The Achievements and Challenges of Mali
Learning objectives for students
This unit is intended to focus on some of those aspects of Malian life and history that are of great significance to understanding the people of Mali today and their situation. By using or adapting the core lessons and activities, your students will learn about the following:
II. Ancient Civilizations - Where have all the Kingdoms gone?
III. Slave Trades
IV. Indigenous Cultures
V. Environmental Issues - Desertification
VI. Economics - Trade
VII. Art and Architecture
Students will be encouraged to develop a critical stance toward information. They will learn to evaluate evidence, consider sources, and study a variety of differing viewpoints. The goal for these lessons in the Teacher Zone is for students to develop an understanding of the culture of Mali and to develop critical thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation.
Lessons and activities for students
As the student begins to use the Internet, they often encounter a wide variety of contradictory and confusing information. The purpose of this introductory lesson is to give students a tool that they can use to evaluate the credibility of different websites.
1. The first activity that the students will pursue is a search for information about the country of Mali. Students will work in pairs for this activity. The information may be obtained through the use of the Internet, books, or other available resources.
2. The student pairs will report back to the whole class on what they have learned, and discuss the sources of their information.
3. The class will be asked to develop a numerical rank order rating for all the sources they have obtained. They will discuss how to determine the credibility of a source.
4. The class will construct a rubric (a rating table see example) that will consist of their decisions on how to determine a source's credibility.
5. The class will use the following web sites as beginning sources for information:
Overview:The kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay flourished from A.D.500 to 1700. Trading of gold, salt and slaves brought untold wealth to the kingdoms. Mansa Musa, King of Mali, traveled in style to Egypt in 1324. A caravan of one hundred camels, each carrying three hundred pounds of gold, followed him on his journey. How did Mali go from being an extraordinary wealthy kingdom to one of the poorest countries in the world today
Procedures:1. Begin the lesson by asking students for reasons why empires decline. Write student's responses on the board. (examples- invading forces, internal disputes, war, drought, natural disasters, disease, overpopulation, economics)
2. Ask students to predict what life might be like in the United States in the 25th century.
3. Have students research the following empires. (Students may work in groups, pairs or alone for this assignment.) Ask students to concentrate on how and why the empires flourished and disintegrated.
4. Students will write several paragraphs explaining the rise and fall of the different empires.
5. Tell the students that the are living in the 25th century. The United States has become one of the poorest countries in the world. What could have caused this? Have students write an article about the rise and fall of the United States of America from the perspective of a person living in the 25th century.
6. Students will share their articles will the class.
Students will be evaluated on the quality of their written work.
Overview:Africans were not strangers to the slave trade, or to the keeping of slaves. Slavery had existed in West- Africa for centuries. When Leo Africanus traveled to West Africa in the 1500's, he recorded that, "slaves are the next highest commodity in the marketplace. There is a place where they sell countless slaves on market days." Criminals and prisoners of war, as well as political prisoners were often sold in the marketplaces in Gao, Jenne, and Timbuktu.
African slaves were in Europe as early as the eleventh century. America's demand for laborers for the sugar, tobacco and cotton field brought the first cargo of black slaves from West Africa to the Americas in the early 1500's. European, Arab and African merchants were now selling humans as well as gold, ivory, and spices.
Al-Siddiq was born to a well-educated and influential family from Timbuktu. In the early 1800's he was captured and sold to an English slaver. In 1823 he was keeping records in Arabic for his owner's store in Jamaica. Encouraged by his owner's friend, Al-Siddiq was given his freedom. Al-Siddiq joined the Englishman, John Davidson on an expedition to Timbuktu in 1836. On his return to the African continent, Al-Siddiq learned that one of his relatives had become the sheik of Timbuktu. The expedition was attacked and all lives were lost with the exception of Al-Siddiq.
1. Learn about the slave trade in West-Africa on the following web sites:
2. Discuss what the students have learned about slavery in West Africa.
Historically, slavery has long been a part of human history. The Trans-Atlantic slave trade was not the first instance of slavery. But what set the Middle Passage apart from the others?
How did the Trans-Atlantic slave trade impact the relationships of Africa and the Americas?
Does slavery still exist today? Where?
Do you think this was fair?
Think of similar instances where money and education create special treatment.
Do you think Diallo, or Job as he was later called, changed his opinions about slavery after his return to Africa?
Students will be evaluated on the quality of their written journal entry.
While researching for his book, Roots, Alex Haley traveled to Mali, where he met with a groit (GREE-ohs) who had memorized the story of the Juffure village, where his ancestors had lived. This groit historian drew on vast stores of oral history to tell him his family's story. The goits of Mali are the storytellers, historians and entertainers of West Africa. The groits have preserved much of the history of their country by passing the stories from one generation to another.
Procedure:1. In this activity students will gather information about groits and the importance of oral traditions. The following web sites provide a place to start:
2. After students have gathered information have the entire class share what they have learned about the griots and oral traditions.
3. Have students create an oral account of an event, person, place or a time period in Mali's history. (This could take the form of a song. Story telling often is a participatory experience. Lines maybe created to involve other class members.)
Explain to students that they are not to write a single word for this assignment. The Groits (in earlier years) didn't have a formal written language.
The following sites may provide background information for the creation of the oral stories:
3. Students will share their stories will the class.
4. Discuss how creating an oral story differs from creating a written story.
Students will be evaluated on the quality of their presentation.
The Tuareg, known as the lords of the desert, have wandered the Sahara Desert with their camels and cattle for centuries. Seen as a fierce people, they were noted for their bravery in war, and for their raids on towns and caravans. The Tuarge even maintained their independence against French domination. The Tuarge maintained their independence against French domination. The Tuareg's played a critical role in the Trans-Saharan trade, which helped the Ghana, Singh and Mali empires flourish. Even today, Tuareg camels can still be seen carrying salt for hundreds of miles on their backs.
However, two decades of drought and battles with the black governments have greatly influenced the Tuareg's life style. Some Tuareg have chosen to settle in one place, while circumstances have forced others into a sedentary life style.
3. Tell the students to take notes on the details that they might want to include in their letter as they gather information.
4. Students will be sure to include some of the following information in their letters. (history, climate, diet, clothing, daily life)
Students will be evaluated on the quality of their written letters.
Overview:In this lesson, the students will come to understand the issues surrounding desertification in Africa. The term desertification was first coined by French scientists and explorer Louis Lavauden in 1927. Desertification is assumed to be caused by a complex relationship involving human impact on arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas (dry lands) - but excluding hyper-arid deserts. Characterized by the degradation of soil and vegetative cover, desertification could occur in any dry area, not just on the fringes of natural deserts. According to the International Development Information Center:
1. The class will view the following websites to see images of desertification:
2. Students will be divided into four groups. Each group will visit a different website to answer the following questions:
A) What is desertification?
3. The groups will compare their answers to each of these questions. The class will discuss differences and similarities found, and suggest reasons for them.
Assessment:The class will be evaluated on the quality of their participation in group activities.
Overview:In this lesson, the students will come to understand elements of trade and trade routes in different regions of in Asia, Europe and Africa. This will be done by developing an appreciation of economic and cultural exchanges in today's world as well as in the past.
1. The class will brainstorm answers to the following questions.
What are some examples of cultural exchange?
Why are projects like the Odyssey important?
2. The class will be divided into four groups. Each will visit one of the following sites:
Each group will be asked to analyze each site in terms of what they have learned about trade in Africa from the sites.
3. The class will then complete the following assignment: Imagine that you are writing a letter to a young person living in an isolated village of the world today. What would you want them to know about the world as you see it? What do you perceive as having value in terms of economic and cultural exchange from your own society?
1. The teacher will share the following quote from Kim Naylor's Mali which describes the great Sahelian kingdoms from some two thousand years ago:
2. The class will be asked to:
Substitute the word "businesses" for "kingdoms" and "web sites" for "lands" so that the quote will read:
3. The class will be divided into small groups to discuss these quotes, focusing on the similarities and differences they represent in terms of trade, and how trade is critical to cultural and economic exchange.
1. The class will be given two quotes.
The first is from Kim Naylor's book Mali. She recounts an 18th century Scottish explorer's description of salt:
The second is from Philip Koslow's Mali: Crossroads of Africa:
2. The class will be given the following assignment:
3. The class will discuss what makes something valuable in terms of trade.
Assessment:The class will be evaluated on the quality of their presentations and participation in class discusssions.
Overview:Students are often exposed to world cultures through a narrow lens. The purpose of this lesson is to broaden students' understandings of the diversity and richness of art and architecture in Mali. Students will also explore the concept of cultural heritage. They will visit the website of the Mali Interactive Project, which provides accounts of archaeological excavations and information on the people and culture of Jenné . Jenné is the earliest known urban settlements south of the Sahara.
1. The students will work in pairs to explore different aspects of Malian art and architecture.
The following sites are suggested as a beginning:
2. The students will explore the website of the Mali Interactive Project at:
3. The student pairs will create a report in the form of a news broadcast based on what they have found in their explorations of these sites. They will present this to the whole class.
1. The class will read the following excerpt from Philip Koslow's Mali: Crossroads of Africa:
The colonialist view of African history held sway until into the 20th century. But as the century progressed, more enlightened scholars began to take a fresh look at Africa's past. As archaeologists (scientists who studied the physical remains of past societies) explored the sites of former African cities, they found that Africans had enjoyed a high level of civilization hundreds of years before the arrival of Europeans. In many respects the kingdoms and cities of Africa had been equal to or more advanced than European societies during the same time period."
2. The class will brainstorm reasons why this Eurocentric viewpoint appears to prevail.
3. The class will break into small groups and come up with five suggestions as to how we can increase awareness of the importance of all world cultures.
4. The class will break into small groups and visit the following website that focuses on World Heritage at
Each group will be asked to bring back to the class something that they have learned.
5. The class will discuss the concept of cultural heritage as it is defined on this website.
6. The class will be asked to write a letter to fourth grade students describing what cultural heritage is, and why it is important.
Assessment:Students will be evaluated on the quality of their written journal entry.
Zimbabwe Lessons - Mali Lessons - Egypt Lessons
Internet and Society Lessons - Youth and Society Lessons
Indigenous People Lessons
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