Fourth Grade - Geography - Lesson 6 - Geography of Africa

Locate and identify Africa and its physical features.
Identify the effect that physical barriers have on establishing civilizations in areas.
Locate and identify the Nile, the Niger, the Zaire Rivers on the African continent.

Classroom-size world map
Per student
Map of Africa
Crayons: green, brown, yellow

Suggested Book
Student Title
Georges, D. V. Africa: A New True Book. Chicago: Childrens Press, 1986. (0-516-01287-8)
This book briefly describes Africa's regions: the Middle East countries, the Sahara, the rain forest, the west coast, east Africa, and southern Africa.

Direct the students to the continent of Africa on the world map. Tell the students that Africa is the second largest continent on Earth -- Asia is the largest. Tell the students that the continent of Africa is almost surrounded by water. Have students come up to the map and point out and name each of the bodies of water that border Africa (the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Atlantic and Indian Oceans).
Have the students take note of the shape of the African continent. Tell the students that the southernmost tip of Africa is called the Cape of Good Hope. Explain that a cape is a piece of land that juts or extends out into a large body of water. Tell the students that the Cape of Good Hope was originally named the Cape of Storms by the explorer Bartholomew Diaz because of the terrible storms he and his crew encountered off the cape as they tried to go around the southernmost point of Africa. Explain that the cape was later renamed the Cape of Good Hope. Ask: Why do you think the cape was renamed? Would you want to travel by boat to a place called the Cape of Storms?
Give each student a map of Africa. Have the students shade in the types of areas as you discuss each. Also, ask them to fill in the key at the bottom of the page by coloring in the box and writing the name of the corresponding area in the key which the color represents (desert -- yellow, savanna -- brown, rain forest -- green). Explain that Africa is a continent that has a variety of land forms, climates, plants, and animals. Ask: What is a desert? (A dry, sandy region where little rain falls and few plants grow.) Write the definition for desert on the board.
Tell the students that there are two great deserts in Africa -- the Sahara Desert (it begins in the north just below the Mediterranean coast and extends 1,200 miles to the south) and the Kalahari in the south (in the country of Botswana). Point where the two deserts are located on the world map -- making sure to show the outline of the area, so that the students can approximate the same on their own maps. Have the students shade in the appropriate areas on their maps and mark and label the key. Tell the students that the Sahara Desert is the largest desert in the world and covers more than one fourth of Africa, covering 3 million square miles which is about the same amount of area as the U.S.
Have a student locate the equator on the world map. Point out that the equator runs through the middle of Africa. Ask: What sort of climate would you expect close to the equator. (very warm) Tell the students that rain forests exist across the middle of the African continent near the equator. Ask: What is a rain forest? (A rain forest is a tall forest that grows in a very warm, wet climate.) Write the definition on the board. Have the students shade in the area on their maps and mark and label the key.
Explain that to the north and south of the rain forest there are areas of grassland called the savanna(h) (just below the Sahara in the north and scattered below the equator). Write the word and its meaning on the board. Tell the students that the same type of environment in the United States is called a prairie. Point out the area of savanna on the map (the area between the Sahara Desert and the rain forest in the north and below the equator -- the countries of Kenya and Tanzania in the east and the area that surrounds the Kalahari Desert. Have the students shade in the areas on their map and mark the key. Tell the students that there is less rainfall in these areas and instead of forests filled with tall trees, different kinds of grasses grow there. Explain that many of the animals that people associate with Africa -- lions, giraffe, zebra, elephants -- live in the savanna.
Tell the students that the last region is the Sudan, which is the fertile region below the Sahara in the west, not the modern-day republic in East Africa. Explain that the ancient African kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay were located there and it is where the present-day countries of Senegal, Mali, and Guinea are located. Show the students this area on the world map.
Tell the students that in addition to having the largest desert in the world, the longest river in the world is located in Africa. It is the Nile River. Tell the students that the source or beginning of the Nile is at Lake Victoria on the border of the countries of Uganda and Tanzania. Show the students the lake on the world map. Explain that the Nile River goes from there north to the country of Egypt where the Nile empties into the Mediterranean Sea. Tell the students that the two other major rivers are the Niger (in the Sudan), and the Zaire (in the country of Zaire). Point out both rivers on the map for the students.
Ask: Does anyone know the name of the highest mountain in Africa? (Mt. Kilimanjaro) Tell the students that Mt. Kilimanjaro is located in the country of Tanzania. Tell the students that another major African mountain range is the Atlas mountain range. Show the students that the Atlas mountains are located near the northwestern coast in Morocco (point out on the map). Explain that although most of the area in the northern quarter of Africa is desert, the Atlas mountains have cool rainy winters and hot summers.
Ask the students to brainstorm an appropriate title for the map. Have the students write a title for the map on the line at the top of the page.