“A New Curriculum for African History: Grades 9-12”
Hi everyone! My name’s Lexi Hartley, and I’m a rising junior from NJ studying history and secondary education here at the College. I’m interested in a variety of different topics within history and education, but I’m especially fascinated with Africa. I think what fascinates me the most about Africa is how little it is talked about in the primary or secondary school classroom–my seventh grade social studies teacher once put on The Lion King in class so we could “see what a real African landscape looks like.” The hour and half of class time spent watching that movie was probably the most time I spent “learning” about Africa in my entire pre-collegiate academic career. Despite Africa’s hugely important presence in history, politics and culture, most high schoolers simply think of Africa as a land of starvation, war and, paradoxically, Disney movies.
With this dichotomy between high schoolers’ perception of Africa and the reality of Africa in mind, I’ll be creating a framework for a high school course in African History this summer with the help of my advisor, Dr. Jeremy Stoddard. I hope that one day I can use this framework as a teacher to introduce a senior elective in African history. At the very least, I hope that I can use some of the activities and assessments that I will design in a regular World History class. In order to allow for maximum flexibility, I will not be designing specific lectures and assessments.
I will start my framework with an introduction (approximately 4-5 pages long) explaining the current ways that Africa is taught about at the high school settings and the rationale for learning about Africa. I will also include a brief introduction explaining the goals of my curriculum, drawing on current educational research about the goals of teaching non-Western history. In this introduction, I will stress the overall goal of my curriculum: to challenge my students to look at both Africa and the study of history from a non-Western perspective. By asking them to engage with new forms of history such as archaeology and oral history, I hope to challenge their previous conceptions of what “Africa” is and what “history” means.
My final project will take the form of a curriculum guideline consisting of six major thematic units, each reflecting my goal to challenge my students’ previous notions of Africa (tentative titles):
1) “What is Africa?”
2) “Ancient and Medieval African Civilizations”
3) “Africa and the Slave Trade”
4) “Colonialism in Africa/Freedom!”
5) “ ‘Rwanda is Our Nightmare…’ Issues in Africa Today”
6) “Connections to Africa: Diasporas Past and Present”
For each thematic unit, I will create a curriculum unit overview. This overview will start with an alignment to state standards: a connection to specific requirements in the Common Core, the Virginia Standards of Learning and/or the AP World History curriculum. Furthermore, it will contain an outline of the content that students will be expected to understand, as well as the broader theoretical concepts and perspectives that I expect the student to understand such as the role of different types of sources such as material culture. Each lesson overview will also contain an annotated bibliography of sources that can be used for assigned reading as well as more hands-on sources such as potential virtual field trips or documentaries to watch and discuss in class. The lesson overview will also contain a list of possible projects/assessments with a detailed description.
Thanks for staying with me so far and reading to the end! At this point, I’d like to give a huge thanks to Dr. Stoddard for advising me on this project and Dr. Jeremy Pope for being a great history advisor and sparking my interest in African History!