In the world today, 1/6 of the population is being affected by desertification that is forcing people to relocate to other regions and change their lifestyles. For those unable to move away from deserts, such as residents of the Sahara and Sahel regions of northern Africa, the effects can be devastating. Countries such as Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Sudan and many others are suffering the effects of long-term drought and devastating famine. In the world today, 5 million children are dying of hunger each year. Many of these are from the Sahara and Sahel regions of northern Africa. Continued desertification will only cause these numbers to grow. World organizations are working to develop plans to stop desertification and to tap into underground aquifers that could offer people in these areas relief from the drought and famine they have been experiencing.
Part 1: The Geography of the Sahara
1. To create student interest in the geography of the Sahara region of Africa, distribute a copy of the "Give One Get One" graphic organizer (source:
http://www.freeology.com/graphicorgs/homeframes/get1give1_home.html). Have students label the top three boxes with the main topics listed below in each box:
- Top left corner box: Location, climate, countries and weather
- Top center box: Desertification and water resources
- Top right corner box: People and Animals
2. Explain to the class that they will have 5 minutes to move about the classroom and talk with other students about the information they know related to each topic. It is each student's job to record what s/he learns about a topic from classmates.
3. Because the name of the game is "Give One Get One," each time a student asks a classmate for information about a set topic, s/he should also be willing to supply information related to one of the topics on the list.
4. Each time a student interacts with a classmate and learns information about one of the topics, s/he should record the information in the boxes directly underneath each topic. Once a student has filled in all of the squares on the "Give One Get One" handout, the student should be seated. The activity should be stopped after 5 minutes.
5. Once all students are seated, take time to discuss each of the topics that were listed. When discussing location, climate, countries, and weather, use a world map (like the one available at http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/world.htm) to point out specific information including:
- Location of Africa in relation to the United States, paying specific attention to longitude and latitude and comparing the location of the Sahara to points in North and South America that students might be more familiar with.
- Climate: based on the map and what students know about our climate, what assumptions can they make about the climate in the Sahara?
- Countries: list the names of specific countries located in the Sahara
- Weather: based on what they know about deserts and the location of the Sahara, what assumptions did they make about the weather?
6. Next, discuss the term desertification and what students think this is. Then use the map to discuss the water resources available in the Sahara.
7. Finally, ask students to share what they think about the people and animals that inhabit the Sahara. Some questions to pose could include:
- What kind of homes/lifestyle do the people of this region have?
- How do the people of this region make their living?
- What types of crops are grown/available here for people and animals to raise/consume?
- What types of animals thrive in this type of environment?
8. Students are now ready to learn as many facts as they can about life in the Sahara Desert. Provide students with a copy of the Research Guide and have them use online and library resources to learn as much as they can about the Sahara Desert region of Africa. Research can be collected in pairs, small groups, or individually, and it could be done in class or as homework.
9. After students have completed the Research Guide, work as a class to discuss and complete a Cause and Effect graphic organizer (like those available at http://www.educationoasis.com/curriculum/GO/cause_effect.htm) related to the effects of desertification. Questions/ideas to address could include:
- What causes desertification?
- What are some of the negative effects of desertification? (famine, nomadic lifestyle, etc.)
- How does desertification affect the weather conditions? Water supply?
- What can be done to prevent the spread of deserts and increase water production?
Part 2: A Day in the Life of…."
10. Direct students to the Online NewsHour Extra stories devoted to discussing famine in the Sahara and Sahel regions of Africa available at
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/features/july-dec04/hunger_12-08.html. Read/view the content and discuss it using questions such as:
- How would your life be different if you lived in the Sahara/Sahel regions of Africa?
- What types of technology/inventions would be of importance to you?
- How would your family make its living?
- What unique struggles might your family face living in this area?
- What are some of the greatest needs of the people in these regions?
- Would you ever want to live in an area like this? Why/why not?
11. Distribute a copy of the Project Guidelines and review with each student. Provide as much remaining class time as you can for students to begin creating projects. Establish a due date and have students complete the remaining work and be ready to share their projects with their classmates.
1. Choose an organization such as UNICEF or Doctors Without Borders and work as a class to
raise awareness about the shortage of clean, drinkable water and food in the countries of the
Sahara Desert and Sahel regions of Africa.
2. Conduct a fundraising campaign to help provide starving people in Africa with the food, water, and livestock they need to survive and thrive in the desert area where they live.
3. Involve students in a letter writing campaign to raise public awareness about the plight of
Africans living in the Sahara and Sahel regions of Africa and what can/should be done to
address the need to stop the famine and provide an adequate supply of drinkable water.
4. Through a reputable online classroom link or an organization such as UNICEF or the United
Nations, explore the idea of having students write to real students from the Sahara/Sahel
regions of Africa to learn more about their specific lifestyles and challenges. Share these
letter/e-mails with the class or collect the data and place it in a display to share with others.