Nigeria Unit Study: Week 3

If you are an art and science lover, then this is the week for you! Let’s continue our journey through Nigeria as we explore more about the culture and the arts of this beautiful country. Nigerian art is valued all over the world, which we will see as we take virtual tours to museums. Let’s be inspired by the art we see and create a bit of our own! We will also enjoy folk stories and examine some interesting science as we dig deep into the mosquito. Finally, we will enjoy learning and tasting the delicious plantain (not to be confused with a banana!). Before we begin, download and print your skills tracker here. Ṣetan? Lọ! (Ready? Go!)

What you need:

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

Optional chapter book:

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

Note: We break down our supply list so you can choose what you need based on which lessons you plan to do with your child.

Balancing activity:

  • scarf or dish towel
  • unbreakable bowl
  • small toys

Djembe drum craft:

Multi-media art project:

Mosquito model:

Pasta necklace:

(+) Make your own beads:

Plantain bread recipe:

Decomposing plantains activity:

What to do:

We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on your child’s knowledge, 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!

Lesson 1:

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)

Activity 1: Let’s read a folktale from Nigeria called Why The Sky Is Far Away: A Nigerian Folktale, retold by Mary-Joan Gerson (or listen to this read aloud).

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: Many Nigerian folktales include instruments in their celebrations. Begin reading the collection of five tales in the book Beat the Story Drum, Pum-pum. 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 watch this video to learn about the djembe drum from a professional musician who will give us a mini-lesson. Read more about the djembe here or (+) here.

Finally, let’s make our own drum inspired by the djembe drum. 

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 2:

Today, we’ll explore some famous arts and artists from Nigeria.

Activity 1: Discover Ben Ewonwu. 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. Would your child like to try creating a sculpture, drawing, or painting inspired by African dance? Begin by watching this video compilation of 10 of the most popular traditional dances of Nigeria. How would they capture the vibrant movements in art?

Activity 2: Discover Nollywood. Another cultural staple of Nigeria is the film industry! Nigeria has the third-largest film industry after Hollywood and Bollywood. It is referred to as “Nollywood”! 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.

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.

Activity 3: Discover Peju Alatise. Another very important artist from Nigeria is Peju Alatise. Not only is an artist but she is an architect, author, and poet! She has been featured in museums and galleries all over the world. She is also an advocate for social reform in her homeland. One of our favorite things about her art is her use of multimedia. That means she uses more than one kind of material and technique in her pieces. (source, source)

Meet the artist in this video where she tells you about her art and the various materials she used for the exhibit. 

Are you inspired by her art? Using a variety of materials, create your own multimedia art sculpture or painting. You can use action figures, canvas, crafting supplies, fabrics, or elements from nature. Set up your piece or pieces in a home “gallery.” Photograph them from different angles, zooming in and out of the pieces to capture their details and their overall feel. Once the piece or pieces are complete explain what they mean. Either do a video recording like the artist did explaining the art or write a short description. Save the art photographs, videos, and descriptions for your art portfolio.

Lesson 3:

Did you know the lowly mosquito has inspired quite a few folktales of its own? Let’s read one in today’s activities.

Activity 1: Let’s read one of our favorite folktales from West Africa, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears (or listen to this read aloud). Mosquitoes are one of our least favorite insects—but they are interesting! Watch this video to learn more about this pesky insect. 

Next, read this CDC kids pdf to learn how to protect yourself from mosquitoes.

Finally, play this bingo game to learn where mosquitos make their habitats and their life cycle. Th PDF has enough bingo cards for a large class, so only print the number of cards you will need for your family or co-op. (Print page 46 if you need markers, but you can also use coins or other small objects instead of printing them.) Print page 47. Before you begin, review (but don’t print) the slides on pages 49-77 to learn about the different places mosquitos breed.

To play, the “caller” draws one of the mosquito habitat cards or life cycle stages and says its name. Players place the marker over the image for the habitat or stage called.

Activity 2: Let’s learn a bit more about mosquitos here.  Mosquitos are annoying but also dangerous when they spread diseases like malaria, dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, Zika, and Rift Valley fever viruses. These have been detected in wild and domestic animals and humans, with infections more concentrated in urban areas. 

When a mosquito feeds on blood, it also swallows any viruses or parasites living in the blood. These viruses and parasites can be transferred to the next person the mosquito bites through its saliva. Any disease that is spread in this way from mosquito to human (or animal) is known as a ‘mosquito-borne disease’. The virus or parasite develops and multiplies inside the mosquito. The infected mosquito then transmits the virus or parasite through its saliva when it bites another, uninfected host. (source)

While the mosquito may not be affected, these mosquito-borne diseases can cause immense suffering for humans. Roughly 390 million people are infected each year with dengue, and hundreds of thousands more are affected by Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever. (source)

Review the parts of a mosquito by discussing the picture below:


Next, draw a mosquito with the help of this tutorial.

Activity 3: With all this newly found mosquito knowledge, it’s time to build a model insect. Use playdough to form all three parts of the body: head, thorax, and abdomen. Make and attach eyes to the head. Cut pipe cleaners to make antenna, a proboscis, and legs. Use toothpicks and aluminum foil to make the wings. (use the tip of the tooth pick to attach them to your playdough) Add extra details to the abdomen or wings with markers.

The finished model should look something like this:

Lesson 4:

We’ve learned a lot about the history of Nigeria. Today, we’ll explore what Nigeria is like today.

Activity 1: Leather and bead work are yet another impressive art form found in Nigeria. Click this PDF created by the Hearts Museum (page 17) to see some of the impressive beadwork created by Nigerians. Next, look at this collection of Nigerian bead jewelry. 

Create your own “beaded” necklace with this pasta craft. Alternatively, you can make these beads (or use real beads, if that’s in your budget). Create patterns to mimic the craftsmanship of the Yoruba jewelry. 

(+) When you are working with any large quantities, multiplication is always involved. Use the pasta or beads to practice making groups and practice multiplication facts. If your necklaces have several strands, use multiplication to determine how many beads you will need to make your necklace symmetrical.

Activity 2: The official language of Nigeria is English, but 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 are also spoken. In total, 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: Discover Ladi Kwali. As we learned in Week 1, pottery has been a part of Nigerian culture for centuries. Today, individual artists are producing earthenware crafts that can be seen in art studios and galleries as well as in museums and private collections.

One such craftswoman was Ladi Kwali. She was born in Nigeria 1925 and died in 1984. She was one of the first potters to achieve international recognition for her notable handicraft. Her vessels were essentially functional but beautifully decorated and glazed, a process she learnt from Michael Cardew who had set up a Pottery Training Centre in Abuja. They are unusual for this period, reflecting a combination of learned skills and old mastery. Take a look at this Nigerian pottery

Next, take a virtual tour at museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum or the National Museum of African Art to see some of the incredible Nigerian pottery.

Field trip idea: Search your area for a museum or gallery that features West African art and artifacts. Look for exhibits featuring paintings, pottery, reliefs, or beads that are produced or have been excavated in Nigeria.

Lesson 5:

For our last day of lessons this week, we’ll explore the history of plantains.

Activity 1: Plantains are a tropical fruit that is classified as a banana. It is a starchy food that comes in multiple varieties and is a staple around the world. Plantains are said to have originated in South East Asia. Plantains arrived in Africa during the first millennium C.E. They are believed to have been brought by Malaysian people that settled in Madagascar at the time. They are now one of the most common foods in Africa. Today, plantains are mostly grown in the African tropics.  Plantains are often referred to as cooking bananas because they need to be cooked before you eat them. They may be green, yellow, or very dark brown depending on the level of ripeness. Although plantain is a fruit, it is used more like a potato than a banana, so don’t treat them like fruits—treat them like vegetables! (source + source)

Activity 2: Instead of enjoying a savory plantain recipe, let’s enjoy a sweet version. Prepare this plantain bread recipe. (Keep your plantain peels—you will need them for the next activity.)

Activity 3: After preparing your plantain bread, you probably thought to throw the peel away in the trash and never think about it again. You might assume that it will decompose in the landfill since it’s a food, and that is just what happens, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t correct. Because of the lack of oxygen in landfills, food doesn’t decompose in the natural way. Learn about this on this blog. Read the whole post and conduct this STEM experiment as directed. Download the worksheets to track and record the progress of your experiments over a week’s time. (Use the peel from the recipe above and any other food scraps you have on hand to lessen food waste.) 

***Post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through a link, we may receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting our small business!***

Published by The Learn + Live Letter

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