses, a white "turban", & rifles/water guns


Morocco: Bedouin Tea Time & Review

14. *While children are outside* prepare items for Bedouin Tea Time:

a. Pour mint tea into 40 cups. Place the cups onto the bar.

b. Slice up some of the cooked knobz bread so that you have at least 40 pieces/slices. Divide the bread among 5 plates.

c. After activity 12 (and 13 if you are able to do it), tell children that we are going to have Bedouin tea time. Because the Bedouins are Muslim, girls and boys do not eat together. Divide the girls & boys into separate tables.

d. Explain that when a guest arrives at a Bedouin tent, they are served at least 4 cups of very sweet mint tea. Guests must drink the tea. They serve their tea hot, which they claim helps them to cool off. We are going to serve our tea cold, though, so that no one burns themselves.

e. Sometimes they also will serve something to eat. Fried eggs are a popular treat as is hummus. Hummus is made from pureed chickpeas. Just like the Tuaregs, Bedouins eat communally, all from the same platters. Instead of using wooden spoons, Bedouins use bread (knobz) to scoop up their food. They also only use their right hands to eat. We will eat the hummus by scooping it up with the knobz bread that we made.

f. Have children and moms sanitize their hands.

g. Allow children and moms to each get a cup of mint tea.

h. While they are getting the tea, place a plate of bread and a container of hummus at each table.

MATERIALS: 1 gallon of cold sweet mint tea (prepared ahead of time by brewing 4 quarts of water with 14 mint tea bags and 2 cups of sugar), 40 small cups, a sharp knife for cutting bread, a cutting board, 5 containers of hummus, and 5 disposable plates

15. Review what we learned about North Africa by asking questions such as: Name someone in the Bible who was in Egypt. What desert covers North Africa? (Sahara) What river flows through Egypt? (Nile) What are cartouches? What do we call the ancient Egyptian form of writing that is done using pictures? (hieroglyphics) Name something that happens when someone is made into a mummy. What do Tuareg men wear on their faces? Where do they live? They are nomads; what does it mean that they are nomads? What do Tuaregs eat? Many of the people of Morocco and Egypt are Muslim; how do the women dress? What do Bedouins like to drink? What do they eat? What was your favorite activity from today?

More of our favorite books to read on Ancient Egypt - We read MANY books on Ancient Egypt. These were our favorites.