Level 2+: Nigeria Unit

This week, we’ll head to West Africa to the country of Nigeria! Nigeria has a centuries-old history and a vibrant culture we know you and your child will love to explore, so we’ve packed this week full of activity and book options, experiments, recipes, art, geography, math, literacy, and more! Ready to start? Click here to download this week’s skills tracker.

Have you printed a Learn and Live passport? Don’t forget to add a stamp to your passport to start your week in Nigeria!

Note: Occasionally we include project modifications (which can be useful for including younger siblings) and upgrades (for children ready for more). We’ll mark those with the minus (-) or plus (+) symbols.

What you need:

Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):

Optional additional book:

Optional chapter book:

Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):

What to do:

We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!

Phonics Guide:

New to our phonics guide? Start here. The Phonics Guide this week will highlight the phonics rule that says I says ē at the end of a syllable when it is followed by a vowel.

Lesson 1:

Ready to explore the geography and culture of Nigeria? Begin by helping your child locate this African country on a map, atlas, or globe. Also known as the “Giant of Africa,” Nigeria is the continent’s most populated country, with a population of over 200 million people. It is also the most diverse, with about 197 million people belonging to any of the 300 ethnic tribes present in Nigeria. (source) This article shares a guide to many of the indigenous people of Nigeria. You can also watch this video to learn some more interesting facts about Nigeria.

Next, let’s read the book A is for Africa (or read it here on OpenLibrary), written and photographed by a woman native to Nigeria. This book shares some specific cultural elements commonly found in Nigeria, along with beautiful photography that brings it all to life.

Activity 1: This is the official flag of Nigeria:

The Nigerian flag is a vertical bicolor triband of green, white and green. The two green stripes represent Nigeria’s natural wealth, while the white band represents peace. It was designed in 1959 by Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi and was officially adopted on October 1, 1960. (source)

Let’s use the flag’s simple design to review finding the area of a rectangle. Start by downloading and printing this version of the flag set on a grid. If this skill is new to your child, or if it has just been a while since you have worked on it, watch this video to learn what area is and how to find it.

Using the first page of the download, have your child practice finding the area of the flags. They will increase in size, meaning your child will get practice understanding what it means when we are multiplying these numbers together. You can also give them this multiplication chart to help them see visually what is happening.

The second page has a much larger flag. They will likely not be able to do this type of multiplication yet, but you can use a calculator to show them how the skills they are using can also be used to find larger areas with multiplication.

(+) You can also use this printout to find the perimeter of the flag. Watch this video for an introduction of what perimeter is.

Activity 2: The official language of Nigeria is English, The primary languages spoken at home in Nigeria are Hausa, Yoruba, and English. (source) Other major languages spoken include Igbo, Fulfulde, Ibibio, Kanuri, and Tiv. Nigerian Sign Language, Hausa Sign Language, and Bura Sign Language. Over 520 languages are spoken in Nigeria today!

Yoruba, the indigenous language of the Yoruba people, is spoken by about 19 million people in Nigeria as their native language, as well as many of the Yoruba in Benin. As many as 30 million people speak Yoruba as their native language. (source) Let’s learn a little Yoruba with this video.

Activity 3: Nigeria is a patchwork of distinctive regions, including deserts, plains, swamps, mountains, and steamy jungles. It has one of the largest river systems in the world, including the Niger Delta, the third largest delta on Earth (source), and about 36 rivers total in the country. (source) As we learned in our book, rivers are sacred to many African people, and the local communities prioritize caring for these very important bodies of water.

The Niger is the principal river of western Africa. It is the third longest river on the continent, after the Nile and the Congo. It is about 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) long. (source) This article shares more details about this river that also named the country of Nigeria. You can also watch this fun video to learn more about the giant rivers of Africa.

Rivers are a major body of water on our planet. Let’s learn about the other primary bodies of water in this video. (Note: There are many variations of water forms, depending on who you ask. This website has a comprehensive list.)

Next, let’s bring some of the major water-forms to life in a hands-on way. First, print and cut out these cards on white cardstock. Give your child some green (or brown) playdough and blue playdough, and as you discuss the definition and shape of the body of water, have your child build it with their playdough using the blue for the water and the green or brown for the land.

Lesson 2:

Another important part of many Nigerian communities is the market place! Not only is this a place for shopping, but it is also where neighbors connect . Let’s read a fun story about many of the things you might find in a Nigerian market in the story Catch That Goat!: A Market Day in Nigeria (or read it here on OpenLibrary)

Activity 1: As we read in our book, Nigerian markets are a great place to buy many of the traditional clothing and accessories you find in this country. Nigerian people are known for their beautiful, colorful clothing, and dressing up is a big part of the culture. The specific pieces worn, however, vary depending on tribe and background.

People with a Yoruba background generally prefer very bright and outstanding garments, especially the clothing for special occasions like weddings and funerals. Some consider the national clothing of Yoruba people to be traditional costume for Nigeria in general. The pieces of clothing include:

The agbada is a wide-sleeved robe that is worn by the West African and North African men. The Agbada is embroidered in traditional patterns, and it’s sewed from cotton. Currently, they are made using a synthetic cloth that resembles silk.

A gele is a traditional Nigerian cloth that is wrapped by women on their head. A gele is a large headscarf that is worn as a fashion accessory or an ornamental head covering in various occasions. Even though it can be worn daily, there are elaborate geles which the Nigerian women wear on numerous events like church activities and weddings. (source)

A buba is a loose-fitting blouse with round or V-shaped neckline and long sleeves. Its length is a little bit lower the waistline. Both men and women use it.

An iro is a long wrap-around skirt. The rectangular piece of cloth is wrapped around the waist and hips, and tucked in at the end.

Sokotos are loose-fitting trousers with a drawstring to hold them up. (source)

The traditional attire for Igbo women are various wraps. The wraps vary from formal to casual and are made from expansive imported fabric, with patterns on cloth and different decorations. (source)

Jewelry, particularly beads, are also a common accessory. The beads are made from a diverse array of materials, including stones, clay, plant materials, and animal materials (such as ostrich eggshells). Archeologists have found beaded necklaces and beads buried with chiefs and kings in ancient African graves. Wearing and owning old African jewelry or beads is believed to provide wisdom, hope, luck and well-being to its owner. In some cases, they were also used as currency. (source)

Let’s use beads to inspire a multiplication activity! First, print 1-2 copies of this sheet. (If you laminate, you will only need one.) Next, give your child 20-30 pony beads and a pencil (or dry erase marker if you are laminating).

First, have your child create an array with the beads in the first box (for example, 3 rows of beads that have 4 beads in each column). Have them practice writing how you would demonstrate this array as a multiplication problem (i.e. 3 x 4). Find the product.

After they have demonstrated an understanding of this skill, have them start with the problem. Write a simple multiplication problem in each box, and then have them build the array to find the solution. It may also be helpful to print this multiplication chart so your child can start to see the patterns in multiplication.

Activity 2: The indigo plant is a natural dye that is native to parts of Africa, including Nigeria. Adire is the name given to indigo dyed cloth produced by Yoruba women of south western Nigeria using a variety of resist dye techniques. Adire translates as tie and dye, and the earliest cloths were probably simple tied designs on locally-woven hand-spun cotton cloth much like those still produced in Mali. In the early decades of the twentieth century, however, new techniques of resist dyeing were developed, most notably the practice of hand-painting designs on the cloth with a cassava starch paste prior to dyeing. This was known as adire eleko. (source) You can see an example found at the St. Louis Art Museum here.

Traditionally, the cloth was dyed in deep holes in the ground that were filled with a mixture of water and the dye powder. The cloth was then dried in the open air to set the color. Click here to watch a video about the process, and then do this activity to try it yourself!

Want to try making your own dye to use? Try this food-based dye tutorial!

Activity 3: Markets are also a popular place to purchase a variety of foods and ingredients. One of the most important foods in Nigeria is the yam. It is so significant, the Igbo community even holds a festival every year to celebrate it! The New Yam Festival of the Igbo people is an annual cultural festival by the Igbo people that is held at the end of the rainy season in early August.  It is a celebration of life, accomplishments in the community, culture and well-being. (source)

While the words “sweet potato” and “yam” are often used interchangeably in North America, the truth is that few people there have ever really eaten a yam. The African yam is rich and highly nutritional with rough, wrinkly, dark, and sometimes hairy skin and white to slightly yellow or cream-colored starchy flesh. (source)

One of the most common ways it is eaten in Nigerian cooking is as pounded yam, which has a doughy consistency and is often used to scoop up a stew or other food. For this reason, it is also called “swallow.” Click here for an authentic pounded yam recipe you can try with your child! You may also wish to make this spinach stew to eat with your yam.

(-) The texture of pounded yam might not appeal to all children. Here is an alternative Nigerian recipe for jollof rice you can try instead.

Lesson 3:

Nigeria is also a place with a variety of wildlife and interesting natural phenomena. Let’s learn about some of these in the book Lake of the Big Snake (or read it here on OpenLibrary).

Activity 1: Has your child ever heard of quicksand like what the boys encounter in our book? Quicksand can look dry, like sand on a beach. But it is a mixture of clay, either sand or silt, and water—mostly water. Together, the ingredients form a jellylike mass with sand mixed throughout. When someone steps onto the quicksand, the mixture is jiggled. Then it flows like a liquid, and the sand starts sinking to the bottom. The more the person struggles, the more watery the quicksand becomes. A person won’t sink under, at most about halfway. Still, quicksand is dangerous because the thick sand below may trap a person far away from help. (source)

Let’s bring it to life by making our own quicksand! You’ll need:

  • 1-1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sand
  • small plastic toys

Place cornstarch in a large bowl and add the water. Stir well. (It will be hard to stir at first, but eventually it will become smooth.) Add the sand and stir to combine.

Once your mixture is done, place small plastic toys on the surface and watch them sink!

Your child might never encounter quicksand in person, but just in case, here’s a quick video that also helps explain how to escape if they ever find themselves in this sticky situation.

Activity 2: Nigeria is home to a variety of snakes and other native animals. Let’s read about ten of the most fascinating in this article. Have your child choose their favorite to research for a lapbook or poster.

Activity 3: Another magnificent creature found in Nigeria are a variety of butterfly species! Scroll through this digital album to meet 11 of the most stunning types of butterfly found in Nigeria.

Let’s let butterflies guide our math activity today! Pretend your child is a butterfly trying to get to a Costus Spectabili, Nigeria’s national flower. Print out this board and tracking sheets. (Cut the trackers into two sheets so you or another sibling can play, too.) Each player will also need their own color marker.

Give your child two dice. Have them roll and add the sum of the two numbers. On the number chart, they should outline that number with their color marker. They can also write the number in the first box on their tracker and write if it is even or odd on the line next to it. Repeat these steps, adding the new dice sum until they get to 100. If two people are playing, take turns rolling.

Lesson 4:

We love reading the folktales from different countries! Folktales are traditional narrative stories from a culture’s oral traditions meant to share values and/or explain something in the natural world or about human nature, often are about ordinary people, and can include talking animals like fables. (source) Let’s read one from Nigeria in Why The Sky Is Far Away: A Nigerian Folktale, retold by Mary-Joan Gerson (or listen to this read aloud).

Activity 1: Did you see the picture of the woman in our book carrying food on top of her head? Across Africa, including in Nigeria, it is common to see people carrying heavy loads on their heads. They make it look very simple…but is it really? Let’s try it for ourselves with a head carrying game. You’ll need a long scarf (or a dish towel); a wide, unbreakable bowl; and some small items or toys to carry.

Coil the scarf into a nest-like circle that fits on top of your child’s head. Let them try walking and balancing this circle first. Next, set the bowl on top of the scarf circle and add a few items to it. Try walking across the room, adding an additional item with each pass. How many items can they carry? They may also enjoy this video of a woman learning to carry a heavy water bucket on her head.

Activity 2: In our book, the people play instruments as part of their celebration. One important instrument to many Nigerian cultures is the drum. Drumming especially is a vital part of the cultural heritage of the Yoruba people of Southwestern Nigeria. Drums are used in special occasions, festivals, carnivals, ceremonies. Drums are differentiated by the sound they make, how they are made, history, and appearance. For Yoruba people, ceremonies dictate the kind of drums to use. (source) Click here to see and read about six important drums of the Yoruba people.

Next, let’s make our own drum inspired using this tutorial.

We will use our drum in the next activity.

Activity 3: Finally, let’s use our drum to work on learning more about rhythm in music. Print these sheets to help direct the lesson. Rhythm is a pattern of sound which can be repeated to a regular beat. Percussion instruments, like drums, play rhythm. Use the sheets and your drum to practice playing along to some rhythms.

Next, let’s listen to a popular Nigerian children’s rhyme, L’abe igi orombo (Under the Orange Tree). As you listen to it here, encourage your child to try drumming along to the rhythm. If you want to sing along, too, here are the words in Yoruba and English:

L’abe igi orombo
N’ibe l’agbe nsere wa
Inu wa dun, ara wa ya
L’abe igi orombo

Orombo, orombo
Orombo, orombo.

Under the orange tree
Where we play our games
We are happy, we are excited
Under the orange tree…

Orange, orange
Orange, orange.

Lesson 5:

Today, we’ll explore some modern-day elements of Nigerian culture, beginning with our book, Amadi’s Snowman: A Story of Reading (or read it here on OpenLibrary). This book can also be helpful for encouraging reluctant readers!

Activity 1: Want to try a simple strategy game from Nigeria? Click here to learn how to play Dara.

Activity 2: One of the most famous artists to come out of Nigeria is Ben Ewonwu. Click here for a digital slideshow that shares more information about him and his work.

Much of Ben Ewonwu’s work was inspired by traditional dances of Africa. If your child would like to try creating a sculpture, drawing, or painting inspired by African dance, first you can show them this video compilations of 10 of the most popular traditional dances of Nigeria. How would they capture the vibrant movements in art?

Activity 3: Another cultural staple of Nigeria is the film industry! Though Nigeria’s film industry dates back to the turn of the twentieth century, white colonial and foreign filmmakers oversaw these film productions. The Nigerian movie industry first began producing films shot on celluloid by Nigerian filmmakers after the country declared independence in 1960.

The success of video films transformed the Nigerian film industry into “Nollywood,” a global movie powerhouse and one of the largest employers in the country. Nigerian film companies turned out four to five films a day for an estimated audience of fifteen million in Nigeria and five million in other African countries. Today, the New Nigerian Cinema made the Nigerian film industry the second-largest film sector globally, surpassing even the United States and the third most profitable, with a $5.1 billion valuation in 2013. (source)

Unfortunately, most Nigerian movies are made for adults (though if you are interested, here’s a list of Nollywood films you can find on Netflix!). For a more child-friendly option from Nigeria, you might want to check out the kids’ show Bino & Fino, available on Amazon Prime and Youtube.

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Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.