West African Geography, Climate, and History
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
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
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.
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.