The Africa Classroom Package: Lessons and Activities

Christmas Plenty

The content and activities on this page relate to the story, Christmas Plenty.

Food Discussions

Consider the following statements about food with your students:

Every time we stop to eat, there is evidence right on our plates that cultures interact and share with each other and that all of us benefit from that interaction.

When we eat a meal, there are many, many people responsible for getting that meal to our plates.

People who lived many years ago from all around the world discovered and refined the foods we eat today.

Food connects us to the past, sustains us in the present and ensures that we will reach the future.

The chemical constituents of food become the chemical constituents of us.

The same kind of subatomic particles that make up food can be found in plants, animals, rocks, the moon, comets, the sun, and all throughout the universe - and in us.

Do students stop to consider any of these things before they start to eat? If we stop to think about it, the earth provides us with an amazing array of nourishing and tasty foods, without which, of course, we could not survive on this earth. And, for the most part, we have our ancestors and the people who came before us from all different cultures to thank for knowing which foods are edible and how to prepare them. Ask students to list ways we show thanks for our food, thanks for the bounty of the earth - and ways that we honor our ancestors. Hopefully, they'll list "studying history" as one of them.

Activity Idea: Have students imagine they have just moved to the United States with their spouses and young children. In their old country, they had many customs which expressed thanks for the bounty of the earth and honored the ancestors. But, in their new country, they see that their children are missing out on this tradition of respect and thanks because the old customs don't fit in their new environment. They are worried that their children will grow up taking things for granted, not appreciating their cultural history and the richness of the earth. So, they decide to establish three new practices they can do with their children every day that will show thanks for all that the earth provides and will recognize the hard work and love of their ancestors. Have students list and share these ideas. Make a class list and display it in the hall. Adopt a few of the suggestions and make them every day practices throughout the course of the school year.

Christmas Plenty

This story directly relates to the central theme of the The Culture Connection, that cultures and people share common characteristics, but are also distinct (are the same and different at the same time). The following exercises can reinforce this concept.

Culture Awareness Exercises:

1. Alike and Different: Foods - Have students make separate lists of foods they recognize in the story and foods they don't. Next list favorite holiday foods of students in your class, taking note of the diversity.

2. Alike and Different: Culture - Have students list aspects of every day life mentioned in the story that are similar to and different from those in their own lives. (Examples: similarities - people use money, have schools, celebrate Christmas/holidays, have feasts and music, drink milk, work for a living, visit friends and family on holidays, live together in family units, etc.; differences - different money (currency = Kenyan shilling), different ways of celebrating, lack of gift-giving at Christmas (generally true in rural areas but not necessarily in urban areas), meat generally served on special occasions only (again mainly true in rural areas), people are mostly farmers, there is no electricity (clues: UHT milk and lantern light - milk is "ultra-heat-treated" so it can stay fresh for long periods of time without refrigeration), walking and biking are main ways to travel, etc.

Have students consider how these circumstances may be different for Kenyans who live in an urban setting (like Nairobi).

3. Alike and Different: Language - Students can notice how languages borrow from each other by observing use of the words "banana" (originally an African word borrowed by English), and "Jesu Kristo" (Swahili/African version of Jesus Christ). Other English words borrowed from African languages are "okra," "banjo," "jukebox," "safari," "jazz," and "voodoo." Swahili, too, uses many English borrow words.

Challenge students to identify these Swahili words: spinachi, daktari, futboli, demokrasi, Octoba and kalenda (spinach, doctor, soccer, democracy, October and calendar). Point out to students that if chapati and ugali were commonly eaten in the U.S., they would be called by their African names since we don't have single words that would accurately describe them in English.

Have students make a list of food words that English has borrowed from other languages (e.g. - tortilla, spaghetti, guava, sauerkraut, etc.).

Christmas Plenty Foreign Words List

Swahili: 1. otongolo (oh-tohn-go-low) - a large copper coin worth about 1/2 cent at the time 2. nduru (n-doo-roo) - smaller copper coin worth about 1/4 cent 3. Jesu Kristo (Jay-soo Kree-stoh) - Jesus Christ 4. chapati (chah-pah-tee) - like a tortilla, but thicker; made w/ wheat flour and fried 5. ugali (ooh-gah-lee) - a thick corn, millet or cassava flour mixture, eaten hot and by hand

Luo: 1. Dala Hera (Dah-lah Hay-rah) - "House of Love," an African/Christian religion Language Arts

Lesson Idea: a) Words Inside of Words Exercise - Have students go on a scavenger hunt to find words inside of words in the story. There are lots of examples, including: penniless, worthless, completely, excitement, amazement, thankful, holiday, shepherds, breakfast, reminder, etc.. Have students come up with some of their own words that contain other words. This can lead to a discussion of suffixes, word roots and compound words.

b) Say That Again Exercise - Challenge students to use different words to communicate the same idea expressed in certain phrases in the story. For example, students might rephrase "three months running" as "three months in a row," three straight months," or "three consecutive months." Other phrases in the story that can be used in this activity are: " completely penniless," "third and fourth meals in a row," "the last of my earthly cash," "over the next thirty-six hours," "I was lacking very little," Christmas and the following day," "student who lived next door," "two neighboring homesteads," "bulging in the middle," "finally get a breather," and "did manage to stuff some." Share responses and have the class choose one or two which they feel communicates the idea most efficiently and effectively.

For Fun: How many times did I eat something in the course of the story? List all the foods I ate. There should be 18. (I'm feeling stuffed just remembering it.)

History Research Project: Divide students into groups of three; have each group choose a favorite food. Use the Internet, encyclopedia software and written resources to research the origin of the chosen foods and how they traveled from their places of origin to our plates. Write reports, illustrate and display, make a map indicating origins and travel routes of foods, and bring in or cook the foods for all to enjoy. As a follow up, have students research how foods get from the farm to the plate. Have them estimate how many people are involved in the process of producing, transporting, marketing and selling that food before it is even eaten.

Taken from The Culture Connection Newsletter, © Paul Hurteau.

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