Tips on Teaching about Africa
Pedagogical Frameworks for Teaching Africa
- Thinking About…Teaching about Africa
A list of key pedagogical concepts and questions that a teacher must ask in preparation for teaching most topics, but especially history and geography
- Decolonial Knowledge and Teaching about Africa.
A list of principles to adopt in your teaching as well as resources to teach about Africa with a decolonial lens.
- “Africa: Myth and Reality” Social Education Article (1994)
A discussion of the importance of undermining myth and cultural fetishization by listening to African voices and discerning facts from fictions.
- “I Didn’t Know There Were Cities in Africa!” Teaching Tolerance Article (2008)
It offers a review of the broad social, cultural, and political implications of viewing Africa stereotypically–critical for when thinking about why teach Africa in the classroom–and a list of detailed suggestions for an anti-biased curricular approach.
- “Repositioning Africa’s Place in the Classroom” Teaching Tolerance Article (2017). This article discusses pedagogical frameworks and proposes educational strategies to address common misconceptions about the African continent.
Developed by Primary Source in collaboration with Boston University’s African Studies Center, the podcast series offers key insights for understanding history, politics, and culture on the continent. In each episode, meet subject-matter experts and teachers who talk about their best approaches for teaching about Africa. Accompanying online resources support further examination of the complexity of various aspects of the continent in K-12 classrooms.
Africa has disparagingly been referred to as the “Dark Continent,” concealing the fullness and diversity of its history, culture, and humanity. This episode begins the process of dispelling stereotypes by listening to under appreciated narratives, showcasing Africa’s vibrancy and global interconnectedness. Hear leading voices push back against the engrained cognitive schemas that have characterized representations of Africa. This episode features Barbara Brown of Boston University’s Africa Studies Center, Amy Lake, teacher at Lee H. Kellogg School, and ten individuals with intimate connections to life and community throughout Africa. The podcast is an invitation to all educators to nurture students’ critical thinking about the ideas society has taught them about Africa.
Hear about Africa’s global connections that span millennia and have resulted in the development of sophisticated trade networks and cultural hybridity. Featuring Carina Ray, Associate Professor of Africa and African American Studies at Brandeis University, and Kristen Strobel, social studies teacher at Lexington High School, this episode examines two global systems of movement and exchange. Learn the fascinating history of the transport of material culture and goods in the Indian Ocean World and the transatlantic slave trade in the Atlantic World.
Art and culture often are deep expressions of identity and politics. In various contexts in Africa, music has been a potent instrument of social movements. Featuring Bode Omojola, Five College Professor of Music, and Nathaniel Braddock, musician & teacher, this episode explores recent historical and contemporary examples of protest music throughout Africa. It highlights how musicians in social movements expressed their anticolonial, antiapartheid, and anti-corruption sentiments through music.
African decolonization has a complex history, involving resistance against and liberation from European colonial subjugation. In this episode, we examine the political and cultural interplay between race, resistance, and decolonization across Africa while considering ways to teach about racism in classrooms today.
In the larger context of development in Africa, often criticized for its colonial underpinnings, African women demonstrate resilience and empowerment in ways that often go unrecognized.
One visible form of empowerment is where women address community needs as leaders and visionaries. In this episode, we explore the intersection of race, gender, and work through stories of women who are creatively shaping their fields and creating change.
Climate change, habitat loss, and the endangerment of wildlife has brought about international interventions and conservation efforts throughout Africa. However, policies and programs are not without their problems. Throughout Africa, questions of environmental and climate justice are raised when communal lifestyles are threatened by initiatives that are not designed with a mindfulness of the needs of people throughout Africa. In this episode, we explore the human toll taken by climate change and sometimes even by efforts to protect the environment.
Sample Entry Points for Discussing Africa in the Classroom
- Building Community and Identities with Adinkra Stamps
An easy activity to begin the year to get to know your students and build community by teaching Adinkra symbols from West Africa and discuss their meaning to affirm individual student’s personal lives.
- Chimamanda Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story” Ted Talk (2009)
A must-watch for educators and students alike. Adichie explains the importance of not relying on a single narrative to define any person, place, or culture. If excerpted, it can be appropriate for all ages. This talk should serve as the defining framework for why and how we should discuss area studies in the classroom.
- “I Am Not Just An African Woman” CS Monitor Article (1996)
This explores with feeling and humor what it was like to come to the U.S. and to lose her identity as a Nigerian, as well as an educated person with a certain professional background. For middle and high school students, it offers a personal account of the difficulties of asserting one’s identity and how stereotypes can negatively impact people.
- Bingo: The US-Africa Connections Worksheet
This activity is designed for middle school students who focus on finding peers who can answer ‘yes’ to many of the Bingo sheet questions, and then uncover how elements of their daily lives–food, music, language, games, etc.–are all connected to Africa and/or the African diaspora. It is an excellent way to ‘bring Africa home’ for most students.
- The “How Big is Africa?” Poster
This poster, produced by the Outreach Program, offers an innovative and creative way to visualize the continent’s vastness, and thus, by extension, its significant diversity. It is accompanied by numerous lesson suggestions, which are tailored to elementary, middle, and high school grades.
Select Articles on Various Topics, by Differentiated Reading Level
Select a wide range of topics which you can adjust by reading level from this List of NewsELA articles compiled by Rebecca Silver.
A New Collection of Africa & Humanities Lessons
Register today for free membership to the Humanities in Class Digital Library
The Humanities in Class Digital Library is an Open Education Resources (OER) platform, providing you with direct access to all online educational content including lessons about Africa as well as other topics. Individual educators and scholars, cohorts and schools, districts and states are encouraged to join and contribute. The free digital library offers many useful features to help you more easily discover, build, and share humanities content:
- Educators can search and discover the highest quality online humanities education content. The Boston University African Studies Center Outreach Program is a content provider. As such many lessons you find here are also housed there. In addition, you may find valuable Africa content and resources, including lessons like “The Five Pillars of Islam: Practice, Survival, Resistance, and Adaptation from Africa to the Americas” by the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies.
- The website allows users to collect and save resources to build a curriculum collection. Resources are tagged by subject matter, topics, and material type, making it easy to discover and combine content you need from institutions you trust. Users can also create and publish a lesson or activity for your own classroom in one central workspace that links to Google Classroom.
- Communicate with other scholars and educators across the globe on important issues.