Map of Africa
Natural History
Classroom Ideas

Geography and Culture

- Family Traditions
- Role of Masks
- Making a Living & Leisure Activities
- Healing Art
- Making Peace
- Origins and Identity
- The Meaning of Rock Art
- Spiritual Power of Symbols
- Community & Architechture
(Academy Library)
- African People
- African Animals
African Photos


Family Traditions, Customs and Beliefs


Students discuss African childhood and learn about family traditions, customs and beliefs handed down from one generation to another. Students will also look at African recipes, discuss the differences or similarities in food preparation between the United States and Africa, and prepare a side dish or dessert at home or in class with adult supervision.

This lesson is part of a series. Select this text to learn more about the series and how to extend its usefulness.

GOAL: To encourage interaction between students and the parents.
  • Students examine African traditions and recipes and discuss the differences or similarities within their own culture.
  • Students discuss the types of utensils and ingredients found in Africa and in their own surroundings.
  • Students learn about African and other international cuisines.
  • Students learn about the tradition of oral history.
  • Activity 1: Discovering Family Traditions and First Year of Life
    All Grades

    Paper and pencil.

    Have students interview their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older sisters and brothers. Question what they remember about the student's first year. Ask if parents kept a baby book or a journal and have the students bring it to class. Encourage students to bring any artifacts from their first year, such as photos, clothing, hair clippings, or toys.

    Define the concept of tradition for the students and give some of your own examples to the class.

    For example:

    "My family is of Italian descent and we eat ravioli before turkey at Thanksgiving. We say grace before every meal. Dad cuts and serves the turkey or ham during Christmas. Mom makes Rice Krispies Treats during the holidays. In Latin America, Christmas dinner is served at midnight on Christmas Eve and gifts are opened afterwards."

    Sample questions for the students to ask during their family interviews:

      How did your parents select your name?
      Are you named after anyone?
      Was there a ceremony for the time you were named?
      What day were you born?
      Does your name have a meaning or come from a significant source (e.g., The Holy Bible or a special story)?
      What did your family do to prepare for your birth?
      Did anything special happen the day of your birth?
      When did you learn to walk and talk?
      What were your first words and who heard them?
      Did your parents sing to you? Do your parents remember the song?
      What games did they play with you?
      What did your parents do for your first birthday? Was it something that is a tradition in your family?
      Does your family have other traditions that take place during a child's first year (e.g., Baptism or Bris)?
      Did you do things that made your family laugh? Ask your parent to tell you a funny story.
      What was your favorite food? What food did you refuse to eat?

    Activity 2: Names have Meaning
    Grades 4 and above

    Chalkboard and chalk.

    Names can be written on the chalkboard to demonstrate the meaning (translations) of African and western names.

    African Names:

    name meaning cultural group
    Abebi "We asked for her and we got her" Yoruba
    Morowa "Queen" Akan
    Akins "Brave Boy" Yoruba
    Osayimese "God made him whole" Benin

    Other Examples:
    name meaning cultural group
    Michael "Who is like god" Hebrew
    David "Beloved" Hebrew
    Barbara "Foreign" Latin
    Nicholas "Victory" and "The people" Latin
    Amanda "Worthy to be loved" Latin
    Wang "King" Chinese
    Mei "Plum blossom" Chinese

    Activity 3: Food and Culture: Recipes
    Grades 6 and under

    TOP BANANA (Time: 20 minutes; Serves 4)


    4 hard sweet bananas
    1/2 stick of butter or 1/2 cup of oil
    lemon juice.

    Peel and cut the bananas in half lengthwise. Fry bananas in a small pan with either butter or oil until golden brown. Sprinkle with sugar and lemon juice while frying.


    BANANA BOATS (Time 20 minutes; Serves 4)


    4 large bananas
    1/2 cup fresh or canned pineapple
    1/2 cup whipped cream
    1/2 cup chopped pecans

    Without peeling the bananas, cut a 1-inch lengthwise strip out of the inside curve of each banana. Throw away the strip. Scoop out the pulp with the spoon. Chop pulp and add drained pineapple. Whip the cream, adding one tablespoon of sugar as you whip. Put banana skins on a shallow plate. Fill with fruit mixture. Top with whipped cream. Sprinkle with pecans. Serve cold.


    GALl AKPONO (Time: 45 minutes; Serves 4)
    (a type of corn muffin)


    1 cup corn meal
    1 1/2 cups flour
    3/4 cup sugar
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    4 oz. Margarine or butter
    2 eggs
    1/4 cup milk
    1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    grated rind from 2 lemons

    Dampen corn meal with 2 tablespoons of water. Sift flour, sugar and salt. Add milk and margarine. Separate the egg white of one egg. Add the remaining egg yolk and one more egg. Add nutmeg and lemon rind. Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into 3-inch circles. Brush tops with egg white. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes.


    Grades 7 and above

    PEANUT SOUP (Time: 30 minutes; Serves 2)


    10 tablespoons or 6 ounces of peanut butter
    2 cups salted water or chicken broth
    red pepper (optional)
    small amount of chopped onion (optional)
    small tomato (optional)

    Mix peanut butter and liquid, stirring slowly until dissolved. Bring mixture slowly to a boil. Add optional ingredients if desired. Serve. Peanut soup may be used as a sauce for shrimp, beef, or chicken.


    PEANUT LOAF (Time: 30 minutes; Serves 4)


    2 cups cooked rice
    2 cups ground peanuts
    3 eggs
    1 1/2 cups milk
    2 teaspoons salt
    pinch of pepper

    Mix rice and peanuts. In another bowl, beat eggs slightly. Add milk gradually to eggs. Combine milk and egg mixture with rice and peanuts. Add salt and pepper. Pour into a greased loaf baking pan. Bake at 350° until brown or fully cooked (check by inserting a knife until it comes out clean). Serve with any white sauce or cheese sauce.


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    Material on this page was contibuted by the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art with the generous support of Disneyland.

    Activity developed by Jim Angus.