Teaching SuggestionsPrint this Page
- Subject(s): Social Studies & Geography, Cross-Cultural Understanding, Science
- Region / Country: Africa / United Republic of Tanzania
- Grade Level(s): 3–5, 6–8
Students will focus on aspects of the Maasai pastoralist culture and compare it with their own.
After reading the letter and participating in class activities students will be able
- To identify a few traditional and modern features of Maasai culture.
- To list characteristics of the pastoralist way of life.
- To distinguish the roles of Maasai men and women.
- To describe what it's like for a Westerner to visit a Maasai village.
- Soneka's Village by Richard Lupinsky Jr.
- The book Masai and I, by Virginia Kroll, or another children's book on the Maasai
- Reference materials on the Maasai, especially pictures
- World map
- Show the students a globe or world map and point out Tanzania. Explain that there is an indigenous, or a native, tribe called the Maasai (muh-SYE) that lives in Tanzania and neighboring Kenya. If you have photographs from books or the Internet, show them to the students so that Richard's descriptions will be reinforced. Explain that the tall and slender Maasai, with their draped outfits and beads, have become fairly well known in the Western world because so many tourists have visited their land to see the wild animals that live where the Maasai move about with their cattle.
- Draw a chart on the board with two columns, labeled Traditional and Modern. Use this chart as you read the letter with the students to help the students record which aspects of Maasai culture are traditional and which are modern.
- Distribute the letter "Soneka's Village," by Richard Lupinsky Jr. Have the students read the first two paragraphs, or read them aloud. Ask the students which items to include in which column on the board. Help them distinguish which items of Maasai culture are traditional and which are modern.
Can the class explain why the riverbed was dry? [Rather than having four seasons, like much of the United States, East Africa experiences two main seasons?the wet and the dry. In the dry season, little to no rain falls, and many rivers temporarily dry up.]
Ask the class why the Maasai might have chosen to make sandals out of old tires. [Discarded tires cost nothing, or next to nothing, and the rubber is both pliable and extremely durable. Explain that a great many Africans are extremely resourceful in recycling used or discarded materials into new objects, including useful items, toys, and art objects.]
- Read another two paragraphs with the class. When the students get to the end of the fourth paragraph, ask how Richard knew that the two small stools were carved from a single tree.
- Read the next four paragraphs with the students, and review the lifestyle of pastoralists. Discuss with the students why the Maasai (and any other peoples who depend on grazing animals) have to move around to where the grasses are. Ask the students if they can think of any profession in the United States that requires people to move around. [Migrant farmer workers follow the crops. Beekeepers sometimes move their hives from one region of the country to another. Herders in the Midwest and West often move their herds in search of better grazing.]
- In paragraph 9, Soneka reports that he cannot herd cattle as a moran, or warrior, until he is 18. Ask students if they know of any rules or laws in the United States that give teenagers a special right when they turn 18. [Some students might know about the right to vote.] Ask students what turning 18 in each culture seems to mean.
- After finishing the letter, ask students to describe the different roles assumed by Maasai men and Maasai women?i.e., cattle herding by men, and cooking and washing by women. In a discussion with the class, ask if there are similar, clear-cut distinctions in roles played by men and women in the United States. If students generalize?for example, that men drive race cars or that women serve as nurses, point out that distinctions that might have been true some time ago?before the children were born?are no longer valid, and that men and women in the United States more and more are occupying less distinct gender roles.
- Try to find a Tanzanian or Kenyan living in the United States who can come visit, or an American who knows both Kiswahili and English. Have that person visit and teach some Kiswahili to the class.
- The letter contains references to change in traditional Maasai culture, such as cell phones and plastic beads. In class discussion, ask what recent changes the students have noticed in their own culture.
- Focus a discussion on Soneka's job of delivering milk. How long do students think it takes him to walk to Richard's place with the milk? Explain to the class that milk used to be delivered to many homes in the United States by special milk deliverers with small trucks. Ask the students how most milk in the United States is distributed today.
- The Maasai are a pastoralist culture. Have some students research other pastoralist cultures, and compare them with the Maasai. Have them share what they learn with their classmates.
- Students can build a diorama of a Maasai village by building models of stick-and-mud houses with thatched roofs, as described by Richard.
Framework and Standards
- Cultures elsewhere in the world differ markedly from cultures in the United States.
- Cultures change noticeably over time.
- What are some of the defining features of Maasai culture?
- How do traditional cultures maintain their identity as they adapt to change?
National Science Education Standards
Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives