West African History – Free Notebook Pages, Africa Picture Books

We have spent two weeks learning about the history of West Africa.  The kids did a lot of different West African art projects and while they worked on those, I would read aloud to them.

After the camel was introduced in the 7th century or so, West Africa began trading more and more with North Africa. West African gold, salt and slaves moved north, while goods, ideas and Islam came down from the north. We learned about the empires of Ghana and Mali. Mansa Musa, emperor of Mali from 1312-1337, was Muslim and made a pilgrimage to Mecca with massive amounts of gold that he passed out all along the way to Mecca. (The kids were blown away by the distance he and his entourage had to travel. That was when we looked closely at the map of Africa that showed the U.S.A. and other countries that all fit in the upper third of north Africa. See yesterday’s African geography post to get the link to the free map.)  Scholarship was also important in Mali.  During Mansa Musa’s reign some of the world’s first universities started in Timbuktu and there were more than 150 schools with free tuition to promising students! (The kids knew all about Timbuktu… that’s where the butler was sent in the movie, Aristocats.  Sigh… LOL!!!)

That’s obviously a very abbreviated history of the region, but I thought I’d share some of the highlights.

To bring this part of our unit to an end, I made some notebook pages for the kids.  It captures the highlights — about the empires of Ghana and Mali and touches on the transatlantic slave trade.  I included the answers at the end (so you don’t have to guess what I was thinking!)

Hope someone finds this useful!

West African Notebook Pages-Ghana-Mali


See more notebook pages about the Transatlantic Slave Trade here.

Some of the books we used the past couple of weeks (these are affiliate links):

Sundiata: Lion King of Mali by David Wisniewski (picture book)

Mansa Musa by Khephra Burns (a long picture book, some fact, some fiction)

Ten Kings: And The Worlds They Rule by Milton Meltzer (this was a great resource. We read the chapter aloud together.)

The Story of the World (Vol. 2) Chapter 29 by Susan Wise Bauer

Journey Into Africa by Ann Jansen (a curriculum written by a Christian author. It covers geography, history and contemporary African culture.  It also includes stories about contemporary missionaries. Very thorough and written on the elementary level. Lots of pictures and illustrations.)


We also watched a couple of free videos on Amazon.  The kids enjoyed the Lost Kingdoms (free with Amazon prime), especially because the funeral dance they showed included a couple of the masks we saw a couple weeks ago at the museum.


We didn’t talk much about the history of Benin, but we did see a number of the art pieces they talked about in the film… the Benin bronze statues (not shown) and the Dogon masks that they used in a funeral dance… (below). Even ED really enjoyed this episode! The mask on the right is six or eight feet tall!


Next, we’ll be talking a bit about the transatlantic slave trade. Since we’ll be going more into slavery in the New World when we study the Civil War, we won’t go into too much detail.


You might want to visit some of our other posts for this Africa Unit. We’ve studied the geography of Africa, North Africa, Egypt (and Ancient Egypt), Islam, West African art and music.

You might be interested in these related posts:



Disclosure: Please note that some of the links in this blog are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase.

So that’s about it for today! See you again soon here or Homeschool Den Facebook page. Don’t forget to Subscribe to our Homeschool Den Newsletter! ~Liesl

3 Responses

  1. June 20, 2013

    […] West Africa — history, art, music, games, culture, modern life.  The kids were fascinated by the history of Mali (Sundiata and Mansa Musa). […]

  2. January 10, 2014

    […] West African History — Free Notebook Pages, African Picture Books (and transatlantic slave trade pages) […]

  3. January 10, 2014

    […] West African History — Free Notebook Pages, African Picture Books (and transatlantic slave trade pages) […]

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