Extending Africa Through The Curriculum

If we are Waldorf homeschooling within the Americas, I feel the streams of the Native American culture and African culture must be represented as foundational and carried through all grades of the Waldorf curriculum.  I wrote a brief post about multiculturalism in the Waldorf Curriculum before, and highlighted the wonderful Waldorf Teacher resource book Hear The Voice of the Griot!  by Betty Staley that will carry you throughout all the grades, including high school.

For the early grades, the thrust, should of course, be stories and activities.  First Grade can include African fairy tales; Second Grade can include Aesop’s fables and all the African folk tales and trickster tales, including Ananzi the Spider and the stories that Joel Chandler Harris wrote down as the B’rer Rabbit stories.  In Third Grade, I like doing a another block of African tales and also in our focus of how people lived on the land and built shelters, I like to include that Geechee culture that is here in the Sea Islands of my state (you can see this link for more information).  In talking about the farmer and crops and such, I also talk about indigo and cotton.  This could be included in a fibers/textile block or the farming block or both.

In fourth grade, I like to have a block of Bantu and San tales along with the Norse Myths.  This is mentioned by Betty Staley as fitting nicely here. In fifth grade, I  spend a good amount of time studying the Nubians, who came from what is now present-day Sudan.  We talk about the Kingdoms of Kush and Meroe along with Egypt, and the connections between all of these kingdoms.  I like to point out that at that point, the Sahara Desert was semi-arid to downright lush around the southern Sudanese Sahara and that Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt.  The Ancient Egyptians wanted to control the wealth of the Nubian kingdom, and after the decline of the Egyptian dynasties, the Meroe kingdom became the center of power and increased links and trade to Sub-Saharan Africa.  We also spend time talking about trade routes across the Sahara, and return to this theme in sixth grade mineralogy when we talk even more about salt and its importance in trade.  The Kingdom of Askum would be great to cover in Fifth grade since it is also an ancient civilization, but I find I rarely have time and often it has to go into sixth grade.

In sixth grade, we cover more about Northern Africa in regards to the Roman Empire; and then I like to do an whole block on Africa beginning with the Kingdom of Askum , which I rarely get to cover completely in Fifth grade, and move into Medieval Western African kingdoms. I also do a mini-block in Islam – not just how this fits into the Crusades, but the religion of Islam and how many of the African kings were Muslim and how Islam spread throughout the African continent.  We cover Timbuktu and the importance of the Niger River; Ghana, Songhai and Mali, salt and copper mining;  and then I like to talk about Swahili-speaking peoples. We often, in Waldorf Education, say that Latin phrases should be brought in during this grade.  I feel Swahili could also be brought in as well.  The Swahili-speaking peoples were extending trade across the Indian Ocean.

In Seventh grade, I pick up with Africa beginning with  whatever I didn’t get done in sixth grade, and move into an entire block on the geography and peoples of Africa.  Last time I did seventh grade, this was probably my longest block of the entire school year!  We really get into it and paint and draw and cook and make things and learn songs.  If anyone is interested, I am happy to post an outline of this block in the comments. In our Explorations block, we also talk about African explorers – the connections with Meso-America, the explorations by Africans into the Indian Ocean, Ibn Battuta.  We talk about the deadly impact of the European explorers in both our Africa block and our Exploration block and start to tackle the very hard and real subject of enslaved, kidnapped people brought here to the United States.   This sets us up well for the Colonial America block I usually do as the very last block of Seventh grade.  We also talk about the biographies through sixth, seventh, and eighth grade of black scientists.

Eighth grade and ninth grade brings us to an entire curriculum of United States history where we study the times of Lewis and Clark onward to the very present day in eight grade, and in ninth grade I go back to the pre-European beginnings of the Americas in order to make a full American history course that hopefully brings the stream of Africa into the consciousness of the high school student and how we look at American history.  We talk a lot about enslaved people in our country, but also the settlements of free black people, the role of black people in the Revolutionary  War and the and Civil War.   I also devote a good amount of time to the struggle for Civil Rights in our country, the peacemakers in our country in this movement, and also the struggle for freedom in South Africa.  We also focus on Africa in world geography, including ideas about renewable enery in Africa,and the economy of the continent of Africa.  In literature in eighth and ninth grade, we look at both African-American literature in prose and poetry, usually through authors more well known in high school literature classes – Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, the play The Raisin In The Sun, and various poems, along with “Black Like Me,” by John Griffin.

Next year, in tenth grade, we will be doing an entire unit on  contemporary African-American literature, which will cover truly contemporary literature (not the Harlem Renaissance!).  We will be studying U.S. Government and will be looking at the issue of white privilege, the prison system, inequality and poverty and more.  We will be reading “Just Mercy,” by Brian Stevenson, and the book, “Between The World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Eleventh and Twelfth grade ideas will unfold next year.

I hope this post brings you some ideas for bringing in Africa throughout your homeschooling years.

Many blessings,


14 thoughts on “Extending Africa Through The Curriculum

  1. Thank you! I am going to print this post to help me with my planning. I love the stream through the grades and I would love to see the grade 10 plans as well.
    Be well,

  2. Thank you for another inspiring post! I would love to see your notes for the seventh grade block, as I just started planning for next year.

  3. This is a subject near and dear for me as well, Carrie. We recently had the opportunity to attend a presentation of musicians and healers from the Sudan region and –wow– it was just wonderful. I now have some block ideas percolating for extending what we experienced and looking for even more ways to bring tangible experiences with these wonderful cultures into our home life. So important ❤ Thank you for sharing your thoughts, especially how you bring these into the curriculum.

  4. Carrie, this is an amazing resource, thank you! If you have any favorite resources on Latin America and Latino/a culture and history, and Native American, I would love to know. Maybe a post you can get to one day 🙂 Our family is Latino and, as much as the Waldorf community has expanded is multiculturalism so much, it is still painful to see how little Latin America is represented in the classic curriculum topics that seem to be generally covered! We have an online group of homeschool families collecting resources on this topic, in Spanish and for Latin families, many of mixed and diaspora backgrounds. Thank you for sharing your work in this area!

  5. I love this! My kid is nonverbal still, but I’m excited that people have thought through how to add Africa and the African Diaspora to a Waldorf based curriculum. We also live in Geechee territory so I’m now looking out for local good opportunities!

  6. I would be very interested on any grade 7 Africa geography notes you have. I’m sorry if you already posted them and I missed them. We’ve done and extensive block on the Yoruba (Nigeria) and a bit on the Masai and San. I’ve got some ideas for putting something together for ancient West African kingdoms. I definitely need to get further south….

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