Skip to main content

Western Africa Lesson

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

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

Practicing carrying items in a basket on her head with a baby on her back -- similar to what many Western African girls and women do

Practicing carrying items in a basket on her head with a baby on her back -- similar to what many Western African girls and women do

This is part 2 of a 4 part hands-on unit study on Africa. Act out an Ashanti tale, dramatize the historic gold and salt trades centered in Ghana, mold Ashanti gold weights out of clay, attempt to carry baskets and babies in the Ghanaian fashion, taste many of the exports of West Africa, 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!

Salt and Mark 9:49-50

Salt and Mark 9:49-50

West Africa Devotional on Salt

1. Open in prayer. Read & discuss Mark 9:49-50. After reading the passage, you can say something like this: (Hold up salt.) Why is salt important? Yes, it gives flavor. Before refrigerators, salt was extremely important because it helped preserve items. People would pour salt onto their meat so it wouldn’t rot. That’s what beef jerky is. Salt also provides important nutrients, especially if you’re sweating. Gatorade has mainly water and salt in it. Do you know how expensive salt is? I can buy this canister of it from Wal-Mart for about 50 cents. A few hundred years ago, salt was so valuable that people traded gold for it! Do you know where you could get lots of salt? In the Sahara Desert! Remember the Egyptians made mummies using natron, which is a form of salt? Now let’s get back to what Jesus said in the passage we just read. He said He is going to “salt us with fire.” What do you think that means? God is going to put trials, pressures, and difficulties in our lives to add flavor to us just like salt adds flavor to food. God will use these trials to make us more and more like Christ. What happens if salt loses its saltiness? Yes, it will be thrown out. (Toss a little bit of salt from your hand onto the floor and step on it.) If we claim we are Christians, we must have the “flavor” or character of Christ as He will preserve us as we trust in Him for our salvation. It is then that we will not be thrown out to be trampled upon; instead, we will not spend eternity with Him in heaven.

YOU WILL NEED: a container of salt


West Africa, Ghana, & Cowrie Shells

2. Review North Africa and briefly introduce Western Africa.

3. Look at Western Coastal Bulge region on maps/atlases and ask children to describe what they see. Have them find Ghana on the map. Ashanti, from Ghana, used to use cowrie shells for money. Pass around cowrie shells. Use the book Shannon brought (or use pictures from your phone) to show pictures of African people wearing jewelry made with cowrie shells. Ask children where cowrie shells come from and how people would have gotten them. Tell children that at the end of class you will give each child a cowrie shell so that they can take it home and tell their families about how they were used as money in Africa.
YOU WILL NEED: maps/atlases brought by families, cowrie shells (purchased at a craft store or from e-bay), & book showing cowrie shells

***If you have more than 18 children, divide them into 3 groups and have each group rotate between 3 stations: Anansi Dramatization, Trans-Saharan Trade Route of Salt & Gold, and Ashanti Bronze Weights, Baskets, & Babies. If you have a smaller group, just go through the activities in order.***


Station 1: Anansi/Ananse and the Talking Melon

4. Act out “Anansi and the Talking Melon” by Eric A. Kimmel, an Ashanti tale from Ghana. The tale is about Anansi, the spider, who hides inside a cantaloupe and pretends like the cantaloupe is speaking to various animals. The way to do this impromptu drama is to:

a. Assign characters by giving each child a part. Assign the parts of Ananse, the Elephant, and the King to the oldest children. Give each child a headband that shows their animal/character.

*To make character headbands, simply staple together 2 construction paper strips to form a circle the size of a child’s head. Then print off coloring pages from the internet of each of the animals. I used coloring pages from for the Spider, elephant, hippo, warthog, ostrich, rhino, turtle, and crowns for the king and queen. *Note: There isn’t a queen in the story, but I added one so that each child will be able to have a part. Try to give a few of the lines from the king to the queen.*

b. Have the child stand up front in the order they will appear in the book.

c. Instruct the children that you will tell them their lines, and they will repeat them after you. Encourage them to show emotion and do the actions as you read the book related to their character.

d. Tell them that in this story they are going to pretend like they are animals in Africa that come across a talking cantaloupe. The child who is playing Anansi will do all the speaking parts for the cantaloupe, but the children should pretend like they hear the words coming from the ball/cantaloupe.

e. If possible please record this play on your phone or camera and post it to Facebook later so all the families can enjoy watching it.

f. Begin to read the story. When a character speaks, point or motion to the child who is supposed to be speaking. Say the lines from the books (breaking up the sentences and phrases so that they can simply be repeated back) and then have the child repeat those lines, preferably saying them in character. If the child doesn’t repeat the right words, that is okay.

g. After the various animals have held the talking cantaloupe and the king throws it across the room, Anansi should hold up a banana in front of his/her face in preparation for the last line.

Scroll to Continue

h. Have everyone take a bow or courtesy.

i. ONLY if you have extra time because the other stations are not ready to rotate yet, begin reading another Anansi tale such as "Ananse and the Lizard: A West African Tale."

YOU WILL NEED: phone or camera recorder to record play and props for acting out “Anansi and the Talking Melon”: 1 ball about the size of a basketball that we will pretend is a cantaloupe, the characters printed out and stapled onto headbands, and 1 banana or bunch of bananas