Curriculum Connections

The Poem: The following is the full text of Part Two of the poem, Children of East Africa (1996 OneWorld Classrooms. All rights reserved).

The surrounding fence forms our home's walls
And the paths between the houses act as the halls
A grass roof is thatched over each separate room
So that makes our ceiling lights the sun and the moon

Inside the mud walls of each house, it's clean and cool
Furnished with a bed, table, chairs and a stool
But usually one's more decked out than the rest
That's where you'll drink soda as our special guest

Here we will sit for a spell and we'll talk
After I'll take you outside for a walk
A respite is part of the tour you know
For in Africa its tradition to take it slow

This guest house is special but there's still another
That ranks even higher, the house of grandmother
If she dies its forbidden to tear her house down
It must be untouched till it melds with the ground

The grandmother gets great respect in our culture
For she's the storyteller, the history teacher
If you disturb her house after she's gone
Tradition has it she'll haunt you lifelong

The cattle have a special place inside our fence
With hyenas and leopards outside, this only makes sense
In the day it's the job of the boys and the men
To graze the animals and herd them safely back in

The shamba or garden is the woman's domain
Though Mom recruits help whenever she can
Dad lends a hand with digging after the rain

And we water the plants when its dry once again

Language Arts/Music Connection: The poem, Children of East Africa, uses rhyme, word repetition, alliteration and consistent line length to create rhythm. Have students locate specific examples of each. Point out that, in each technique, it is a pattern or a repetition of sound that actually produces the rhythm: after all, that's exactly what rhythm is. Break out some CD's and compare this to rhythmic techniques found in music.

Social Studies/Science Connections: This section of the poem revisits the theme of being different and the same at the same time, while looking at cultural traditions. Have students examine how their traditions are the same and how they are different from those of African children as depicted in the poem in the following areas: home building, welcoming guests into the home, showing respect to elders/deceased, belief in spirits/ghosts, division of labor between members of a household. 

While discussing these things, explain that even a rich family in Africa might choose to have mud houses - an extensive and cleanly kept homestead full of them. Others may choose a more modern look. While people who are not rich (the majority) have little choice, they generally live quite comfortably in their houses which not only suit their environment well (mud insulates, keeping houses cooler in hot times and warmer in cool times, while thatch roofs dampen the sound of pounding rainfall in the wet season), but also make use of its most abundant resources (mud and grass/reeds) without doing environmental damage.

Curriculum Connections: Children of East Africa - Part 1
Curriculum Connections: Children of East Africa - Part 3
Curriculum Connections: Children of East Africa - Part 4



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