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Big Era Five: Closeup Unit 5.3.1

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West African Geography, Climate, and History
500-1600 CE

Why This Unit?

This unit addresses the role geography and trade played in the development of cities and states in West Africa. Students will examine cause and effect relationships, both in the study of Africa’s geography and its relationship with the rest of Afroeurasia through trade. The vegetation zones of West Africa—forest, savanna, and desert—all presented particular environmental challenges that people had to face in order to establish agrarian (agricultural) or pastoral nomadic societies. These challenges are often ignored in history textbooks. This unit allows students to view the achievements of the Ghana, Mali, and Songhai kingdoms in light of the ecological environment in which they survived and prospered.

Owing to the work of scholars in recent decades, information available about the societies of West Africa has greatly increased. The study of West Africa provides a forum to help students develop critical thinking skills and provide the necessary background information for later classes, both in US and World History. By working with a variety of secondary sources, students will recognize that interpretations of history are subject to change as new information is uncovered.

 

Unit Objectives

Upon completing this unit, students will be able to:

1. Explain the effects of vegetation zones of forest, savanna, and desert on the development of human societies in West Africa.

2. Analyze the importance of disease in shaping the human colonization of West Africa.

3. Describe the challenges faced by people in West Africa in adapting to particular physical and natural environments.

 

Time and Materials

This unit is designed to be completed within 5 days of 55-minute classes. Materials are specified within each lesson.
A computer will be needed for the PowerPoint presentation.

Table of Contents

Why this unit?

2

Unit objectives

2

Time and materials

2

Author

2

The historical context

2

This unit in the Big Era timeline

8

Lesson 1: Vocabulary

9

Lesson 2: Ecological Environment (Accompanying PowerPoint Presentation)

13

Lesson 3: Mapping changes

15

Lesson 4: Making Connections

20

This unit and the Three Essential Questions

31

This unit and the Seven Key Themes

31

This unit and the Standards in Historical Thinking

31

Resources

32

Correlations to National and State Standards

34

Conceptual links to other lessons

35

Complete Teaching Unit in PDF Format

 

Note: documents in Powerpoint format (PPT) require Microsoft Viewer, download powerpoint.

Note: documents in Portable Document Format (PDF) require Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher to view, download Adobe Acrobat Reader.